By night, raunchy dancer Beverly Sibanda is exciting Zimbabweans in more ways than one. By day, a debate rages on about how her moves reflect her morals – or lack thereof.
By Nkosana Dlamini, Harare
Last month, Sibanda, a 21-year-old single mother, spent a night in police custody for alleged public indecency. But Bev, as she is affectionately known in the circles where she has been dancing professionally for a year, prefers to play down the ordeal.
“We actually enjoyed our brief encounter with the police who occasionally asked us to entertain them with our dances,” she says.
She insists the arrest was not for an erotic dance stunt, but rather that she and Zoey Sifelani, a fellow member of The Sexy Angels dance group, were questioned for operating under an expired licence.
On a weekend night in October in the Harare suburb of Dzivarasekwa, Travellers Bar is packed. Regular patrons suggest it’s the first time in months business has been this good. After some energy-sapping choreography by The Sexy Angels, Bev stays onstage. It’s time for her solo.
Before long, she summons a man from the screaming crowd, which consists of about a hundred men, ranging in age between 17 and 40, and nearly a dozen women. Bev grabs the man’s private parts, makes a face and then fends him away. She summons a second onstage, repeating the ritual. She begins to do the same with the third, a more heavily built guy who smiles and nods in approval. In a flash, she leaps on him, locking her long legs around his waist and letting his hands cup her buttocks.
Ecstatic revellers elbow each other for a better look at the dancing sensation. Some mount the stage for a vantage view.
“We want to see, we want to see!” The shouts form a deafening cacophony with the DJ booming through the speakers. Abruptly, Bev is forced to halt her performance. Even her appeal for calm goes unheeded. Soon the DJ’s voice is drowned out by chants of “Bevy, Bevy, Bevy!”
Club bouncers spend the next 30 minutes restoring order, which includes having to shove fans offstage and unhinge some of the literal hangers-on, clinging to poles that support the platform.
“This is nauseating, I would not look at it twice,” says Sarah Matinde, a 32-year-old schoolteacher queuing to pay an electricity bill and seeing a local tabloid photo of Bev.
But female activist Virginia Muwanigwa says society should be condemned for double standards. “Bev is a woman who has figured there is a market somewhere to make her money. As society, we have a tendency of sitting back and condemning without offering solutions on how people can make a living,” she says.
Muwanigwa continues: “If we are to condemn, then let’s be honest and condemn the whole circle of society which supports her behaviour, starting with people who throng night spots to watch her. If police are to arrest her, then should go on to arrest promoters who hire her out.”
Bev herself is defiant. “My critics are wasting their time. These are jealous people who fear we will snatch their husbands,” she says. The young mother notes that some women have secretly tried to hire her to teach them sex tips, saying their starved husbands have deserted them for paid services.
Debate fuels dancing
Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Bev’s performances only increases her desirability, with clubs operators falling over each other to book her.
“We don’t see anything bad with her dances,” music promoter and club operator Patson Chimbodza says. “We just look at how the public responds to her performance and we follow that in the interest of making money.”
He feels Bev’s arrest was ill-advised, especially given that in neighbouring South Africa, club dancers go a step farther – stripping naked.
Brian Chiname, a regular nightclub-goer, believes the dancing sensation has brought newness to bar life.
“I personally enjoy it. The good thing is that Bev does not force her way into people’s homes and start performing. She does this in front of mature volunteers in nightclubs,” he says.
Back at the club
Meanwhile, back at Travellers Bar, Bev resumes her dance.
This time she places an empty beer bottle upright on the floor. A random man is again summoned onstage. Bev lies on her back, opening her legs to almost an obtuse angle. The man is instructed to twist the neck of the bottle into her private parts. As it penetrates through her panties, she feigns orgasm, in rhythm with the song.
The once tamed audience’s screams become louder. Drunks shout obscenities, teasing how Bev would make a good sex partner. One patron shouts to another, vying for a better view: “Why would you push me like that? Are you doing all this simply to have a look at a vagina?”