Review: ‘Jiva!’ is a Colourful Celebration of the South African Dance Culture

“When you have one life to live, you make sure you dedicate it to your dreams. Because dreams are important”

Noxolo Dlamini as Ntombi in Jiva
Image via Netflix

The third Netflix African original series, Jiva (coming after the short-lived Queen Sono, and family drama Blood & Water), is an energy-packed dance drama that colourfully portrays the beauty of South African dance culture. Created and written by award winning director and producer, Busisiwe Ntintili (Happiness is a Four Letter Word), Jiva revolves around Ntombi (Noxolo Dlamini), a talented dancer, who is forced to sacrifice her passion and dreams to help out her family. Trapped in a dead-end job, the announcement of the Fifth Annual Jiva Loxion Street Dance Drama gives her hope, a chance to reshape her life and bail her family out of financial problems. 

In light of these circumstances, Ntombi forms a girl dance group called The Trollies, which includes her best friend, Vuyiswa (Candice Modiselle), Zinhle (Sne Mbatha), Nolwazi (Zazi Kunene) and Lady E (Stella Dlangalala). But amidst her plans to showcase her talent and chase her dreams; she must sort out her relationship with her mother, figure out her love life, and of course, nail the perfect dance routine.

Jiva mainly boasts of the South African street dance with the mediocre and overused plot of always follow your dreams and blah blah blah. Besides this unequivocal plot, the theme of betrayal resonates from the very beginning of Jiva. This theme is reflected in our everyday life. We see how families, friends and acquaintances, people who clearly understand what certain things mean to you but still deprive you of those things. The plot suffers in an attempt to build a backstory for the other characters, in that their stories were so detached from the plot, thereby doing little to nothing in driving the essence of the movie. However, Jiva delivers in two areas:

Electrifying Dance Sequences 

Image via Netflix

As deduced from the title, Jiva means dance and that’s exactly what this South African series brings to the table— less drama, more dance. It is nearly impossible to dislike this artful portrayal of  South African dance. Even though Ntintili tries to inject a speck of romance and character drama into the movie, it is more of a collection of impressive dance sequences.

The Colourful Costumes 

Via Netflix

The colourful costumes are just as important as the well-choreographed dances and it is a vivid reflection of South African culture. Beyond the dances in Jiva, the array of colours used, is able to communicate its own meaning and help influence viewers to participate in the event. A sort of ‘if the dance isn’t magnetic enough, maybe the vibrant colours will draw you in’.

The first season of Jiva tells a half-baked story. The story ends with Ntombi and her friends hopping into a bus to prepare for the final rounds of the dance competition. This clearly means Ntintili showed viewers a tip of the iceberg and it foreshadows more astonishing performances to follow in the next season.  For the upcoming season, the backstories of some of the characters need fleshing out and I am really looking forward to how Ntombi will sort out her love life.

Rating: 5.5/10

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Five episodes of the first season of Jiva! are currently streaming on Netflix.

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