My First Audition: Oti Mabuse

Oti Mabuse with her Strictly Come Dancing partner Danny Mac . Photo: BBC/Guy Levy Oti Mabuse with her Strictly Come Dancing partner Danny Mac . Photo: BBC/Guy Levy
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I had been dancing in competitions in South Africa since the age of four, before going on to compete internationally. Although I won many titles on the competition circuit, my first professional audition was in 2015 for the popular German version of Strictly Come Dancing, called Let’s Dance. There were lots of experienced professional dancers in the room and as part of the TV audition I had to answer a lot of interview questions on camera. What got me through was that as well as Latin and ballroom, I also have experience in contemporary and jazz dance. There are so many different routines on this type of show that versatility was definitely an advantage.

My sister Motsi had been a well-known dancer on the show before me and then went on to join the jury.  When I started, people may have expected me to be a similar dancer, but we are actually very different on and off the floor. Motsi is naturally more outgoing whereas I can be a little more reserved.

At the hotel where the dancers were staying during the show recording, I happened to spot an Englishman who was trying to order some food. Unfortunately he didn’t speak German and the staff didn’t speak English, so I stepped in to help translate. It turned out he was from BBC Worldwide. After our conversation, I ended up being asked to audition for Strictly.

Making my debut last year as the first black dancer on the UK show, I hear a lot about how much my being there means to young people watching. At the end of the day, a show like Strictly is not about what colour you are, or where you come from. It is about how hard you are prepared to work and how well you can dance. The most important thing any person can focus on, whether in a first audition or a first job, is to be the best you can be. The rest will take care of itself.

CV: Oti Mabuse

Age: 26
Training: Civil Engineering at Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Dance credits include: Eight times South African Latin American Champion; third place, World Cup – freestyle Latin; second place, European Championship – Latin; first place, German Open Championship – freestyle Latin
TV includes: Let’s Dance (RTL, Germany), Strictly Come Dancing (BBC)
Agent: Olivia Bell

Oti Mabuse was talking to John Byrne