Before I could walk again, I first had to dance

 
 
 

Cathrine Mathebe dons her sparkly tutu and busts a move. This 63-year-old isn’t your average gogo. Just a few years ago, she could barely stand without crutches. Overweight, riddled with arthritis, and struggling with high blood pressure, Mathebe’s poor health controlled her life. She spent days in bed, dependent on painkillers. When doctors prescribed surgery on her knee, Mathebe reached her breaking point. She refused to let that happen.

One morning, when no one was home, Mathebe eased out of bed. Upbeat music played from the radio in the background. Mathebe began to sway her hips, using a broom for support. It was painful at first. But she pushed herself to dance every morning, revelling in the increasing ability to move. Within months, Mathebe was walking with confidence and feeling like her younger self. Her neighbours gawked when she powered on past them. The dancer invited them to join her impromptu routines, until there wasn’t enough space for so many people in her home.

Mathebe now leads her crew in the streets. Endorphins course through her veins during their aerobic dance set. “If you move your body along, you can move your life along,” she says. With the Bophelong Fitness Club, Mathebe shows her community in Tembisa that caring for your health extends past medicine. No longer in pain or reliant on others, Mathebe has reclaimed her independence. To stand on your own two feet, you first have to dance.