Dance for All started 21 years ago to give children who live in the townships outside of Cape Town the chance to achieve excellence through dance. Initially the organization offered ballet classes, but now they’ve expanded to several forms of dance serving more than 1,000 disadvantaged children for free. Many will leave Dance for All with the discipline and skills to be successful adults. A lucky and talented few will receive scholarships to study dance in college and go on to dance with companies and productions around the world.
Dance for All instructors go out into the townships to teach on a daily basis. They also have three airy studios where the best of the best come to train.
But the organization’s services often go far beyond the studio. When life comes crumbling down around these kids, Dance for All provides the support and structure to get them through. The fact is, while the program is based on dance, there are hundreds of hurdles these kids must clear before they can ever make it to a class. Dance for All gives them the confidence, skills, and strength to rise above their daily problems to achieve the (nearly) impossible.
Dance for All currently instructs a thousand students ages 5 to 20. Most of their students live in the townships surrounding Cape Town, South Africa.
Ms. Margie is one of DFA’s most dedicated instructors. If one of her students doesn’t show up for class, it’s not unusual to see her barreling down the streets of the township, knocking on doors looking for answers. She’s also famous for stretching her limited budget to buy bags stuffed with rice, lentils and apples to give to students when they’re not getting enough to eat at home.
Even though Tumi was sidelined with an injury, he still shows up to his dance classes every day. Tumi is a part of the Bridging Programme where students who have graduated from high school get one to two years of professional-level training as a bridge to college or a job in dance.
Ms. Margie is an extremely hands-on instructor, often perfectly modeling complicated moves for her students.
Tamsyn and Nathan are two of Dance for all’s most senior students. They specialize in ballet and contemporary dance.
A perfectly timed jump.
Nathan, who was originally a hip hop dancer, sought out training at Dance for All because ballet is the foundation for all forms of dance. Improving his fundamental skills was a necessary step for him to have a career in the arts.
Nosi, a very shy girl who comes to class with her brother, has blossomed in the Dance for All studios.
Students say that Dance for All gives them a place to be themselves and to gain a better understanding what is possible in their lives.
While students spend about 15 hours a week in class, the training is designed to be rigorous and professional, there is no shortage of fun in the studios.
Dance for All maintains a sizeable wardrobe of costumes, shoes, tights leotards and other dance essentials on site.
At only 13-years-old, Thembi is making remarkable progress. She was one of a handful of students selected to go to California last year to take part in intensive dance training program.
Dance for All also hosts a regular list of guest choreographers, instructors and interns. Lotte, an intern from Holland teaches a class in the township of Hlingisa.
Dance for All instructors go out into the community every afternoon to teach children in their own neighborhoods. These children can remain in the local classes or audition for the higher level training that is held in the Dance for All studios.
Classes in the townships become an event. Children who don’t want to dance or are too young to participate often watch from the doors and windows.
Nosi and her brother Zweli share this shack with an older sister. Their eldest brother moved them here after their parents died. Even though they are minors, he doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.
Sindesile practices outside of the home he shares with his mother and siblings. He dreams of being a doctor one day and uses dance as a way to learn about the human body.
Odwa is acutely aware that careers in dance can be brief. He plans to pursue a professional dance career and study for his physical therapy license at the same time. When he is finished dancing, he will have a built-in clientele for his services.
Nate, who lost both of his parents at the age of 13, is lucky to be a part of a tight-knit family. He lives with his brother, who encourages him to pursue his dreams of a career in performance.
Samkile waits outside of his grandmother’s house. They often struggle to make ends meet.
Dance for All arranges transportation for those who need it. It takes some students nearly two hours on busses or trains to reach the studio.
Olivia earned a scholarship to an elite high school about an hour’s drive from her home in Khayelitsha. It takes two busses and a lot of luck for her to be in the Dance for All studio on time for her afternoon rehearsal.