Young dancers shine at Grahamstown

Andrew Warth with Thimna Sitokisi, Tshepang Shumba and Timana Nofemele with some of their trophies.

Ten ballet dancers from Zama Dance School, in Gugulethu, are beaming with pride after they took part in the National Arts Festival (NAF) held in Grahamstown a fortnight ago.

It was one of the most memorable trips for the dancers as they were part of this prestigious event and rubbed shoulders with other dancers from across the country.

Andrew Warth, director of the school, said the aim was to expose the participants to other dance techniques, methods and skills with the hope that they would incorporate them into their own styles.

He said the event gave budding dancers an opportunity to show their dance pieces and other art forms and it also encouraged artists to take their craft seriously.

“These young township dancers collaborated with the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, but they also showcased their own dance pieces. The event was not a competition whereby they would compete with other schools, but it was just an event giving budding dancers a platform to exhibit their talent and hard work. The event sought to encourage young people to take part in art and pursue it as career.

“I would be very proud to see at least see 10 of our former students being professional ballet dancers or choreographers and I would know that I had done my part in changing someone’s life,” he said.

Mr Warth appealed to parents to support their children in their dance careers.

Thimna Sitokis, 17, who has been with the school for 10 years, said before the festival, they had undergone intensive training to hone their skills and they trained every day, including Saturdays.

At times, they were required to train twice a day, leaving no room for mistakes and setting a high standard.

He believes the arts festival helped them learn from other performers so that they can be better dancers.

Thimna was grateful to have been part of the event as he learnt a lot of things about ballet and he aims to use the experience he gained at the festival as a stepping stone in becoming a professional dancer.

Asked about how he got into ballet, he said he was not interested in other sports which boys normally play, but he was fascinated by this unusual dancing and opted to try it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Thimna said that in 2013 he received a best character dancer award at the Diploma Theatre Association (DTA) competition and in 2014 he received a best solo dancer award at the same competition.

“Currently, I’m doing Grade 12 at Fezeka High School and I want to enrol at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts and study ballet. I want to be a professional dancer and travel the world representing the township of Gugulethu and South Africa at large.

“I also want to be a chorographer and teach black children about ballet and dismiss the notion that this is only done by white people or girls. It is for everyone,” he said.

Timana Nofemele, 16 said he was thrilled that he was among the dancers who participated at the NAF.

Talking about the challenges they face, he said as boys they experience a lot of discrimination as they are often called “sissies” because of the dancing attire they wear, and ballet is still considered by many as a thing for white girls not boys.

“My sister was a ballet dancer, and that is where I learnt about this art form and decided to follow it. And the proudest moment in my life was when I was chosen as the best solo dancer by the DTA last year, and I want to be a professional dancer. Ballet is for everyone and it is not for white people only and I urge other young people to pursue it as well,” he said.