Four Dance for All (DFA) students have been invited to attend dance workshops in San Francisco and New Jersey this month (December 2011). The CEO of DFA, Philip Boyd, chats to Steyn du Toit about this exciting opportunity.
For those not familiar with Dance For All, what is the organisation about?
Dance for All (DFA) is an organisation that uses dance to engage and empower children from low-income communities in Cape Town. Most of our students live in extremely challenging socio-economic circumstances. By providing an enjoyable and constructive extramural activity that is open to all, DFA gives children the opportunity to spend their afternoons off the street, in a safe environment, while learning valuable dance skills.
How do you go about recruiting/signing up students?
We work in the townships and use local resources, schools, our parent networks, media and word of mouth. We teach in the communities that we draw our student base from and thus we are constantly in touch with what is happening at grass roots.
What have been some of the success stories so far? Where have some of your past students ended up professionally?
Many of the dancers we trained have done so well. Noluyanda Mqulwana has just completed a year’s contract in a production of The Lion King in Singapore and has been offered a new contract for the same production for another year in Germany. Another, Bathembo Myira, is also in a production of The Lion King in Germany. Former DFA Youth Company member Xola Putye is now a senior soloist with Cape Town City Ballet, as is Tusile Tenza, who is dancing with Cape Town City Ballet. Nceba Ngubombini is in a musical in Switzerland and Mbulelo Ndabeni is with the Rambert Dance Company in London. These and many more former students of DFA are all testament to the work being done by the DFA team in creating so many wonderful opportunities and giving so many young children the chance of having a better life. What better investment is this for a positive future in this country?
Thembisa Selana (11), Robyn Fortune (12), Byron Klassen (20) and Veronique Reagon (14)
A group of your current students have been invited to train in New York, New Jersey and San Francisco in December. How did this happen?
The invitations resulted from a visit by eight guest teachers from the US who ran a two-week Winter Dance Intensive with DFA students in June-July 2011. Six of these teachers are LEAP (Liberal Education Arts Professionals) students on a Bachelor of Arts degree programme designed for current and former professional dancers – and they were all inspired by the students’ talent, technique and commitment to dance.
What will their trip entail?
Byron Klassen (20), a DFA senior Bridging Programme student, will be spending two weeks immersed in dance, taking ballet classes at Cedar Lake Dance Company, as well as at other dance schools. A special highlight will be a workshop with Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company (based in Tel Aviv, Israel). He’ll also be introduced to the Gyrotonic Expansion System – a unique system of equipment and exercise that incorporates movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai-chi. This will be under the guidance of Alejandro Piris Niño, who is also a Gyrotonic certified instructor.
Thembisa Selana (11), a student on DFA’s Specialised Ballet Programme, will spend three weeks training with Olivia Ramsay at the Marin Ballet School in San Francisco. She has also been invited to take classes at the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School and will have private lessons with various master teachers around the Bay Area, including Kristine Elliott, head of dance at Stanford University and long-time friend and supporter of DFA. Thembisa will also have the chance to attend holiday performances, such as the Nutcracker Suite, and will have some time to be a tourist as well.
Veronique Reagon (14) and Robyn Fortune (12), both students of Ingrid Carlson Ballet in association with DFA, will be hosted by David Tamaki and will attend ballet classes at the New Jersey School of Ballet, where David trained as a dancer and currently teaches. He says the girls demonstrated their strong training both in class and in performance and his invitation was inspired by their desire to excel. As they’ll be there over Christmas they’ll have the chance to attend some holiday season performances, including New Jersey Ballet’s Nutcracker, which is in its 41st season and will be performed with a full orchestra. They’ll also have the chance to see New York City.
When they return to South Africa, will they have a chance to showcase what they've learned?
Yes, definitely. We will arrange a talk and demonstration where they can show the other students and interested public what they learnt. There could possibly be opportunities to showcase at next year’s performances.
For more information regarding Dance for All, please visit their website: www.danceforall.co.za.