Pulga Muchochoma’s journey to Canada reads like the script for a film sure to sweep the Oscars. The dancer and member of Toronto Dance Theatre company first came to the country in 2006 — after a three-day journey from his native Mozambique — to perform at the International AIDS Conference. One day, while he was getting a ride to visit the dentist, one of the women responsible for bringing his Montes Namuli Dance Company to Canada asked him a life-changing question.
“She had a Portuguese dictionary with her because I couldn’t speak any English back then,” recalls Muchochoma (pictured above, left). “She started translating for me, word by word, saying, ‘Would you like to stay in Canada and go to school?’ Even before I opened my mouth, my eyes just, bingo, tears coming out of them. I went crazy. I didn’t know what to say. I just said ’yes’.”
It was a big decision for Muchochoma. If he went back to Mozambique, a career in dance would be unlikely, but he spoke no English, had no way to contact his family — he ended up telling them of his decision in a letter — and was unable to work in Canada. But the woman sponsored him, provided him with a place to stay, and paid for him to attend the Toronto Dance Theatre School, where he studied for three years. And it seems it was a wise decision, too. Muchochoma successfully auditioned for the Toronto Dance Theatre company (“there were 154 people for three spots,” he says) and speaks impeccable English to boot.
“I had no choice,” he says of learning the language. “At school, the teacher would come to me and I’d never done ballet before or contemporary dance before. I was only an African dancer. I would go to the bar and the teacher would come to me and say, ‘Point your feet and make your shoulders perfect,’ and I would say, ‘Aaah, I don’t understand, what are you talking about?’”
Muchochoma is one of 10 dancers performing in Toronto Dance Theatre’s Pteros Tactics. Largely inspired by Anne Carson’s poem Eros the Bittersweet, the piece — partially developed here as part of a Dance Victoria-sponsored creative residency — is a meditation on, as Carson writes, “the instant of desire.”
“We play with a ball that represents a triangle between two elements, between two dancers,” explains Muchochoma. “Two of them become lovers, but they end up using the gold ball as the third element, that relationship of the space between the two dancers.”