Ballet for All in South Africa: Children of the townships find joy in dance.

In the outskirts of Cape Town, Philip Boyd returns to his homeland of South Africa to aid the youth community in a way that has been unimaginable to most non-profit organizations. For Philip Boyd, director of Dance for All in Guguletu, South Africa, and formal principal dancer of the Capab Ballet (now the Cape Town Ballet), dance is a commitment and discipline that provides township children with an alternate activity to wandering the streets. Pirouetting, leaping, and running on their toes, coming to class at Dance for All is more than just fun for the township children.

Philip Boyd along with his former Royal Ballet soloist and prima ballerina abssoluta wife, Phillis Spira, created the Dance for All program in Guguletu in 1992. Students were gathered by Philip in the old African settlement of Guguletu to bring them to class. During that time, the students viewed their white South African dance teacher as something like a god. As Dance for All has grown over the past fourteen years, dance styles and teachers have expanded to encompass African dance (taught by Hope Nonguonga), musical theatre, jazz and contemporary dance which is taught by Pauline van Buitenen.

The children of the small South African townships of Guguletu, Nyanga, and Khayelitsha must overcome great odds while living in these settlements. While stricken with extreme poverty, malaria continues to be of greatest concern. Almost 90% of those diagnosed with malaria in the world live in Sub-Sahara Africa; this disease kills over one million people, most of whom are children under five years old (Globe & Mail: Canada). Aside from these threats, there are dangers within their own community; some 60 children being raped every day in South Africa.

Dance for All has about 600 students, and one day Philip Boyd and his teacher staff hope that they will soon have enough dancers to make a new South African youth dance company. Besides providing a joyous activity for the children, ballet has provided them with a life goal and possible ticket out of the townships. This unusual and unique work of philanthropy has caught the eye of the Western world. A documentary was made in 2002 called “Guguletu Ballet”. Currently, the Dance for All program is funded by the David Poole Trust, the Cape Town City Council and some local township businesses. Dance for All also has its own sponsor-a-child program.

Image Source: Dance For All