Meet Tania Dimbelolo, the Russell Maliphant Dancer with Contortion Skills
Tania Dimbelolo hit most people’s radar when an Instagram video of her improvising a solo, within a work by Jamaal Burkmar, went viral. Her movement is a swirl of conflicting qualities, melding her contemporary and contortion backgrounds. Reminiscent of a marionette, her head rolls, arms sailing high before tumbling to her sides; her legs collapse in at sharp angles. Then her face flashes a coy, almost eerie, smile before turning stoic as another reverb hits her body. The clip mesmerized viewers, an effect her career seems to be having on choreographers, directors and audiences in concert dance, at fashion shows, in ad campaigns for major brands and more.
Company: Russell Maliphant Dance Company
Hometown: London, England
Training: Center for Advanced Training—Swindon Dance Contemporary Programme; BA from Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance
A bone-breaking start: Dimbelolo grew up helping her contortionist father with his street-performance act. Once, she started copying his movements, grabbing the audience’s attention. “He told me to stop, but then realized we could make more tips if we did it together,” she says. With contortion mobility primarily in her hips and shoulders, this served as her introduction to movement, seven years before her first ballet class.
She does it all: As a classically trained contemporary mover with contortion skills, Dimbelolo’s professional credits are as varied as you might imagine. She’s danced at the BRIT Awards, starred in an Uber commercial, modeled for Nike, performed in both Paris and London fashion weeks, appeared on a billboard in London for clothing brand River Island, and, as of this spring, joined Russell Maliphant Dance Company. “Being a multidisciplinary artist is freeing,” she says. “I keep my workspace like a playground and just have fun.”
A choreographer’s perspective: “Tania takes a moment to conceptualize an idea before putting it to her body,” says choreographer Holly Blakey, who most recently worked with her on a dance-infused show for the fashion brand Roksanda. “She breathes in, her eyebrows lift, and suddenly she becomes something else. Her whole body goes somewhere both spritely and deep with weight. As a maker, it’s addictive to watch. I believe her, and not everyone, no matter how skilled, knows how to do that.”
Finding meaning: Despite her work on major brand campaigns, Dimbelolo’s most fulfilling career experience so far has been teaching dance to underserved students in South Africa via Moving Assembly Project, a UK charity founded by choreographer Dane Hurst. Dimbelolo and her colleagues spent a month setting three works that the dancers performed at the Port Elizabeth Opera House.
Next up: Dimbelolo is ready to try her hand at creating her own work—specifically a short dance film. “Film marries with movement so beautifully,” she says. “Any single move can be captured 10 million different ways.”