A young, full-figured woman walks into the dance studio and sheds her conservative grey tracksuit to reveal a grey crop top and black short shorts worn over fishnet stockings. “I don’t feel comfortable walking around outside like this,” she explains with a shy smile.
She is Sisipho Gcanga. She was born on 6 March 1994 to Giashe Gcanga and Velile Dube who were members of the conservative Seventh Day Adventist Church. She was a middle child who was raised in the church but left in 2014 after she found that some of the church’s teachings, particularly regarding women, conflicted with her personal values.
She and her eldest brother Lonwabo were born in East London. She moved to Centurion with her family in 2004 where her younger brother Indalo was born.
She briefly moved to Mafikeng in 2016 to attend North West University where she studied towards a bachelor of arts degree in law. However, at the beginning of 2018 she moved back to family home in Centurion because she felt it was time to come home. She is now studying law at the University of South Africa.
Her primary interest is in human rights issues. “I became interested in finding out how people apologize or atone when they mess up. Things [wrongdoing] feel incomplete without justice,” she says.
She became particularly interested in the Life Esidimeni Scandal, and watched the hearings with keen interest in the outcome.
Developing alongside her concern with justice was her interest in dancing, which grew in primary school where she realized she had a sense of rhythm.
“She’s always been excited about dancing and people who dance,” says her cousin, Thandile Mayala, who Gcanga considers as a sister. “She’s easily excitable, likes her own space, likes being comfortable, and doesn’t want to worry about men bothering her or approaching her while she’s dancing.”
Gcanga’s interest in dance came hand in hand with her curiosity with sex, and her particular discomfort by rape stories. “I’ve always been interested in being there for the people who experienced it”, she says.
In true millennial fashion, Gcanga learned her sexualized hip hop style not from a professional dance instructor but from a YouTube channel run by American choreographer Aliyah Janell named Queens ’n Lettos.
Her vision was inspired by Janell and shaped by her own painful experience with slut shaming. She was sexually assaulted a year ago by a person she considered a friend and in response, an acquaintance told her that she had a “high sexual energy” she needed to tone down.
She decided to channel the anger and disappointment she felt into classes aimed at helping women like her take ownership of their sexuality. At the beginning of 2018, these dance classes became Wild Thots.
‘Wild Thots’ takes its name from two elements: the first is a song about sex by DJ Khaled featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. The second is the term “thot” which is a derogatory American slang term for a promiscuous woman.
“Wild Thots is about me achieving my vision: sexual liberation and helping women achieve that,” Gcanga says.
Each Wild Thots class blossomed into a safe space for women to talk about their experiences with sex, which includes topics such as consent, sexual freedom, and rape culture. They incorporate discussions around sex with meditation and finally, with choreography created by Gcanga.
“The dancing is a way of saying ‘regardless of what’s going on, we’re going to be light’,” Gcanga explains.
In a YouTube video Gcanga filmed of one session, women arrive to the monthly class wearing clothing ranging from full body coverings to lingerie with Gcanga sporting her signature fishnet stockings. They answer painful questions regarding their own sexual histories before letting loose and dancing in the provocative style of Gcanga’s choreography.
“It’s a healing, safe space. I’ve seen so much growth in terms of my comfort with my own body,” says Athi Diliza. She has been close friends with Gcanga since the two met at a personal transformation course named Joyspring in 2014.
She has a background in ballet, rhythm, and modern dancing and uses her own knowledge to help Gcanga choreograph dances for Wild Thots.
The classes have been a hit among those who have attended. “It’s a lot of fun,” says 19-year-old Stephanie Rushien who has become a Wild Thots regular. “There’s a lot of sexy dancing, its very deep at the beginning but as you progress to learning the dance it gets a lot lighter but also in learning the dance there’s a lot of things that for me come up.
Wild Thots has also come with recognition. On August 11, Gcanga was invited to give a short class at the Wits women’s residence, Bernato Hall, as part of a sex-themed day for Women’s Month. The session included a conversation about consent followed by teaching choreography to those in attendance.
Gcanga shows no sign of stopping Wild Thots, even as she progresses in her demanding law studies. She currently charges R200 entrance and limits entry to 24 people per class.
Within the next five years she hopes to expand the classes. “I want to do more work on it and ultimately I want it to be free,” she says.
For this lawyer in the making, her dance classes help provide their own form of justice.