Cape Town-born Darren Greeff has impressed TV audiences with his moves on the local So You Think You Can Dance where he made the top ten before being sent home.
At the tender age of 19 he has already won medals in national and international dance championships and is a qualified instructor in tap dancing and modern dancing. The openly gay dancer talks to Mambaonline about the show and his future plans.
Why did you decide to enter So You Think You Can Dance?
I never even thought of entering the show. A friend sent me the e-mail and forced me to try it out. Thank goodness for her!
How do the dancers compare to the US version?
Mmm… I don’t know if you can compare South African dancers to American dancers. We have different resources. Dance is a lot bigger in the US than it is here, so they have more opportunity. This is why I thank the production crew for bringing So You Think You Can Dance to South Africa – so that we can also experience it and open the South African public’s mind to dancing.
How would you describe the state of professional dance in South Africa?
I think that professional dancers are being respected more than they used to, but I still feel that there is still not enough. This is such a difficult industry where we work so hard. We sacrifice so much to do what we do, and sometimes just get walked all over. Most of the time out of desperation for another job.
Would you recommend it as a career?
If this is your passion, then pursue it. It’s a tough industry and you have to love what you do. More so than any other industry…
Do you have any regrets about your time on the show?
I don’t have any regrets at all. I hate regret! I feel that everything happens for a reason, whether good or bad, and you should never look back on anything.
How did you get into dancing?
I always wanted to dance. I used to run around the house in school shoes ‘tap dancing’. I used to go and watch my friend’s lessons each week, and eventually joined in one week at the age of 10. And that was it for me. I was hooked. I’ve never looked back.
There’s the stereotype that most dancers are gay. Is that true in your experience?
Well, I was the only gay guy in the top 20, which to be honest was a bit of a shock. I think as a dancer, you have to be very in touch with your emotional side, which also stereotypes male dancers being gay. I have in my experience though found that gay boys do outrank the straight ones! (Laughs)
What dancers or choreographers have inspired you – and why?
Vincent Mantshoe who choreographed our Afro Fusion piece was amazing to work with. He just moves his body in such a unique way and with so much passion. I am also very inspired by South African dancer Lorcia Cooper, who doesn’t just see the physical side of dance, but also gets your emotional side to perform with your body. She digs deep into your soul to find your inner passion.
When you were voted off one of the judges said that your energy was not masculine enough. How did you feel about that?
That’s one person’s opinion, which does mean a lot to me, but my audiences have never complained. That same judge however, did tell me how I was so soft and sensual yet masculine for another piece of choreography that I did. (Laughs) But I take constructive criticism and apply it to my dancing. It can only better your career and help you to be the best. Especially when it comes from someone that is so experienced.
Do you think that the judges are generally fair?
Most of them! (Smiles) There were one or two comments made to me that didn’t quite make sense. They sometimes tended to go on about things that were out of our control such as the choreography and costumes and so on… And it confuses all of us when one judge says something and the other says something completely different. Again, it’s one person’s opinion. Unfortunately you cannot please everyone.
How much of a blow was it to leave the show? Where to next for you?
It wasn’t really… I am so proud of myself for getting so far. It’s a bit sad to say goodbye to everyone, but it was all an amazing experience and I learnt so much. Next for me is to start working in the industry. I’m new to the industry and want to take it by storm. I am also trained in singing and acting, so hopefully I can use these talents to my advantage.
When and how did you first come out?
My dad went online to do some internet banking and found Gaydar in the history. Oops! It was either me or my brother. A dancer or a punk rocker? Go figure!
So you’ve used online dating sites?
I have indeed. It’s part of growing up and becoming a gay man. (Laughs) Look, I’ve never found the love of my life on the internet, but it’s a fun way to meet new people.
Are you involved and for how long have you been together?
Yes I am involved, with the most amazing man on earth! (Smiles) We have been together for two years and are still madly in love.
How did you meet?
We met in Cruz in Cape Town. He was down on holiday from the UK and came up to me saying that I looked lonely and offered me a drink. I’ve never looked back.
Do you believe that monogamous gay relationships can last?
I really do believe it! I believe that if you love someone with all your heart, you can stay monogamous and be together forever. I look at my relationship as a perfect example.
Would ever consider getting married to your partner?
We are planning our wedding at the moment! (Smiles)
Would you want to raise kids?
It’s a thought that has crossed my mind. I think that in today’s day and age it is a lot easier to raise children as a gay couple. But that decision will only be made a bit later on in my life.
What would be a perfect first date for you?
Oh, I’m a sucker for romance. I love strawberries and champagne on the beach while watching the sunset. Cheesy, but so romantic. But it has to be with the right person though.
What do you do to relax?
Cocktails! (Laughs) Nothing better than an ice cold Mojito while watching the sun go down over the beach. I love Cape Town!
Do you think it’s important to have openly gay public figures such as yourself?
I really do. It creates an awareness for gay people, and it gives young gay people something to look up to and aspire to be. Especially young boys who are in the closet and battle to come to terms with being gay…
How often do you go to gay clubs or bars in Cape Town?
I don’t go out often. My partner and I prefer to have a romantic dinner out, or go and watch a film. But, when I do go out, I paint the town red. So watch out for me!
Your favourite restaurant?
I love all food! I could eat all day, every day. Damn you dance career! (Laughs) My favourite restaurant has to be Haiku in Cape Town though. Really amazing food with such a great selection. It’s a great place to have a romantic dinner, or to have dinner with a group of friends. It’s all about sharing. We eat there quite often.
What kind of music do you listen