An insight into Dancescape South Africa’s target area.
Zolani Township in Ashton, Western Cape is a rural area marked by poverty and inequality, ten years ago arriving in Montagu Pastor Fanie Tshoto invited Fiona Sargeant to start dance classes in a derelict church building (the Apostolic Faith Mission Church). Their intention was to give children a healthy physical activity that would keep them off the streets give them a positive outlook in their lives and improve the way they interact with each other. Of the approximate 6 500 people in this township 80% live below the poverty data line.
There is only work in the fruit picking season when the lucky ones get a chance to work for 3 months in a local canning factory. For the rest of the year there is no work. ‘Mamazolani’
Currently the dance project has one teacher (assisted by trainee students) for fifty children who are continuously being trained for community events and performances and a reading homework facilitator. When workshops are held in school time the 200 children are taught (generally Grades 5, 6 and 7)
In these farming communities only some basic needs can be met. The home social and school environments leave the children to fend for themselves and their younger siblings a school meal and a sandwich after dance class are provided and may be the only food they have. The dance classes are held in the ‘location’ to enable children to walk to classes, there is no family transport or money for buses. Beyond trying to survive neither the parents, school nor the children have had opportunities to enjoy any creative experience beyond the basic needs. For example only a few parents manage to attend performances not only through lack of transport but also because they themselves have not had exposure to the arts which leaves a lack of understanding as to the benefits of the extra mural activities. Initially the children join the class out of curiosity or to escape their difficult circumstances. To transform these children and future generations, both a sustained and continuous time period of daily classes and role models are required. Beginner Senior and Advanced one hour dance sessions are designed to improve the focus of the children many of whom have difficulty in concentrating. Workshops/classes allow children to develop their own choreographies within each dance session. Senior dancers are taught to share their knowledge with younger groups; this experience gives them confidence to teach. Not only is this the next program outcome, it is also their motivation to earn a small stipend. May Bingham will be starting a reading and homework help session (January 2017) whilst different groups are waiting for their dance class to facilitate improvement in the children’s academics.
The biggest problem facing our townships is HIV, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and aggression. Due to most of the children having no home role models activities that promote discipline and hope for a different future are essential. As commitment to the classes improve aggression decreases, cooperation increases, thus team work and social skills improve. Further, through their obvious enjoyment, their higher levels of need are being satisfied. The impact of this program is far reaching. Primarily, it keeps the children away from the streets away from drugs and gangster groups both so prevalent in these areas. Their natural enjoyment of music, movement and the opportunity to perform away from the township inspires and develops them to live beyond their basic needs and gives them hope for a better future.
What are the objectives of the project?
Prepare talented students to enable them to continue with Professional training as in the examples of the November Family.
To continue to partner with the Rural Arts Foundation that gives many platforms for performances and skills development.
To establish a Rural Youth Dance Company
To continue partnering with other dance organizations to uplift and expose youth to career opportunities in the arts.
To grow relationship and support from Zama Dance School (Guguletu) Western Province Teachers Association, Cape Academy of Performing Arts, Theatre Dance Association, Baxter Theatre, Artscape Theatre, Cape Town City Ballet, UCT School of Dance, to continue the existing partnerships of Former Principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre Kristine Elliot and Robyn Segal (former ballerina with the NAPAC and PACT Dance companies) and the Central School of Ballet.
Due to no infrastructure or proper facilitates for training classes take place in totally inadequate classrooms and run down dilapidated buildings. Future objective will be to oversee a studio theatre building dedicated to the training of all art disciplines. (Drama, Choirs, Dance, Visual Arts, Film etc.)
Who will benefit from the project and how?
Rural children aged from 5 – 19 who go to local schools and who have no extra mural activities, specially venerable youngsters who could otherwise turn to stealing for drugs and become involved with unsocial behaviour
Rural Communities teachers and pupils who have had no training or exposure to the Arts (specifically in dance) through workshops and community performances. Trainee teachers who will lead and grow the work and develop requisite skills to earn an income from teaching and choreography.
Should funds be made available, the UCT Stellenbosch and UWC research departments will be approached to measure behavioural changes in the 2017 intake.
If more funds are made available we could:
- identify train and select more staff to replicate the program in other communities
- collaborate more than we do with other groups
- establish counselling during our homework sessions or holiday workshops
- upgrade the facility we use with a wooden floor barres mirrors and storage
- upgrade the sound equipment
- send more talented children to full time professional training further afield
- provide more sandwiches than is currently possible
- attend more professional performances and outings such as Artscapes and Baxter performances and UCT open days.