Cape Town teen dancers ready to dance their way to the top

2016-07-13 12:51
The dancers are still in school and want to go professional.  (Credit: Natalie Oosthuizen

The dancers are still in school and want to go professional. (Credit: Natalie Oosthuizen

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Cape Town – Teenage dancers from Cape Town townships are ready to take on the world.

The dancers, from NGO Dance for All (DFA) are presently being taught and advised by visiting choreographer, Terrence Etheridge. Etheridge is a South African-born international ballet choreographer.

Etheridge, who is not charging for his services, said he was impressed with the aspiring professionals.

Dancers were told about the possibility of a scholarship in the UK.

After a rehearsal on Saturday, 17-year-old Mihlali Gwatya said he was proud he had coped with the moves.

Performed to music by a French composer, the classical ballet and jazzy steps collided in a cheeky, upbeat number.

“I got to experience and do steps I never thought I would do,” said Gwatya, who had been dancing for five years.

From Khayelitsha, he was used to criticism from other men his age.

He said it encouraged him to work even harder to prove there was no such thing as dance being only for women.

“Dancing is just a way of expressing yourself and being comfortable with movement.”

Hearing about overseas opportunities pushed 16-year-old Kezia Dhalmini to give her all.

Etheridge (centre) speaks to dancers (Photo by Natalie Oosthuizen)

She and her fellow pupils caught taxis after school every day to make their two-hour dance classes, six times a week.

People in Gugulethu were proud of her because most youngsters sat aimlessly on the street corner, said Dhalmini.

“I kind of feel blessed to be here and do what I am doing.”

Etheridge, who started his dance career at UCT Ballet in the 1960s and went on to be the artistic director of the Hong Kong Ballet and principal of the Rambert School of Ballet, said he had taught all over Europe and found the DFA to be “very good”.

The Athlone-based non-profit organisation trains young dancers from poorer Cape Town communities from the age of 5.

Etheridge said he is choreographing the piece after years of promising prima ballerina Phyllis Spira he would do something special with the little ones.

Spira ran DFA with her husband Philip Boyd until her death in 2008.

“I am now making good on that promise,” Etheridge said.

“I have taught adults and children aged 5 to 85. The five girls and four boys from DFA I have been working with are very enthusiastic and inspiring. They are definitely able to hold their own.”

The piece will be performed when DFA celebrates its 25th anniversary in August, said Boyd.

According to the NGO’s website, former Cape Town City Ballet principal dancer Boyd started giving ballet classes in a classroom in Gugulethu in 1991.

Originally called Ballet for All, it was renamed in 1995.

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