23 June 2003
A creative initiative called Dance for All is giving children from underprivileged backgrounds in the Western Cape a constructive outlet after school. Not only are these children having fun learning to dance, they are also being provided with valuable opportunities for employment in the performing arts.
The project, to help underprivileged children by keeping them off the streets and giving them a stab at employment, was launched in 1991 as Ballet for All by former principal dancer with Capab ballet, Philip Boyd and his prima ballerina wife, Phyllis Spira.
Today the Dance for All programme, which is a member of the Proudly South African campaign, includes other dance forms. Classes are attended by around 200 boys and girls, and the project includes both a general programme and a youth training programme. Boyd heads the Dance for All as artistic director.
Running the programme in the Western Cape townships of Gugulethu, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, and in Athlone in Cape Town, costs Dance for All about R50 000 a month. Although the youngsters cannot pay full dance fees, they are expected to pay R2 a class.
The children not only learn to dance – their self-esteem is boosted and they are taught valuable life skills like self-discipline. Dance provides a more rewarding after-school activity than getting involved in gangs and drugs. Cultural bridges are built through the project, and children can grow intellectually and healthily.
The youth training programme has a junior and senior division. Former Bolshoi ballet dancer Nadia Krylova, and Margie Sim, an internationally experienced teacher, run the junior youth training programme, while Spira heads the senior division.
A former student of Dance for All, Hope Nonqunga, heads the African dance section, and Pauline van Buitenen, a classical and jazz ballet teacher from Amsterdam, the opera and musical theatre section.
Students perform and tour regularly to great acclaim, and the local end-of-year performances are a big hit in the community.
Theo Ndindwa was the first male student to graduate through the programme, winning a scholarship to the Rambert School of Ballet in London, where he graduated and is now at the Central School of Ballet. Many more have followed and are finding employment in the performing arts.