Dancer shows his skills

Sikhumbuzo SK Hlahleni is taking part in the senior section of the South African International Ballet Competition this week. Picture: Caroline Kotze

Khayelitsha ballet dancer Sikhumbuzo Hlahleni is competing in the online South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), which started on Monday July 13 and ends on Saturday July 18.

The 24-year-old submitted two solos via video – the classical variation from La Bayadère and Valorious, choreographed by Grant van Ster, as his contemporary piece. Hlahleni has dedicated his SAIBC performances to the late Kirvan Fortuin, a dancer and LGBTQI+ activist who was killed last month.

Hlahleni’s journey to the stage started at Dance for All in Athlone where he first learned and grew to love ballet and was inspired to push himself beyond his comfort zone.

His training continued at Cape Academy of Performing Arts, where he studied dance, drama and musical theatre, and from there he worked with Joburg Ballet and then at Mzansi Ballet headed up by Dirk Badenhorst, the founder and CEO of the SAIBC.

A highlight was a trip with Mzansi Ballet to Brazil to perform Bengingazi and Harlequinade.

Last year The Gugulethu Ballet Project, a non-profit organisation headed by former American Ballet Theatre soloist Kristine Elliott, arranged for Hlahleni to attend the Kaatsbaan Ballet summer intensive programme in New York.

He had an opportunity to dance with the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, took ballet classes with Kevin McKenzie and was coached by Sascha Radetsky and Stella Abrera, “all unforgettable experiences in my life”, says Hlahleni.

“I’m extremely excited and inspired by the great dancers who have gone before me, SAIBC alumni like Mthuthuzeli November, Thoriso Magongwa and Andile Ndlovu.”

All three are currently employed in top ballet companies around the world. Ndlovu is with Washington Ballet, Magongwa is with the National Ballet of Brno in Czech Republic and November is with Ballet Black in London.

“We all come from similar backgrounds and pathways and they encourage me to continue to strive for greatness and strength in my life as a dancer.”

The biennial South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), held virtually in light of challenges faced by Covid-19, has attracted its largest competitor enrolment since inception in 2008, with 155 dancers representing 29 countries.

Aside from the competition being presented through an app, the SAIBC is also hosting a series of free daily panel discussions. There will be conversations around ballet in Africa and the world, dance companies and schools criteria, employment, ballet as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapy, training during lockdown and gender equality.

Dancers are competing in three categories: scholars (age 12-15), juniors (age 16-20), and seniors (age 21-28).

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To access the daily events, download the ArtOfLife app now available on the Google Play Store and for iOS users, via the Bluestacks app or by emailing for instructions. The free-to-view panel discussions will be live streamed to the SAIBC Facebook page daily at