In South Africa, They're Diski Dancing The World Cup resumes in South Africa with the quarterfinals Friday. The past two days were officially rest days to give players a chance to recuperate. But South Africans could use a breather, too, because they've been dancing in the streets. The Diski Dance was created for the tournament.
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In South Africa, They're Diski Dancing

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In South Africa, They're Diski Dancing

In South Africa, They're Diski Dancing

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The World Cup resumes in South Africa today, with the quarter finals. The past two days were rest days, giving players a chance to recuperate. But South Africans, themselves, could use a breather too, because they've been dancing in the streets - and the fields - and the stadiums. NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

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MIKE PESCA: Day one of the World Cup, 20,000 or so fans at an outdoor viewing area have just watched the South African national team tie. It is a draw that sets off a wild celebration. Jerry Mowgli(ph) admits he's like to have won, but in either case, like most of his countrymen, he just loves to dance.

Mr. JERRY MOWGLI: We dance to every different kind of music. And with every music we've brought a certain way that we dance to it.

PESCA: Five days later at an official FIFA Fan Fest in Soweto, 30,000 people danced the Codesa before the South African team's second game. How will everyone know what the steps are, I asked University student Rafael Whey Modisi(ph). She looks at me like I asked why don't the players just pick up the ball throw it into the goal. Then she explains.

Ms. RAFAEL WHEY MODISI (Student): It's basically the Electric Slide, but they call it the Codesa here. Everybody, from young to old, everybody knows it.

PESCA: Everyone knows the Codesa, but Modisi didn't know why it's named that. It turns out the Codesa dance was created around the time of the peace talks aimed at ending Apartheid. The official name of the talks was Convention for Democratic South Africa or CODESA. This would be like, if in the '90s, Americans were all doing the NAFTA.

Sylvia Glasser, the doyen of South African dance, spoke to me at her Johannesburg studio. As the founder of the country's first integrated dance troop, which became the world renowned Moving into Dance Mophatong, Glasser knows full well that in her country, dance is filled with meaning.

Ms. SYLVIA GLASSER: In the Apartheid, dance was used as a subversive form of protest, because, you know, it's not a language that everyone could understand. I mean it's well known that in the mines, the miners used the Gumboot dancing to be codes, messages, about their white bosses.

PESCA: One of Glasser's students was commissioned to create a dance for the World cup called the Diski, street slang for soccer. It would do more than just evoke a soccer feeling. Dancers would perform soccer moves.

Ms. ZIA GILROY(ph) (Dance Instructor): Flick and step, flick and step, and over, over, over, over, flick...

PESCA: And in the mall in Rosebank, 50 people with no pre notice have gathered to learn the moves. Zia Gilroy is the instructor.

Ms. GILROY: All the moves relate to soccer. It's been very carefully and like, quite wittingly actually choreographed that all the steps actually relate to playing the game.

PESCA: Flick it here, head it there.

Ms. GILROY: Flick it, bend over, move it over, block it.

PESCA: Is there fake an injury or take a dive?

Ms. GILROY: Not at this point, but I'm sure we're going to add something in.

PESCA: Indeed, everybody's doing a brand new dance now, though some object. A letter writer to the Times Newspaper warned - if the Diski remains prescriptive about its sequence, it will be an instrument of exclusion. Though regimented, the Diski was always meant to be the ultimate expression of inclusion, says Kenneth Dumundi(ph), a dancer at Moving into Dance Mophatong who has taught the Diski.

Mr. KENNETH DUMUNDI (Dancer): We bring one spirit in South Africa, to say the (unintelligible) will come. Everybody learn it and everybody, you know, you can go to the street to say to someone, show me one step of Diski dance. That person can show you, so we did it quite a good job.

PESCA: They clearly did from idea to millions of dancers in less than a year. Even if the national team didn't advance past the first round, the new national dance is represented every step of the way.

Mike Pesca, NPR News.

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