The maths period goes by in a blur with the usual banter between Mr James and his classmates. But just before the bell, the intercom comes on; it’s the head of the art department.
“As you all know, the annual end-of-year showcase and the moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Today we are opening up for auditions; join us during break time in the auditorium.”
Roars of excitement from the students drown out the rest.
As the bell rings, Khaya cannot contain his excitement. He rushes to meet with Thando. They have been waiting for this moment since the beginning of the year. But just as he is about to make it out of the door, he hears Mr James calling him.
“Khaya, could I see you during break time? It will only be a short while. There is something I need to discuss with you. “
“I can’t…uhm…I have to go to the aud…” Khaya hesitates. “Yes, sir, I will be here.”
Khaya does not want to be walking back towards maths right now. He wants to be at the auditorium finding out about the auditions. But maths is why he has a scholarship, not dance.
Right before the end of primary school, his maths teacher entered him into a district maths and science tournament. He was the smartest in his school; the smartness he was born with, but the almost military-trained approach to numbers came from his father.
Khaya’s father wanted to be an engineer, he had the brains for it, but the era he grew up in (combined with Khaya’s grandparents’ financial struggles) did not allow him to follow his dream. Instead, he was forced to work the first job he could find after school.
Mr James, the maths teacher at Greymans High, happened to be one of the judges at the tournament — a man unbelievably passionate about the subject. He immediately took a liking to Khaya. He told Khaya and his parents about the scholarship at Greymans High, offering to put in a good word.
“Oh, that brain of yours, Khaya, my boy, will take you far, very far,” Mr James had said.
Khaya’s dad jumped at the opportunity. When Khaya won the scholarship, that was the proudest he had ever seen his father. Khaya wasn’t interested in the academic engineering career he knew his father was training him for. All he wanted to do was dance. When Khaya was seven years old, his creative arts class went to an exhibition at the theatre in town. The building had always fascinated Khaya, but he had never been inside.
The moment they walked in, butterflies fluttered in his stomach. He took in the stale, dusty smell of the curtains and the creaks of the floor with every step they took. They were treated to a performance by the in-house dancers, watching them glide gracefully, moving over the stage. At that moment, he fell in love with dance and knew that that was what he wanted to do with life.
At the end of the school day, he had run home excited to share his new-found love with his parents.
“ASOZE! Never!” his father boomed.
His mother flinched, quickly grabbing Khaya and putting him behind her.
Khaya knew from that day on to never speak about anything dance-related again.
The years that would follow were ones of Khaya living a double life: the aspiring engineer his father wanted him to be, and the dancer. When he was home alone, he would take out his favourite DVD, Step Up, from under his bed. He had watched it so much that he knew each scene, every word, and every move. As he pushed open the door to Mr James’ classroom, he wondered if he was ever going to be allowed to openly do both.
Tell us: Do you have a secret dream, like Khaya? How do your parents respond to you expressing what you’d like to do?