Dancing for life

2014-05-08 00:00

TWENTY girls are being taught contemporary dance to help them develop self-confidence and avoid the trap of teenage pregnancy.

The Lahl’umlenze Dance Initiative workshops are run by Pietermaritzburg dancers Bonwa Mbontsi and Tegan Peacock, under the umbrella of the non-governmental organisation Justice and Women (Jaw).

They got involved after Mbontsi, who is interning at Maritzburg College, was asked to do a youth programme for the organisation run by Jenny Bell.

Encouraged by the success of the first project, he and Peacock were invited to get involved in the Lahl’umlenze Dance Initiative.

They now travel to the rural areas around Melmouth to work with the girls, who are between 13 years old and 18 years old, once a month.

“We work with them all day on a Saturday and do holiday workshops as well,” said Mbontsi, who was a finalist in the reality show So You Think You Can Dance?

Peacock, a classically trained ballet dancer, added: “The girls have grown in leaps and bounds in their self-confidence, and are much more open to trying new things. They are also very supportive of each other and have become a really cohesive group.”

The area in rural Zululand that the two dancers are working in has little to offer young people when it comes to extramural activities, and as a result there is a high incidence of teenage pregnancy and school drop-outs.

The area also has a high HIV/Aids infection rate and problems with drugs and alcohol.

“This project aims to counter these problems through developing and building life lessons, such as commitment, trust and self-worth, while providing them with a safe environment in which to learn and share,” said Mbontsi.

“We hope to provide them with a place to focus their energies, improve their sense of self and to build their hope for the future. We believe that through this we can act against their involvement in self-destructive activities.”

The girls now hope to showcase the skills they have learnt in a dance production at the annual Funk! dance extravaganza, which takes place at the Hilton College Theatre on May 17 and May 19 to May 21.

“Funk! is giving us the opportunity to take 12 girls to Pietermaritzburg to participate. This will provide these girls with the opportunity to experience and learn from other high-school pupils,” said Peacock, who has just completed her Royal Academy of Dance studies.

She added that while the girls are in the city, they are hoping to take them on outings to museums, the Tatham Art Gallery, the KwaZulu-Natal Parliament and the Bessie Head Library.

To do this, however, requires funding and Mbontsi and Peacock are hoping to get the support of the local community through a special fund-raising evening at Maritzburg College at 6.30 pm for 7 pm tomorrow.

The picnic-style theatre evening, titled Sofika, will include performances from Luke Greyling, a break dancer who appeared in SA’s Got Talent; belly dancer Arum Bydewell; the Maritzburg College Boys Band, who will be playing a mix of music, including songs by Hugh Masakela; Erin Scott, from the Lisa Jennings School of Dance; the Acoustic Assassins, a group that emerged from a project that Tembaletu Centre is running in the city with young people; and Mbontsi and Peacock, who will do a contemporary dance, accompanied by Lloyd Blackbeard on the piano.

To book for the show, e-mail Tegan Peacock at tegan.peacock@gmail.com or phone her at 084 206 2477.

• Jaw would like to thank Maritzburg College for its support of the fundraising event. Companies and individuals interested in assisting the dance project with funding, especially for travelling and catering, are urged to get in touch with Tegan Peacock.

• Funk! will take place at the Hilton College Theatre on May 17 and May 19 to May 21 at 7.30 pm nightly. Tickets are R60 at 033 383  0126.

• arts@witness.co.za

DANCE is how I express myself, get to know what is new every week and keep myself busy.

When I’m dancing, I also learn other things — it could be about life, South African history, or how to handle myself as a youth.

I’m able to express my opinion and ask what I don’t understand in dance.

I get to meet people I don’t know and get to know them better through dance.

Dance can turn out to be your career if you take it seriously.

Dance means everything to me. If I dance I include drama and storytelling, giving people a picture of what my life is like.

by Nomvula Biyela, dance group member

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