A famed South African former dancer and his ex-ballerina wife have opened up a new world and possible career prospects for children from Cape Town's poor slums through free dance lessons. The project launched by Philip Boyd and his wife, Phyllis Spira -- one of the country's top ballerinas in her heyday -- now encompasses about 600 children.
A famed South African former dancer and his ex-ballerina wife have opened up a new world and possible career prospects for children from Cape Town’s poor slums through free dance lessons.
The project launched by Philip Boyd, a former principal dancer with the Cape Town ballet company, and his wife, Phyllis Spira—one of the country’s top ballerinas in her heyday—now encompasses about 600 children.
One of his earliest students, Theo Ndindwa, is today an international dancer.
Six days a week, students from three townships are transported into a world of pirouettes and graceful movements, their enthusiasm undimmed by their lack of ballet clothes.
“The story story began 15 years ago,” said Boyd. “The programme continued to grow, and after five years, I changed the name ‘Ballet for All’ to ‘Dance For All’, because I thought we need to incorporate not only classical ballet, but African dance.”
Although lessons are given now in three townships—only one venue at the Gugulethu township has proper wooden floors, bars and mirrors.
As music flows from a sound system on the floor, little girls stand on their toes and follow the instructions of their teacher, Dutchwoman Pauline Van Buitenen.
Boyd says the magic of dance has caught the imagination of not only the students but of the locals residents as well.
“We’ve now built up a fantastic audience in the black community of Gugulethu. When we hold a performance here at the end of every year, these people come and watch their own children, their friends, colleagues. It’s wonderful!”
Van Buitenen says about 80 students aged between three and 20 come to the Gugulethu centre every day for lessons, adding: “and it’s not easy every day”.
At the amphitheatre of the Alexander Sinton school in Crawford, east of Cape Town, 13 students from townships attentively follow the instructions of visiting teacher Brian Vernon from Florida.
They are recipients of a R10Â 000 scholarship scheme under the Dance for All programme.
Xola Putye (19) from the Phillipi East township has come a long way.
“I started dancing in Gugulethu when I was 10 years old, just doing it for fun,” he said.
“But as I did more classes, I began to understand that dancing was not something to do for fun only and it has given me lots of opportunities,” said Putye who last year attended a summer course in San Francisco. - AFP