Fighting and beating the odds during pandemic

A self-employed Mitchell’s Plain dancer and fitness instructor is beating the odds during the pandemic – she started her own business and hosts dance classes. She tells the Plainsman of her journey in Women’s Month.

Zoë Malotane, 31, from Rondevlei, dancer and fitness instructor.
Dancer and fitness instructor Zoë Malotane, 31, from Rondevlei started her own clothing business and hosts online and outdoor dance classes.

Dancer and fitness instructor Zoë Malotane, 31, from Rondevlei started her own clothing business, hosts online dance classes and works at two gyms in Westgate hosting dance sessions during a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard.

The lockdown period was hard for her. She wasn’t working when the lockdown started. The dancing fell away as everything had closed down temporarily.

Self-employed, she started her own clothing and pajama business called Pajamallamma, she said.

“I had to think quickly as this was my bread and butter. I made 10-minute fitness videos and sold them for R20, sending them via WhatsApp. It worked. I also started an outdoor Saturday dance class observing Covid-19 protocols; people love these classes,” she said.

Zoë incorporates the latest dance genres and older disco moves in her dance classes.

“I always tell them to listen to their bodies, as everyone may not be on the same fitness level but they all become professionals within minutes,” she said.

Those in her class allow her to make them feel and do the best they can and enjoy themselves. Young and old are in her class, she said.

“They trust me to allow them to become healthy and have them access that healthy mindset,” she said. “I enjoy what I do. It is so rewarding to see and feel their love, energy and confidence. I remind them it is their home away from home,” said Zoë.

Men and women join her classes. The men are not shy to be a part of her classes but “it’s the ladies’ strong energy that wins,” she said.

Zoë grew up in Strandfontein where her grandparents stayed. She attended Strandfontein Primary and Strandfontein High schools. On weekends she’d make her way home to Eerste River where her parents resided.

Her parents allowed her and her siblings to express themselves. She is the eldest of three children. Her parents, Robyn Johnson, 55, and Clarence Johnson, 60, raised them well, she said.

“They may have been strict with me as their eldest but they still allowed me to be free to dance and express myself. My parents are my best friends. I love them and appreciate their support.”

Her mom said when she was 2, they went to an Italian restaurant, she danced on the table while her parents would hold her. The manager at the restaurant told her parents she would be a dancer one day.

In grades 6 and 7 her love for dance grew, and in high school they would chant her name, knowing she was the dancer of the school, said Zoë.

“There was a time I left school for a week when I was in Grade 10. I wanted to dance. My dad took me to Shoprite, told me I needed to start working. I saw the girls standing in line for jobs, I turned around and went home. I knew that’s not what I wanted. I went back to school the following week,” she said.

She was the former leader for three years of the dance group Nu Flava. She wanted to expand and add more opportunities to her dance journey. The group fell apart but she kept on going with her dance journey.

She started working at schools in 2013 for the provincial government’s Mass participation Opportunity and Development (MOD) extramural activities programme. In 2015 she joined Run4Schools, a foundation that finances and organises in-school and after-school sports care in the townships.

In the same year she joined the gym fraternity and it was the best decision she’s ever made, she said. “I can motivate, inspire and do what I love. I made an impact. I would make it possible for people to access free dance classes in the gym,” she said.

Her dance colleague Carmen Klink said Zoë has been a mentor to her and she loves working with her. “She is always willing to learn, always has a smile and loves people.”

Nokulunga Mgobhozi, who is part of her dance classes, said, Zoë’s classes are positive. “Her big smile, dancing, and the healthy lifestyle sessions are amazing.”

Saadiqah Samsodien, said she was part of her dance class for three years where she lost 22kg. “She has given me renewed confidence, higher self-esteem and makes me feel sexy in class. I am in my own zone. She’s a positive force, she is my catalyst in my story.”

Her mom, Ms Johnson said her daughter always loved dance. Her dad, Mr Johnson said Zoë showed them how much she loved dance. “We love seeing her do what she loves every day,” they said.

“My sons, Adam, 8, and Reece, 2, and my husband, Shane Malotane, are my biggest supporters,” says Zoë. “I appreciate the light they bring to my life,” she said.

“Young people, never doubt yourself, or the ability and power inside of you. Your mind is powerful – once you believe you can and have that driving energy, keep on pushing and you’ll get to where you need to be one day,” she encouraged.

“The working moms and businesswomen, keep on going, praying and being faithful to your Creator. You are a powerful human being and you have the ability to change, not only yourself or your situation but the people around you as there are people watching, how strong you are,” said Zoë.

For more information on her dance classes, follow her Facebook page @fitnesswithzoemalotane