Transforming ballet in South Africa
10 April 2017
Transformation in ballet has a long way to go. In order to make the most of talent that is available in South Africa, talented dancers from all communities need to have access to the best training available. The reason is that it takes years of specialised coaching to prepare a dancer to meet the demands of the professional arena and at this stage there are just not enough sustainable programmes in townships that can prepare talented children from the townships to become professional dancers.
Photo: The South African International Ballet Competition hosted the diploma ceremony of the first teachers and students to graduate from the Training Teachers in the Townships Program. His Excellency Mr Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Ambassador of Cuba (pictured left) was the guest of honour and he handed over of the Diplomas.
Programmes for this purpose need to be set up in townships as past experience has shown that outreach programs that bus children in from townships to be taught at ballet schools elsewhere is not the answer.
What is needed is qualified and highly trained ballet teachers who are able to establish sustainable dance schools in townships. One has to make it as convenient as possible for children to attend ballet classes and bringing it closer to home where they have easy access to the classes and parents can be involved as well, is the only answer to ensure that transformation in ballet takes place.
The Training Teachers in the Townships Program which was initiated by the South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC) is an important initiative and at this stage the only such program whose main purpose is to train and empower teachers in townships on how to coach dancers in classical ballet, and at the same time it aims to help teachers become self sustainable by earning an income while they are training, by teaching children in the townships. It is also not only a vehicle for empowering our young dancers but also of nation building.
Under this program, a full time Cuban teacher, Ms Maria De Los Angeles Torguet Quintanilla, was based in South Africa for 8 months a year since 2015 and taught in townships and suburbs such as Soweto, in Randfontein, Ennerdale and Ekurhuleni as well as hosting workshops in other centres such as Rustenburg. Ms De Los Angeles Torguet Quintanilla qualified at the National Ballet School of Cuba and she specializes in the training of young children and teachers. She has now been joined by her daughter Ms Ayren Villalon Torguet, also a teacher at the Professional Ballet School of Arts in Camaguey, as we want to expand this Program all over Gauteng and other provinces as the interest in the Program has been remarkable.
The Cuban training method is an exceptional model for ballet training in this country with its multi-cultural society being so similar to that of Cuba. Cuba and South Africa have been working together for the past 20 years under the 20/20 Agreement and ballet is now part of the ongoing cooperation.
We aim to by the end of 2017 train 100 teachers to reach 7 000 learners and at the end of three years, we aim to have 1 000 teachers as part of the program which will lead to 70 000 children that will benefit from the program.
If we want our children to soar, we need to give them the wings to do so through training opportunities, and by inspiring them to soar.
South African International Ballet Competition