By Sorenya Miller
Love, laughter, vibrancy, friendship and sorrow sums up the vibes of Jiva!, the latest Netflix dance series. The South African show follows the life of Ntombi, an aspiring dancer who had to set aside her dreams due to family tragedies and obligations. However, with the emergence of the Jiva Loxion dance competition, Ntombi decides to form her own dance crew and revive her dream of becoming a world class dancer again.
As the show starts we are faced with Ntombi who is forced to settle for a minimalist lifestyle, while her ex-boyfriend, Makhekhe, flaunts his riches. Makhekhe is a symbol of the opportunity she missed and the life she could have been living if things had turned out differently. Even after he ruined her life seven years ago, Ntombi still monitors his lavish lifestyle and is reluctant to confront him when they unexpectedly meet up.
Not only is her ex-boyfriend a hindrance to the pursuit of her dreams, but her mother is also. As seen with many dance shows, there’s always that one person that is holding back the protagonist. In this case it’s right in Ntombi’s home. Her mother, who is crippled, tasks her with taking care of her little brother and supporting the family financially. With her mother guilt tripping her, Ntombi is forced to work as a cleaner at a local aquarium and deal with an inquisitive and annoying boss. Her dreams are casually brushed aside because it reminds her mother of her late husband’s failed attempts with his music career. Meanwhile Samu, her younger brother, is seen as the hope of the family and will be the first one to go to university and “make it.” Samu also feels the pressure to be successful and is constantly reminded by his uncle about the importance of education. But just like his sister, Samu wants to be a dancer.
This storyline shows a common problem that many families face, where one member has to be the sacrificial lamb for other members to be successful. Therefore, Jiva! doesn’t bring any new material to the existing dance genre of TV series, but it does successfully add the culture of South Africa. Throughout the series, we are presented with bright colors, exquisite clothing, exciting music and picturesque sceneries. Some of the prominent settings where most of the action takes place includes clubs, a marketplace, and a hill overlooking the city—and they are nothing short of spectacular.
The clubs attract entertainers from all over the nation and provide them with a dancefloor where they can express themselves. Even the lightning and the layout of the club is well thought out by the directors and adds to the overall vibrancy of the show. The competition dancers and the main character wardrobe is on point. Ntombi wears a combination of traditional garments with a modern flair to it. I love how she expresses herself through her clothes and is not afraid to own her body. The other dancers also wear vivid outfits and even have a habit of making sure they are all matching in some way. The great thing about the show is that seeing all the colors automatically puts you into a good mood. It supports the notion that looking at warm, bright colors, such as red or pink, releases dopamine, known as the “feel-good hormone… which can improve our mood.” My mood was definitely amplified seeing the dance battles and I found myself getting excited.
Moreover, once you start hearing afrobeats you just can’t stop moving your feet. The background music was great and featured many international and local African artists. It was also good to see a female deejay, which you don’t see often in many movies. The show also presents an array of female characters and diversifies their roles. For instance, in Ntombi’s dance crew, there’s an older female dancer, a mother, and a young school girl. This diversity shows that anyone can be a dancer, no matter their age or occupation. We also get to see many successful business women in the music industry.
Another location worth mentioning is the hill overlooking the city where Ntombi used to go with her father when she was younger. The location showcases the nighttime beauty of the South African landscape. It also holds significance for the main character because it reminds her of the bond she shared with her father, and that there’s a whole world waiting for her to conquer it. Jiva! is a must-watch, feel-good Netflix series for the summer. The series is a mood booster and will have you rooting for the main character to be successful in the pursuit of her dreams. It also shows you that it’s never too late to go after what you love and to have fun along the way.