A passion for dance

2011-12-13 00:00

TWO Durban dancers will be heading to New York next year to take part in a summer school run by ballet teacher Mignon Furman. They won the coveted prize at the biennial American Academy of Ballet National Championships, a programme for young ballet dancers which Furman initiated.

Lana Roberts, a 21-year-old dance teacher at the KwaZulu-Natal Dance Centre, run by Kim and Bonnie Hayman, and 18-year-old Julia Hosmer, a ballet student at the Betty Blake Academy of Dance, were the winner and runner-up in the competition, which took place at the Courtyard Theatre at the Durban University of Technology on December 3. The two women were entered in level 12 of the awards.

Roberts, who received a monetary bursary and scholarship, will spend six weeks in New York in July 2012. “I really want to make the trip worthwhile, so I’m going to be spending the whole six weeks there. The quality of the dancing [in New York] is so much higher, so this is a once- in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the best,” she said.

Roberts has been dancing since the age of six, but after spending some time in Britain training with a Russian dance school, at the age of 18, she shelved any plans she might have had to join a professional ballet company.

“I had great training in the United Kingdom — my teacher was an ex-Bolshoi ballet dancer — but it was an eye-opener, and made me realise how dedicated you need to be to be part of a professional ballet company,” she added.

So, while ballet remains her passion, Roberts is concentrating on performing in contemporary dance productions with Taryn Makaab, founder and director of the Breakthru Dance Company, which produced the excellent production, ­Dollz, last year.

Hosmer, meanwhile, has just completed her matric at St Henry’s Marist Brothers in Durban, and will be taking a small break during her planned gap year in New Zealand in 2012 to do the summer school in New York.

A dancer since the age of four, Hosmer also does some teaching in her spare time, working with young dancers in Wentworth as part of the Dance Movement project.

Dancers in levels two to 12 took part in the championships, which were judged by Furman and her husband, W. S. Kaplan, who danced professionally in London with the Royal Opera Ballet at Covent Garden.

Speaking to The Witness before the event, Furman, the former director of the University of Cape Town Ballet School, said: “It is very gratifying for me to see these young dancers improve in their ballet technique and performance quality every time that I visit Durban.

“I have seen dancers in many parts of the United States, and in other countries to which I have travelled for the competition, so I am able to say that the standard in Durban is exceedingly high.”

Among those from Pietermaritzburg who did well in the ballet competition were dancers taught by Brenda McLachlan. Gabrielle Joubert won level five, and was named most promising junior dancer; Rachel Pienaar was runner-up in level two; Laura Evans was runner-up in level seven; and Andrea Oellermann won level nine.

Two of Brenda Hunter’s students also did well. Helen Kroukam won level three and Jordyn Toohey was runner-up in ­level nine. Emily Murray, a pupil of Heather Proctor, was runner-up in level four.

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