The Cape Town City Ballet has launched an online project that provides tutoring to children from the Zolani Township, located in the town of Ashton in the Boland region. The project was started in honour of Nelson Mandela, and at the call made by international dancer and choreography Mthuthuzeli November.
“Because of COVID-19, as treacherous as it is and as damaging as it is, it’s forced us into another space of additional ways to communicate and engage with the children and young adults that we want to engage with. To encourage them into this as a potential career for them or at least give them the skills that they will take with them for the rest of their lives,” said Cape Town City Ballet CEO Debbie Turner to SABC News.
November, who is from South Africa and now lives in London, said that the plight of the dancers in Zolani was highlighted to him by messages he received from his family who live there.
“I’ve received a couple of messages from my family in Zolani, which is a township that I’m from in South Africa. They’re telling me that so many young people have been reaching out to them asking for my help. They have been left behind in the pandemic. They haven’t been able to keep up with their dance training. They haven’t been able to keep up with some of their school work and the main reason for this is the lack of internet and the lack of space to even dance,” November said.
The project launched on Mandela Day, where the company’s ballerinas did 67 pirouettes, a notoriously difficult classical ballet technique. In addition, the company will give 67GB of data for internet access to those who sign up and provide 67 hours of training.
Both children and adults are encouraged to join the online project.
“We will enable the tutors by giving them the gigs to be able to Zoom to the children of Zolani and pay for the data so that the children have a direct contact even if it has to be through a television or phone screen.
“But also in addition to that, the skill that exists in Cape Town City ballet right from our principal dancers to our young sort of apprentices that are 20, 21 years of age and are newly stepping into this arena is to engage with the children and young people of Zolani to educate them and to develop skills; not only in dance, but in things like yoga, mindfulness practice. Just general life skills that dance gives you because the basic thing that dance comes back to is discipline,” Turner said.
She believes that you cannot be what you cannot see, and the project is critical in showing those who have aspirations of dancing for the company that it is not impossible.