When I was little; I wanted to be many things but; one thing I always pictured myself as was a dancer, but not just any dancer you know the kind of dancer that can intrigue people, understand emotion through dance and well just make people green with envy. That’s exactly how Grant Esterhuizen made people feel on this past season of Strictly Come Dancing, as he didn’t only show the world his amazing body, hot moves and phenomenal choreography! But, he was also dancing with one of SA’s sexiest ladies Lalla Hirayama. I’m sure all the men in SA at that moment wished they were Grant…
Luckily for me ladies; I had the privilege of meeting Grant face to face and honestly; his down to earth, funny, handsome and has a voice like Vin Diesel. But; sorry for you ladies his blessed with an amazing wife and two adorable kids:)
MEET GRANT ESTERHUIZEN
A: So what are the words that you live by?
G: If you can walk you can dance. Something else that I strongly believe in is; if God is for us who can be against us. It’s something that I strongly believe in; I am a very spiritual, very churchy person. I try when I’m not working to be in church with my whole family on Sundays. Also what I mean by if you can walk you can dance; I get people coming up to me saying Grant I wish I could dance, Grant I wish I could do this, but for me when I say if you can walk you can dance, it doesn’t just go for my dancing, I believe that if you really want something, regardless of; don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have it, so if you can walk you can dance.
A: Amazing, what was your childhood like?
G: I had a very very good childhood; I am very blessed with two amazing parents. A amazing family; there’s my sister, uncle, aunt, everyone! I have a very supportive family; I have a very good up bringing in the sense of every Sunday I would be in church, I sang in the choir and I went to Sunday school. Very supportive family when it came to dancing, my mother was always there, my dad always phoned me to find out how I was doing before my competitions on Saturdays, whether I was in Cape Town or Durban, wherever the competition was. My dad would either take me there, but they were very very supportive. I have been really blessed to have the childhood that I had, and now for me it’s basically about making my kids experience that and better. Work as hard as my father has worked for me and my sister and try and be the same example to my kids that my parents were to me.
A: Who realised your talent first mom or dad?
G: None of them. None of them actually realised my talent first, the thing is I am an overall sporty person. I mean I was nine years old and I was already playing soccer, rugby, cricket, tennis, table tennis etc… name the sport I’ve played it. Eventually I had my cousin approach me and asked me to dance, didn’t know what the hell it was about and he was like ballroom dancing man. I was like what’s this ballroom dancing thing about, explain this to me. We went for a practice session and I figured argh… it’s not too bad. Two practice sessions later they asked me “would you like to dance in your first competition?” I than said ok I will try ; the first competition went completely pear shaped , I danced the wrong way around the floor, no one told me which way to dance, I got disqualified. So after that experience I was assured I thought that I would never ever dance again, but than I did, I was not going to let that get me down I got back up that horse and carried on riding it. The next competition was Western province Champs, and I became pretty much the best dancer in Cape Town and now I’m here. God bless my trainer that was training me at that point, he passed on many years ago, and he had the biggest school in South Africa. Mr Gomez an amazing man, he pushed me and pushed me, it was very much about discipline which intertwined very well with my childhood and the way I was brought up. That was what my childhood was about; being disciplined, making sure that you go to school, that you listen, that you do what you were supposed to do and that is the only thing that I can truly say that has kept me grounded as well throughout all my experiences in life. The fact that I’ve got the parents I’ve got , my wife that I’ve got, my kids that I’ve got and everything that I’ve had. My friends even that I’ve got around me they always make sure that I stay grounded- every single one of them. So yes; I don’t think anyone spotted my talent, it was just me basically by chance getting into it.
A: That’s amazing!
G: I am very lucky!
A: Indeed you are, So when did you realise your passion for dancing?
G: My passion for dancing was realised after I won the Western Province Champs which was my third competition. I wouldn’t say I realised my passion, but I realised wait hang on I think I actually might like this. A couple of months later was SA champs and I came first…
A: Oh wow
G: and for seven years there after I was pretty much one of the top lead dancers in the country on my level. Then I realised hang on, this is something that I actually want to pursue. At the same time I was still doing football, I was also very good at rugby, very good at cricket and I got an opportunity to play literally in Argentina for rugby, I turned it down, I got an opportunity to play for Lentic when they were still in the premier league in Cape Town, I turned it down, got an opportunity to go and play cricket at Constantia Cricket club, I turned it down, I even got the opportunity to model for Storm models , which is the top modelling agency in the country and I turned it down. So I’ve made lots of sacrifices for my dancing, and you know what something that I believe and live by is never ever live with regret. If you regret it than you need to make a plan somehow and you sort of got to tick that wrong, because the last thing that you want to live with is regret. People say you only live once and you do only live once.
A: I totally agree and believe that you only live once and we have to make the most of this life that God has given us. Please take me through your journey of becoming a professional dancer?
G: Basically for years I was dancing in Cape Town, just competing I’ve never ever did shows. I than pretty much won the SA professional ten dance championships which meant that I was the overall Latin and Ballroom dancer in the professional section. My trainer who lived in Joburg said listen you have now been selected to go and dance overseas in Holland and he said you have to move to Joburg now. I than moved to Joburg and then started practicing and training over here. I moved to Beyer’s Park over here, than I broke up with a girl that I moved from Cape Town with to here, I meant my dance partner that’s who I broke up with
G: So than basically what happened after we broke up I than found my current trainer Tebogo Kgobokoe, the two of us ended up in the top 16 in the world and then we ended up 7th in the Dutch open and and and … Basically than we than broke up; I than went through a very bad patch in my life, I pretty much lost everything that I wanted to be. I’m also very goal driven, and all the goals that I had for myself, I literally saw them crumble in front of me. I than during that rough patch found the love of my life. I also ended up not having work for about seven months. So one evening me and Anthea decided we going to Emperors Palace to go watch a show there and at that point it was Tyrone Watkins one of the top three choreographers in the country, doing the show and he invited me to come and audition. I went to the audition and it just so happened and I believe in that saying God has reasons for everything, that day when I went for the audition I so happened to be off from a gig that I was busy doing actually for e-TV, I don’t know if you remember the show called Backstage
A: Yes I do
G: Yes it was a benefit concert that I was asked to dance in. Anyway I went to the audition and that same evening I said to Anthea lets go watch the show, because I just got a good feeling about this. That same evening I got a call from Emperors palace saying; listen Emperors Palace wants you and from that day pretty much I got contracted into professional shows in Casino’s, ever since I’ve been in countless shows, gone for the top choreographers in the country. I mean I have worked with Somazi, choreographed the Fifa world cup, you name it Tyrone Watkins. I’ve danced with some of the top dancers in the country; I’ve danced with Lorcia Cooper and and and. Yes that’s pretty much how I got to where I am now and I am getting stronger.
A: That’s amazing, what a journey
G: Yup, one hell of a journey!
A: LOL, How long have you been in this industry?
G: In Ballroom and Latin American it’s been 25 years, I’m still a spring chicken.
A: No not at all that’s long
G: A lot of people ask me how old I am… but yeah anyway…
A: LOL, you don’t look old at all.
G: Yes, I’ve got my wife and two kids that keep me young. I’ve been dancing in Ballroom and Latin American for 25 years and I’ve been doing professional shows for the last 8-9 years. Now I own my own production company as well so yes …
A: So how did you get to be a professional dancer on Strictly come Dancing?
G: Strictly come dancing basically is a Ballroom and Latin show. So what happened was that they do like a whole screening process, they obviously know who the top dancers are and who the up and coming professional and ballroom dancers are. Regardless; because what often happens as a professional dancer you either doing Ballroom or Latin very seldom you will do both. In all the seasons that I did I was the only one that did both Ballroom and Latin. That is why I think I’ve excelled, because I’ve trained in both. So from season one I’ve got asked to do it, because at that time I was sixth time African champion. So they did their homework on all the professional dancers they wanted in the show and I was fortunately one of the professional dancers they asked. Although, all seasons prior to the ones that I did I couldn’t dance in them because I had other commitments. But; in season three and season four I was basically a consultant to HHP and Hayley when they won and I was a consultant to Tanya Van Graan and Brendon when they came third, as a ballroom trainer. Than in season five I pretty much danced in and I came second , I than did the Christmas special which was four months later; which I came first in and there I danced with Vanessa from 7de Laan and now in season six I came second again.
A: But you and Lalla were fantastic I thought you were going to win…
G: Well you go into a competition and as long as you gave your 200% that’s fantastic. I hate that cliché you were a winner in our eyes, I hate it, for me it’s a whole lot of bullshit, don’t tell me you were a winner in my eyes I lost, but I can still walk out of there with pride and dignity and say I gave 200%.
A: So you’ve worked with numerous celebrities, what has been the best experience?
G: Uhmm.. The biggest celebrity that I’ve danced for and for me was the most humbling experience ever was Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he came to South Africa and did some charity event and I was one of the dancers that they selected to dance for him. What was so humbling was to see that this world icon-at that stage he was one of the biggest actors in the world at that stage. He just finished with a movie and came to South Africa and he spent the whole afternoon playing soccer with kids, and he came to watch the show and we were told that he would be sitting right in front. As soon as we were done dancing he personally called all the dancers out back on stage in front of the audience which was about five hundred thousand people, he literally shook every dancers hand thanking them, for me that was the most humbling experience and just showed that no matter how big you are, your humbleness is always something that you have to keep with you, because in the end it is the people that are around you that put you there. If you do not realise that, that is how quick you will fall. As quick as you got there that is how quick you will fall bottom line!
A: Wow that’s so powerful and true. So which celebrity was your favourite to work with on Strictly Come Dancing?
G: Lalla, ok ok hang on I enjoyed Lalla and Tessa and Vanessa, well Ingrid actually. I’ve been very blessed; a lot of professional dancers have received girls or guys that they don’t get along with , personalities clash or the girl is too big or the guy can’t move, and they get the moer In with these celebrities, I can give you an example, but I won’t because I’m a nice person like that.
G: however I’ve been very blessed with the three celebrities that I’ve danced with. All three of them were different; Ingrid from 7de Laan was extremely quiet, but highly talented. Tessa was extremely bubbly, thought she could dance, couldn’t dance, but she worked her ass off. Lalla a celebrity personified, one of the top five sexiest women in the country, could dance, got a lot of flat foot for it, yes she was a hip-hop dancer, but she only excelled because she worked hard not because she was a hip-hop dancer. Just putting it out there hip-hop has nothing to do with Latin American and Ballroom dancing. So really I was very blessed so I don’t think that I can say that anyone of them was my favourite, but with Lalla and Tessa I got along extremely well.
A: Yes we could see you and Lalla got on well together…
G: Yes we got on extremely well and it helped that she was a down to earth person.
A: Oh wow that’s amazing, what has been the highlight of your career?
G: The highlight of my career… The highlight of my career… Truthfully and honestly the highlight of my career was not having danced for anyone, not having danced with a celebrity, not having danced for celebrities. My highlight of my career is the fact that I can still perform and show people how much I love what I am doing and make people smile. That is my highlight the fact that I am still blessed; to be able to be on stage with all my injuries and problems that I’ve got with my body. I am still able to at my age one of the oldest guys on stage show the youngsters how it’s done.
A: But you than don’t look old… (He really doesn’t look old)
G: Out of the professionals I was arguably the eldest.
A: Really! (Shocked face) You don’t look old hey, not at all!
G: (Laughs) no seriously I was the eldest.
A: Wow ok… So what’s a day in the life of Grant Esterhuizen like?
G: Yoh! The day in the life of Grant, wow ok the last few weeks have been insane but let me just say this week has been crazy, I thought after the Sexpo it was going to slow down, it didn’t. So my general day is just like wake up early in the morning, my wife makes me breakfast, she’s amazing like that. After that I go to a rehearsal be it with my competitive partner or a rehearsal for Sexpo, a motor show whatever the case may be. After that rehearsal which will generally be anything from four to six hours, I than go and practice another three hours with my dance partner so that’s about seven hours of dance that I’ve already done. Than most days I will go and teach, or have a meeting or two before and then teach. So basically my day starts early in the morning and finishes late at night nine or ten in the evening. The thing is that I love what I do so I don’t mind, although the last couple of days I’ve had on average three hours sleep, because I’ve been editing music.
A: Hectic, but it sounds like fun. How would you encourage up and coming dancers to reach for what they want and get to that point where they can say they made it?
G: Encouragement for up and coming dancers…
G: I feel the biggest problem with up and coming dancers is that they know what they want, but they sadly don’t know how to handle diversion. As in any journey you will get divisive somehow, yet someone that is trying to ruin your career for you. The competition that you thought you were going to win and you lost and now that’s a big setback for you. However; no matter what it is what I feel is that all they need to do is basically take that diversion. Tell yourself that I want to be the best dancer in the world, that’s your goal. However there is three types of people; the one that’s going to complain about it, the one that is going to say ok wait hang on what do I have to do to get better , what do I need to do to get back on that horse and ride it again, what do I have to do to get back on that task that I have set for myself to be that world champ that I want to become, I think that’s the problem because not a lot of dancers know how to overcome, not a lot of dancers know how to take negative and turn it into positive. Not a lot of dancers have the support that they actually need because now a days, the youngsters are very different to the old school dancers. I am an old school dancer. The new school dancers are too soft. At this moment my partner now is dancing with a broken toe, I fractured my shoulder and my knee pops out, but I dance. The thing is I want it that bad, that nothing can stop me I want to be the best at what I am doing that badly that whoever comes in my way, must pass this. Whatever diversion is going to come my way; because there is always going to be a challenge. You need to take that challenge and excuse my language make it your bitch! You have to own it and you have to say you know what, there is no way you going to get me down and that is what the youngsters of today , the up and coming dancers the wanna be champions must learn and get their mindsets right. I feel that their not strong enough in their minds I feel that they not strong enough, they know what they want but I feel they not prepared to get hit around abit and carry on.
A: As a coloured person do you now believe that any coloured person can achieve their dreams?
G: As a coloured person I have always believed that any coloured person can achieve their dreams, as a dancer something that I very easily and strictly realised when I moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg is that all the top dancers are were coloured are coloured and are from Cape Town.
A: Amazing that’s interesting!
G: Yeah like Lorcia Cooper, Megan Cornelius, Piet Woestain , his a coloured from Eldorado Park, Tyrone Watkins, Harold Van Buuren , these are coloured people, strong influential dancers that are still dancing and that are still influencing the country as we speak. Coloured people need to realise that they are worth more than what they think they are.
A: So true!
G: The thing is that we get put ourselves into this little box and think that’s where we must remain and we need to realise that, that box can be opened. But ; its limitations up in our minds that’s keeping us from opening it, as we will get put into a box and left alone, and not realise that we can actually come out at any time. It’s what we make of it.
A: Thank you Grant!
G: It’s only my pleasure.
INTERVIEW BY: ALEXANDRIA ALLAN (A)
ALL ANSWERS BY: GRANT ESTERHUIZEN (G)
FACEBOOK: Search for Grant Esterhuizen
All pictures courtesy of Grant Esterhuizen