New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

Noluyanda Mqulwana, Nolly for short, grew up in the township of Khayelitsha near Cape Town in South Africa. Growing up, Nolly saw that many of her neighbors didn't have a plan for their future. To give herself something to work for, she began studying ballet with Dance for All at the age of nine. She knew that dancing would give her the strength to avoid the pitfalls of her peers, but she never imagined the adventures she would find on this career path!

Now, she's coming to New York City to dance in Mother Africa: My Home with a company of dancers, musicians and acrobats from all over Africa! We spoke to her about her inspiring journey...
Noluyanda's Headshot
1. In your own words, what was your childhood like? 

Coming from a disadvantaged community, I had nothing to do after school. A lot of my peers didn't care about the future ahead and sat around, doing nothing. Because of this and other bad influences, many sadly fell victim to HIV.

Even at a young age, I knew dancing would both keep me busy and give me strength to avoid getting involved with the wrong crowd.

2. Can you describe the moment when you first fell in love with dance? 

I fell in love with dance when I was about nine. I was always an active kid who liked playing sports, so when I heard that my school would offer dance classes, I got very excited! I really did fall in love at my first lesson.

I was so enthusiastic when I started that I constantly wore my ballet slippers so I could practice all the time!

3. How would your life be different if you weren't a dancer? 
I wouldn’t have been as disciplined or driven as I am today. Also, if I didn’t have dance, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school. Since I was raised by a single parent, I would’ve started working at a very young age to help my mother. I still had to work to help support my family, but I was able to both go to school and work as a dance teacher. 

4. What is it like to be a dancer in such a large circus troupe?

Since I come from a classical ballet background, it’s a totally different world for me. Even the music and scenery on the stage are different! It’s been incredibly fun to go from the technical world of ballet to really "get down" with a type of dance called pantsula.

Another big difference is the amount of stamina involved. I used a certain amount of energy as a ballet dancer, but Mother Africa requires a lot more. Cardio needed to become one of my passions, too. I thank God every day that I’m able to be a diverse dancer!

5. Which act in Mother Africa: My Home is your favorite to watch?

Nolly DancingHonestly, all of them are my favorite, because each artist works with such focus and discipline. If I had to pick, I’d choose the smaller transition moments between each act. In these few minutes, the artists are challenged to find and connect with the idea of "home." When the transitions happen, these artists are given a freedom to move creatively, which helps the whole production grow.

6. When did you start traveling? Do you have a favorite place you've been to?

I started traveling when my professional career was just starting, at seventeen years old. It’s been a dream come true!

It’s hard to have a favorite place. Ever since I started traveling, I've always liked to stay in a country long enough to learn as much as I can about it. Then, if opportunities arise, I move on to the next one. However, Germany stole my heart five years ago, and it’s still my home to this day. So, that would have to be my favorite place... for now!

7. Why do you think it's important to teach kids about dance? 

Back in the day, dancing was ignored since most people didn't think you could make much money as a professional performer. Today, kids have the opportunity to choose something that might not be the most conventional way to earn a living, but gives them joy and happiness. Even if kids don’t pursue dance professionally, it keeps them healthy and teaches them a lot of principles like dedication and discipline. 

8. What's your favorite form of dance?

All dance forms are my favorite! I live my life through movement and, because of that, I have to be ready for all kinds of styles... and I love each and every one.
New Victory Thumb See Nolly in action at Mother Africa: My Home. This exciting circus spectacular runs from now until January 1st. Get your tickets here!

Posted by Beth Henderson

Not everyone grows up to have the career of their wildest dreams. But Jason Bishop is one of the lucky few, and he worked really hard to get there. Since he was a teenager, Jason has been obsessed with making the impossible possible by performing slieght of hand tricks that amazed his family and friends. Now, he gets to perform in a theater where Houdini himself made a big splash!

We sat down to talk with Jason and his dog Gizmo about their start in magic!
Jason Bishop
Why did you first start performing magic?

I always appreciated and enjoyed magic. I'd watch it on TV or live whenever I could. But I never thought I could do it. I didn't think I was special enough or figured I didn't start early enough. But I was a fan! Then at about 15 I just became totally consumed. After that, every day was filled with studying books, videos and practicing or dreaming about magic. 

Without telling us how the trick works, what was the first trick you ever learned? What's the most difficult trick you've ever done?

Probably the first was a simple sleight like the French Drop. It's a great utility sleight. Most magicians learn it early on and yet most big magicians will still use it when they need to! It's the method you use to make something vanish in your bare hands. 

The most difficult is the card manipulation. It's something that requires concentration and lots of practice to keep up on. Making cards disappear or appear or bounce off the stage requires constant attention and effort. Although some of the big illusions require a lot of effort and attention, too, like the Double Levitation. 

When and how did you decide that you wanted to be a professional magician?

Growing up, I never for a moment felt I had to be anything anyone else wanted me to be. I always had my own idea of what I wanted to do. When I decided on being a magican early on, it just seemed right. My thought process was, "Yup, I'll be a magician, that's that." Looking back I can see why some people had big, big reservations and doubts about my choice. But, at the time, I honestly couldn't understand why they doubted it, since I could see it so clearly. Of course, I didn't know all of the challenges I'd face along the way, but now I'm glad I didn't doubt myself and took that leap of faith!

Houdini once performed at the New Vic! How excited are you to follow in his footsteps and perform in the center of New York City?

Extremely excited! I was never really into reading about tricks as a kid, but I loved reading about the history of magicians. Houdini was around in an amazing time for magic with other top magicians as well. To perform at The New Victory, to be at 42nd and 7th, an area steeped in the rich history of magic and vaudeville, is completely breathtaking. I have to pinch myself thinking of the caliber of performers who havestood where I'll be standing. It's a total honor.

What advice would you give to aspiring magicians?

Learn, learn, learn, learn. And never in your life stop learning. Always look for the way to improve what you do. Don't quit. But, at the same time, seriously evaluate yourself and your magic. Be honest with yourself and then improve where you find any weaknesses. 

Do the best magic you can and always look for ways to be yourself as a performer.

What magicians inspire you?

Rob Zabrecky is a favorite, a very new and extremely different performer. I love that! David Copperfield set the artistic bar in magic extremely high. Also, I find Penn and Teller to be refreshingly creative. There are so many more, I could take all day talking about them!

How did you first meet Gizmo?

Jason and GismoI met Gizmo 4 years ago. I went to see him when he was 8 weeks old. After I fell in love, I used that night to decide if I'd get him. I called the next day and his owner said she was selling him to someone else! I was very persistent, made my case, never quit and she agreed to sell him to me if I arrived the very next day before 1pm. It was a snowy mess, but I got there, got Giz and he's been my buddy ever since!

Question for Gizmo: What's your favorite part of performing with Jason?

Running onstage to gasps of love from the audience! And the catering. I love the catering!

And Gizmo, what are you most excited to sniff in New York City?

I've heard there are very exotic dogs here. I want to know what they smell like!!!

New Victory Thumb Want to learn more? Get tickets to explroe the incredible magic of Jason Bishop: Straight Up Magic before they disappear in a flash! 

Posted by Beth Henderson
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