THEY say dancers have the world at their feet but for Lorraine dancer Bennie Gerber overcoming adversity before taking to the stage was no easy feat.
Gerber, who grew up on a farm in Cradock, was bullied quite a bit as a youngster when playing the piano and dancing were frowned on by the rugby playing community. But his perseverance has seen him develop his talents to become an accomplished dancer, choreographer and actor.
“It was tough at times, but I had great mentors and wonderful support from my parents, Bennie and Anita,” said Gerber.
Both have since retired from farming and stay in the same complex as Gerber in Lorraine.
Not surprisingly, Gerber who has graced the Port Elizabeth stage in many musicals including Cabaret and Fiela’s Child which is being staged for the second time at the Savoy theatre later this month, has started his own dance company – Vertical Expression.
“We specialise in corporate entertainment and choreography.
“We are still growing but having a lot of fun along the way,” said the BA graduate from Stageworld Theatre School.
Currently Gerber is busy choreographing the musical Fame for Westering High School, producing a burlesque cabaret for Candy’s Revue Bar, doing choreography for the Mr and Miss Victoria High School show, producing a cabaret fundraiser for the Algoa Bay council for the aged and being the exclusive choreographer to up-and-coming local vocalist Gino Lee.
With a regular nine to five job as well, Gerber merely laughs when asked about when he sleeps.
“It is awesome when you can stand back and see what you’ve created – it is a very proud moment.
“It’s great when children come up to me and say they can dance because I taught them a few steps for their school musicals.”
Gerber said one needs a lot of patience when starting up and realising, especially in Port Elizabeth, these are is amateur productions and that “if you are not passionate about your craft” you cannot succeed.
“I am very passionate about playing the part of the census man in Fiela.
“Somehow I always find myself playing what is sometimes looked at as the bad guy or pivotal guy or even the funny guy,” said Gerber who gets goose bumps as he describes his role in Fiela.
“The whole play is about love, loss and redemption.
“I will never do a romantic role, that’s just not me,” said Gerber who needs no time thinking about a role he would love to play… Dr Frank-N- Furter from the hit The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“We unfortunately cannot get the rights, but that is my dream role,” said Gerber who said Billy Flynn in Chicago is also a character that he would love to play.
As for when he finally gets some spare time it is spent baking – something he learnt from his mom who still bakes for home industries – or playing games on his PC.
Gerber said he looks back now at the bullying and realises it shaped him in some way to strive to always do his best.