At the highest level

2014-02-04 00:00

WHILE hundreds of little girls dream of being a prima ballerina, one young Pietermaritzburg dancer is getting the chance to dance at the highest level.

Andrea Oellermann, who lives in Oak Park, has been selected for the Cape Town City Ballet’s graduate programme.

Dancers in the programme become part of a professional working company, while still honing their technical skills and getting instruction in pas de deux, make-up, pointe work and stagecraft.

Oellermann is one of several girls from KwaZulu-Natal selected for the programme. The others are Brittany Gibson, Hannah Ward, Claire Yarde-Leavett, Megan Oberholzer and Kyra Kelly.

Oellermann was invited to join the graduate programme by the Cape Town City Ballet’s artistic director, former Maritzburg resident Robin van Wyk, following his ballet workshop in the KZN capital last year.

“It all happened quite quickly and is really exciting,” Oellermann said, adding that she can’t quite believe she will be dancing with a company that she has watched perform on stage at the Playhouse in Durban.

“It really is quite hard to imagine that I will be part of the corps de ballet,” she said. “But I’m really looking forward to seeing what it is like to be part of a ballet company and to dance with one.”

Oellermann will spend a year with CTCB, after which the company will decide whether or not to offer her a permanent position. “I’m so lucky to have the chance to follow my passion,” she said.

Oellermann, who was the Epworth dux in 2013 and achieved seven A grades in matric, has been dancing under the tutelage of Brenda McLachlan since the age of six. As a pupil at Athlone Primary School, she and her class-mates had the chance to join the Brenda McLachlan School of Dancing after their principal approached McLachlan to offer classes to children in grades one and two.

“I’ve been doing the classes for about 15 years,” McLachlan said. “We started them because the principal felt that girls who did ballet were more disciplined on the sports field.”

Unlike many of the pupils, Oellermann chose to continue with her classes and over the years has obtained all her Royal Academy of Dancing exams with distinction. McLachlan said she is very proud of Oellermann, adding: “You teach thousands of dancers, but you come across very few with the ability to go as far as she has done.”

In 2012, Oellermann obtained a bursary for the Royal Academy of Dance (Rad) advanced one exam, and last year received a similar bursary for advanced two. Asked if she has any advice for other dancers, Oellermann — who was a member of Epworth’s LiveArt Dance Company and performed in several Funk dance extravaganzas at Hilton College Theatre — said: “If you do something you really love and if you’re determined to put in the hard work, then you will achieve your goals.”

THREE students from the Winsome Fuller Studio of Dance in Umbilo — Brittany Gibson, Hannah Ward and Claire Yarde-Leavett — have been selected for the Cape Town City Ballet cadet programme.

Fuller, a former Pietermaritzburg resident, told The Witness: “They have been with me for five years and presented all their vocational Rad exams through my studio. They also qualified to enter the 2012 International Ballet Competition and were coached by Cuban teachers, and danced with Dirk Badenhorst’s Mzanzi Company in Don Quixote in Johannesburg and Durban.”

The three dancers also took part in the international Genee competition in New Zealand in 2012. “They are hoping to extend their careers further by dancing in the Cape Town City Ballet under the direction of Robin van Wyk,” Fuller said.

“Although they are graduates, they will be dancing as company members in the new production of Swan Lake,” Fuller said.

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