Thursday 3rd November: Thimna’s Braces
A huge thank you to everyone who helped Thimna get his million dollar smile. A special thank you to
Dr Rabe for pulling teeth and making space, and to Dr Coetsee for pulling eveything into place. There’s
a while to go, but look at Thimna’s proud smile.
Thimna’s new braces, and already feeling confident
Thursday, 17thNovember. Examiners for the day. Parents watch a run of our exam classes.
Friday 18th & Saturday 19th November: Zama Ballet Exams
Our exams took place on Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th with guest examiner Mervyn Williams from the Cape Town City Ballet. Mr Williams observed our Introductory class on Friday, and commended Leanne on her work with our youngest students aged 7 to 8 yrs. He presented the children their certificates, and their invitations to join us next year for Grade 1.
Saturday the 19th November was exam day for the rest of the school, and it all ran very smoothly. Our results are exceptionally good this year, with an average mark of 80% and no fails.
Before, during and after. Nervous, excited, and relieved. Exam day had finally come and they all gave their very best.
Thursday 1st December: Performance at Tembeletu
On Thursday morning, we packed our bus with costumes, dancers and props to perform for the children at Tembeletu. Tembaletu is near Zama in Gugulethu, and is one of only four special needs schools in the Western Cape that offers education to Xhosa speaking children in their mother tongue. We performed at Tembeletu in September of 2015 to a smaller audience, but his year was quite different. The hall was full and a-buzz with excitement as we had joined forces with Reddam House, who gave them all a pair of brand new shoes, as well as other beautiful and exciting gifts.
Monday 5th & Tuesday 6th December: The Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) Chasing Shadows
On Monday and Tuesday nights we were back on stage at Artscape with CAPA for two performances of Chasing Shadows. This production did so well at the National Art Festival in Grahamstown this year, and did not disappoint in Cape Town. Zama performed their two pieces beautifully, and made us very proud. Thank you, Debbie Turner, and Nathalie Vijver for this wonderful experience this year.
This beautiful photo of Zama Dance School is by Helena Fagan and is Leanne Voysey’s, Being Human
Thursday 8th December: End-of-year Concert
This year we looked-back in dance to our tour with CAPA to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and honoured Dean Bennewith who passed away in March. We celebrated our diversity with JOY, our Pantsula in tap shoes, and welcomed dancers from Debbie Turner’s CAPA, the Waterfront Theatre School and Principal dancers Laura Bosenberg and Tom Thorne from the Cape Town City Ballet who performed Embraceable You from their production, Stairway to Heaven.
We were once again delighted to welcome our Chairman Mr Raymond Ackerman and his wife Wendy to the school, as well as our Trustees, Freya Griffiths and Michael Sizani. The Amy Foundation’s Kevin Chaplin, a partner of many years, and our new neighbour, Christopher de Beyer from the Cape Town Child Welfare property next door also joined us. Before the performance began Mr Ackerman announced an up-grade of our dressing rooms next year, which will be funded by Mrs Ackerman’s Foundation. This is wonderful news and we are so grateful to Mr and Mrs Ackerman for this incredible gift.
We said goodbye to two of our students this year. Fifteen-year-old Tshepang is moving to Johannesburg over Christmas, and we are thrilled that she will continue her training at the National School of the Arts. Tshepang began her training with us 7 years ago, and has been a member of our performance team for 5 years. We send her love and wish her luck and success in the City of Gold. We hope she keeps her Zama family close, and remembers we are always, just a phone call away.
Also leaving us this year is seventeen-year-old Thimna Sitokisi. We will miss this young man who we love so dearly, with his huge generous heart, his adorable sense of humor and his ability to stick-out from the crowd. When Thimna was twelve, he entered the Eisteddfod and performed the Tennis Dance. Dressed in his tennis outfit with a huge white headband, and a large tennis racquet he had the audience in stitches with his antics on-stage. When the music ended and he took his bow, there was a huge roar of laughter form the auditorium. We were clueless to what was happening until someone informed us that after his bow, he had winked at the adjudicator and mimed to her, ‘call me later, yes?’! It came as no surprise when he won Best Overall Junior Dancer that year. Thimna was in my first class 9 years ago, and I feel so privileged to have watched him grow into the lovely young man and fledgling dancer he is today. In August this year, Thimna auditioned for the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) in Westlake and won a bursary to continue his studies there on CAPA’s Full Time Course.
As our performance ended on the 8th, the tables were turned when Thimna stood-up and asked me to sit down. What followed was a beautiful presentation, created in secret by the students themselves showing their appreciation for all our hard work. Although their short film was made for me, I share their gratitude with Leanne who works tirelessly by my side.
Mrs Wendy Ackerman with Tshepang Shumba
Mr Raymond Ackerman with Thimna Sitokisi and Thimna’smum, Bukelwa Sitokisi.
Friday 9th December: Golf at the Raymond Ackerman Golf Academy (RAGA) in Clovely
Thank you to the students of the Raymond Ackerman Golf Academy (RAGA) in Clovely for our end of year treat. What a wonderful afternoon we had, learning to play golf and that wonderful lunch. Next year it’s our turn, and are invite to Zama and we will teach you some ballet.
Zama & RAGA students jumping for joy at Clovely Golf Club.
A 12 yr old Thimna demonstrates mime at the RAD’s 2011 Sizodanisa hosted by CTCB at Artscape
Saturday 10th December: The Cape Dance Company at Artscape
Thank you, Debbie Turner and the cast of Sacred Space for a wonderfully inspiring performance at Artscape on Saturday the 10th. The Zama students loved their afternoon at the theatre and meeting the cast after your performance.
Meeting the cast of Sacred Space at Artscape Theatre, Cape Town.
Friday 15th December: A performance in the sun for the Children’s Red Cross Hospital¬ Santa Parade
Zama’s Asanda Mehana receives the 2016
Dean Bennewith ‘Go for Gold’ Award,
presented by Zama’s Leanne Voysey
Dean Bennewith: Our dear friend and colleague for over 20 years, lost his battle to cancer in March this year. Dean was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer in August of 2015 whilst working on his ballet FLIP with us at Zama.
To honour our friend, Dean’s family has created an award in the form of a floating trophy called the Dean Bennewith “Go for Gold” Trophy which will be awarded each year to a deserving dancer with a R500 gift voucher for the ballet boutique or shop of their choice. They also donated R7000 into our Graduate Bursary Fund, which will assist Thimna next year at CAPA with his daily travel costs, lunch, ballet kit, Eisteddfod fees and medical support.
Thursday 29th September: Zikhona’s visit to Groote Schuur Hospital
In the lead-up to our tour earlier this year, we noticed 15 yr old Zikhona was struggling to keep-up in rehearsals, and on a couple of occasions, she almost blacked out. Knowing how strenuous tour can be, Leanne took her to see our personal GP, Doctor Grimwood. He found nothing obviously wrong, but suggested she see a cardiologist for peace-of-mind. On the 29th September, Leanne took her up to see a specialist at Groote Schuur Hospital, where the first human heart transplant was performed by Dr Christiaan (Chris) Barnard in 1967.
They had to be at the hospital at 7am, so Zikhona slept at Leanne’s house the night before, which is close to the hospital. Six hours and many tests later, they left Groote Schuur with a clean bill of health. Zikhona had a chest X Ray, an ECG, heart scan and a full blood test. The blood results came back and showed she had an Iron-deficiency, which the doctors said is common in teenage girls. She was given a repeat script for Folic Acid and Iron supplements which she can collect at no cost from her nearest clinic. Zikhona says she’s feeling much stronger, and can now focus on her ballet exams in November. Thank you for organising this Leanne and for taking such special care of Zikhona.
15 yr old Zikhona got the all-clear after seeingthe Cardiologist at Groote Schuur Hospitalwith Leanne in September
Friday 30th September: The Educational Travel Group from America visit with Uthando SA
It’s always a treat to receive guests from Uthando SA.Friday30thSeptember was no exception, when James Fernie brought a group from the Educational Travel Group to visit from the US. Our Grade 3 dancers showed them their class work which our enthusiastic guests loved. To show their appreciation they clapped wildly after each exercise, delighting the students.
Congratulations James Fernie and the Uthando SA team for winning the2016 National Lilizela Award for Cultural Tourism. This award is in recognition of tourism players who work passionately, and with pride to deliver a world class service. James, pictured centre, receiving his award from the South African Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom
Friday 8th October: Michelle Reid’s Penumbra at the Baxter Dance Festival
Michelle Reid’s Penumbra was performed on Friday 8th October on the Off Main Program at the 2016 Baxter Dance Festival. Penumbra is a collaborative work created for the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) and Zama Dance School. It premièred this year at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown with CAPA’s production, Chasing Shadows. Back in Cape Town during September, Penumbra won first place in the TDA Eisteddfod Group category and won, Best Overall Choreography.
11th and 21st October: Thimna Sitokisi’s Visit to the Dentist
Thimna had 4 teeth extracted during October in preparation for his braces. I took him to see my dentist, Dr Rabe in Blaauwberg, who treated him for free. Thank you Dr Rabe for taking good care of Thimna, and for helping him along his journey, with a new, confident smile.
Sitting in on Thimna’s teeth extraction was a mistake. Nasty cracking noises made me feel quite wobbly, and my toes curl. I should have stayed outside! Thimna was the perfect patient. Calm throughout.
Friday 28th October: Zama Dance School Trustee Melanie Stark says farewell
It is with a heavy heart that we say farewell to Melanie Stark this month. She has been an invaluable Trustee at Zama Dance School for the past 12years, and incredibly patient with me!
Dear Melanie, thank you for being an amazing mentor to me over the last 5years, and for believing in me, when I didn’t. Thank you for bringing your passion, insight and experience to the table over many teas at Starke Ayres. And thank you for challenging me and for the gentle nudge when all I wanted to do was throw my laptop out the window. But more importantly, thank you for the friendship we’ve developed over the years. I know you will always be there for Zama, and we will always be there for you too. I wish you a wonderfully exciting journey in your new career and I look forward to your return. With love from us all at Zama.
Friday 2nd: Dog Rescue
On my way in to Zama Friday morning, I saw a man dragging a dog along the side of the road with a piece of string tied around it’s neck. I pulled over and asked him what he was doing and he said his sister told him to dump the dog in the townships. I opened the back door of my car and with little encouragement, the dog jumped in. Vuyo phoned the SPCA who came to Zama and collected him. Vuyo and I make a good rescue team.
Rescued from being ‘dumped’ the township dog jumped into my car.
Zama Dance School performed Joy for the Dancers Love Dogs Gala at Artscape Opera House on Tuesday, 6th September. Money made will sterilize and treat 1500 dogs from SPCA & other Animal Welfare organizations.
Tuesday 6th: Dancers Love Dogs
Zama opened this year’s Dancers Love Dogs fundraising gala at Artscape Opera House with JOY. This year they raised R414 284 which will sterilize 1500 dogs. Thank you Brigitte Reeve-Taylor for including Zama Dance School in this wonderful cause.
The following is an excerpt from a review by Klaus Warschkow
If there is one show and one person that can fill the Artscape Opera House including the balcony to the rims on a Tuesday night in Cape Town, it’s Brigitte Reeve-Taylor and “Dancers Love Dogs”. This year marked the fifth anniversary and the very entertaining two and a half hours showcase was over way too quick.
Zama Dance School opened with “Joy”, which premiered at this year’s WPDTA Showcase of Dance. A wonderful tap choreography by Peter Johnson and Leanne Voysey, with a beautiful storyline and an interesting fusion with African Dance. A fantastic tight and clean performance by the young cast, that got the audience into the mood. The will perform in a work by Michelle Reid in a collaboration with CAPA on the 8 October 2016 in the “Off Main Programme - Baxter Dance Festival” at the Baxter Theatre.
Wednesday 7th: The TDA Eisteddfod of the Performing Arts
We put a lot of work in to preparing the students for their moment on stage at the eisteddfod. We want them to do well, but also enjoy the experience, feel confident on stage and leave with a sense of achievement. We couldn’t be happier with this year’s results, in terms of medals and trophies. We received 5 First Place medals, another 2 medals to Zama students for their excellence throughout the eisteddfod and a trophy for best trained dancers which went to the Zama teachers, Leanne Voysey and myself.
Congratulations to all our groups. Starting with Leanne and the cast of BEING HUMAN who won 1st Place in the ballet group section at Finals. Congratulations also to our tap group JOY, choreographed by Leanne Voysey and Peter Johnson for their 1st Place in the tap groups Finals and Michelle Reid's PENUMBRA, our collaborative piece with CAPA which also took 1st Place in the modern section, and also won the 2016 Eisteddfod Award for Best Choreography.
There were two more medals awarded this year. The first was a 'We Saw You' award which went to 11yr old Alulutho for her performance of the Doll Dance in the junior set-dance section, and a second went to 17 yr. old Lwazi.
Two years ago we performed our first tap number at the Eisteddfod called Hush Hush. It got through to the Finals but did not win. At the adjudication, they announced on the microphone it was a great piece, but would have scored higher, if the one cast member had used his face. It couldn't have felt good, hearing that in front of your team mates, but it certainly made Lwazi's award this year for his stand-out performance in JOY, so much sweeter! The final award, a ‘Judges Award’ went to Leanne Voysey and myself for the high standard of work seen in this year’s Classical Set Dances.
We awarded all our juniors Giraffe Trophies this year for their excellent behaviour & performances. Hlumelo (above) came to the award ceremony on the wrong day!?
TDA Eisteddfod Results & Awards 2016
Group Dance Any Age Category: *All won 21st Place in their sections
Being Human (Classical ballet/Leanne Voysey) Diploma 98.67%
Penumbra (Michelle Reid) Diploma 97.45%
Joy (Tap/Peter Johnson & Leanne Voysey) Diploma 93.66%
Set Demi Character 9 to 10yrs of Age
Hlumelo Ntshangana Diploma 96.17% 1st place
Uyathandwa Saphula Diploma 94.5% 2nd place
Owethu Jonas Diploma 92%
Set Demi Character -11 to 12yrs of Age
Zanele Lisa Diploma 95.5% 1st place
Aviwe Siwela Diploma 95% 2nd place
Lukhanyo Anta Diploma 94.83% 3rd place
Alulutho Siwela Diploma 93.33%
Buntu Anta Diploma 91%
Anelisa Stengile Honours 83.5%
Above: Penumbra, 2 Dolls (one a Drummer Boy), and Being Human on stage waiting to perform. Right: An overjoyed Zanele on winning 1st Place in her age group, and congratulations to 11 yr old Alulutho (below) who won the ‘We Saw You’ Award for her
Saturday 18th: Body Conditioning Class with Sam Snow
Thank you Sam Snow for your time and knowledge in Body Conditioning Class at Zama Dance School
Tuesday 20th: Offering a Helping Hand
Tuesday afternoon we were preparing for class when we heard a loud commotion outside the Zama gates. Concerned about our 6 and 7-year-old Grade 1’s who were all arriving for class, I went out to investigate. The street was cordoned off and there were police vans blocking both ends of our road, with a crowd of on-lookers gathering. I recognised the mother of one of our students, and went out to ask what was happening. She said her neighbour in the house closest to Zama had just been shot and killed by her husband, whilst she was in the bath. There were young kids hanging around, so we rounded them all up, Zama students or not, and brought them in to the school where they stayed until their parents said they could come out. One of our Grade 1 class rules, is that the children must come straight to us after school before their 3 ballet classes, and not go home first, where they get distracted, come late or don’t come at all.
That afternoon Leanne had started class, and I went back outside with 1 question. Was the lady who’d been murdered related to any of our kids? and to my horror, the answer was yes! It was 9 yr old Uyanda’s house, it was his aunty who had been murdered and he was in class with Leanne with no knowledge of what had just happed at home.
When his class ended, I took him in the car to his friend’s house, where he stayed until a family member could fetch him. In this this whole messed-up scenario, there is just one thing I can be grateful for and that is our ‘come straight to Zama’ rule. Without it Uyanda would have been at home when his uncle burst in, and at the very least, he would have seen his aunty being shot; but I fear the outcome would have been far worse, and would have not ended there. The following day, we had a visit from one the mothers who said she came on behalf of all the mums. She thanked us at Zama for being there and helping out.
It’s half term this week, but the performance team are rehearsing for the Baxter Dance Festival. On my way in this morning, I saw Uyanda playing on the street and I asked him to come in and say hello. I asked him how he was, and his answer broke my heart. “Mr Andrew, my aunty was murdered and I am very sad”.
9-year-old Uyanda’s aunty was shot and killed whilst in ballet class at Zama Dance School
Eventually a smile. The selfie trick always works.
Thursday 4th: Presentation at EXACT and The Foschini Group (TFG) Head Office
I was invited back to the EXACT & TFG Head Office in Cape Town by their Managing Director, Suzanne Annenberg to give a short presentation on our June/July 2016 tour to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. EXACT and TFG helped fund our tour by sponsoring in part of our transport costs, costumes, and the warm winter clothing our 10 young students needed for the cold Eastern Cape winter. I felt quite nervous at first, standing in front of so many people, but they were so welcoming my nerves quickly passed.
Wearing their warm winter clothing. Zama Dance School’s Monica and Uviwe enjoyed putting posters up in Grahamstown for the Zama and CAPA collaboration, Chasing Shadows. Below, Leanne’s bed awash with costumes. Her room became costume HQ .
Saturday 20th: Eisteddfod Stage Rehearsals at Sea Point Civic Hall
Our eisteddfod stage rehearsals took place on Saturday 20th. We had the stage for 3 hrs to place our 9 Doll dance solos, and 3 group numbers. Michelle Reid and the CAPA students joined us for the last half hour to place Penumbra. Unfortunately, Thimna’s partner from CAPA is injured and could not perform with us. We hope she recovers soon, and will be fit to dance again soon.
Saturday 27th: Thimna’s Audition for CAPA
Congratulations to 17-year-old Thimna Sitokisi who secured himself a scholarship at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) next year, at the auditions held on Saturday 27th. Thimna was in my very first Grade 1 class at Zama 10 years ago, and it has been so rewarding, watching him grow into the young man and fledgling dancer he is today.
Left: Thimna Sitokisi at Zama in 2008 with Zama’s director Andrew Warth. Right: Director at CAPA, Debbie Turner awarding Thimna his scholarship to study there next year, in January 2016
Thimna, in his own words.
My name is Thimna Sitokisi. I am 17 years old and live in a township called Gugulethu which is situated outside Cape Town. I currently live with my mother and extended family of 10 people in a 4 room household. My mother works at a coffee shop in the Panorama Medical Clinic called ‘’Coffee Couture.” She is the only one working to support my family. I grew up with a single parent and had no father’s guidance. He left my mother when I was 2 years old and we have never seen or heard from him since.
My friends say I have a bubbly personality, a great sense of humor. If I was to describe myself I would say I am easy going. I‘m calm and I know how to take responsibility. I like doing voluntary work in my community by assisting NGO programs that teach young children on how to take care of themselves and other physical training activities like dancing. We discuss things they don’t like which are happening in their community like, gang violence, drugs, xenophobia and on problem solving. I dance because I am inspired by my 2 dance teachers ANDREW WARTH and LEANNE VOYSEY. I have grown up watching them teach and choreograph over 10 years at ZAMA and I am deeply touched and encouraged to continue dancing. I mostly dance, because I love interpreting a choreographer’s vision they saw when they began choreographing. Dancing is a sensational way to move and makes me feel free. I am motivated by many people who have inspired me to pursue dancing as a career.
Dancing helps me to find peace and joy in my life and I envisage myself dancing one day in a company and maybe even in the spotlight. Perhaps after that, I could start a dance school or even a company and uplift dancers from my community where I would be able to inspire future generations to follow in my footsteps. The world is wide open to me. Dance helps me think differently about all the negative things which are happening in reality and the challenges that I’m facing in my life and my surroundings. This art form has built stamina and strength in my body and has trained my brain to stay alert and to multitask. Whether I am dancing, doing school work or socializing, I use the benefits of dance training and performing every day.
It would be a dream come true to study at the CAPE ACADEMY OF PERFORMING ARTS and I understand that to turn my dreams into a reality, I will have to work harder than I ever have before. I will hopefully be able to share my love of this art form one day with people from the community I have grown up in. This would start attracting more funders to support dance and the Performing Arts in the future. If I were to develop my own voice in the dance world, it would be important for me to attract funders and funding to projects in previously disadvantaged communities in the future.
September 2012, Thimna won ‘Best overall Dancer’ at the TDA Eisteddfod for his performance of the Flag Dance. Despite his size, Thimna was a very courageous youngster. In 2011, we were invited by the RAD to participate in their International Genee’ Competition workshop, organised by the Cape Town City Ballet. When it came to the mime section in the sold-out Public Performance at Artscape, Thimna made sure he was noticed. I’m so happy I had my camera with me that day!
June/ July 2016
Preparations for Zama Dance School’s Tour to the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.
June was a busy month for Zama, dominated with preparations for our tour to the National Arts Festival (NAF) in Grahamstown, as invited guests of the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA). While the school’s full teaching schedule continued, additional rehearsals were added to prepare our performance team for their much-anticipated tour.
Our students were privileged to have two new pieces choreographed for them, to be performed at the NAF: CAPA’s resident choreographer, Michelle Reid created ‘Penumbra’ and ZAMA’s resident choreographer, Leanne Voysey, created ‘Being Human’. Rehearsals for these two pieces were held in Gugulethu during the week and at the CAPA studios in Westlake over the weekends. Saturday mornings started very early, but our students were privileged to experience the buzz at CAPA’s Westlake studios, amongst Debbie Turner’s professional company dancers, and her students of their age, hard at work.
Normal classes continued for our junior school until June 24th, leaving time to finish costumes, run full dress rehearsals with CAPA, and pack, before our early departure on June, 28th.
Term 2 ended on Friday the 24th June with our popular Introductory Class. Our ‘Intro’ children love dancing, but might like Nomtha’s delicious Hotdogs a little more.
With the help of generous sponsors we could provide Zama’s performance team with warm coats, hats and scarves for the cold Grahamstown weather and basic toiletries.
After meticulously packing two sets of costumes for each of our 10 dancers, with their rehearsal togs, ballet shoes and stage accessories, Leanne and I just managed to pack our own bags in time for our early departure on 28 June.
The performance schedule for Grahamstown promised to be busy, with full classes scheduled, stage placings, performance run-throughs and 5 performances. With our performance venue booked back-to-back by other productions, our students had to be organised, and extremely well-prepared.
We shared our bus with some of the CAPA students which helped tremendously with costs. Our meeting place was Rondebosch, as we didn’t want the big Springbok Atlas coach squeezing through the narrow township streets, and drawing attention to the fact that we were going somewhere and the school would be empty.
Getting our students to the meeting place from the townships with their suitcases, blankets and pillows took careful planning, which was handled perfectly by Zama’s secretary, Vuyokazi. We boarded our Springbok Atlas coach at 5am that chilly Tuesday morning, and with our drivers, Peter and Reggie at the wheel, our adventure begun. The 13-hour journey started abuzz, but excitement was soon replaced by sleep, providing a much needed rest for us all after months of hard work and preparation.
Good friends and happy dancers from Zama Dance School and the Cape Academy of Performing Arts. Tshepang Shumba, Asanda Mehana, Kiara Kleiner, Bianca Basset, Monica Dumakude and Sinethemba Tafeni
Our travel companions to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. Senior Cape Academy of Performing Arts students, Sikhumbuzo Hlahleni and Kholekile Biyongo with Zama Dance School’s Lwazi Saphula
We arrived to a bone-chillingly cold and dry Grahamstown. Due to the town’s water crisis, and with no water supply at all on arrival, the dancers had to wash with wet wipes instead of hot showers, before bed.
Our first full day in Grahamstown began with a cooked, eat-all-you-like breakfast which our students loved. We then headed off for our day of class and rehearsals at Centenary Hall where Chasing Shadows, CAPA’s show, was being performed for the run of the Festival. The show was opening the following day, and we were billed as CAPA’s special guests – we could only deliver excellence.
One of our favourite meals of the day. A cooked breakfast in the dining hall at Graham House
Daily classes were taught alternately by Ballet master and Ballet mistress for the tour, Andrew and Leanne. The Zama students worked hard to keep up with the fulltime CAPA students
Long days in cold studios meant our students had to learn how to pack their ballet bags with enough clean togs and warm clothes to last them a whole day of rehearsals and performance. When the Grahamstown water returned, we had Vuyokazi to thank when it came to clean clothes and dance togs, as she spent most of her time in Grahamstown in the laundry room.
CAPA’s Chasing Shadows opened on the 30th of June to 5 fully booked performances at the Centenary Hall. Months of hard work had paid off, and our 10 young dancers from the dusty township streets lived, what to many could only ever be a dream. Not only did they share a stage, with quite possibly the best, they did so with confidence and pride.
Rehearsal and performance photos of Michelle Reid’s Penumbra by Helena Fagan
Penumbra. Michelle Reid’s collaborative work for Zama Dance School and the Cape Academy of Performing Arts during rehearsal and on stage.
Being Human was choreographed by Leanne Voysey on Zama Dance School for the production Chasing Shadows
With standing ovations, excellent reviews, and compliments on the standard of not only Zama’s students’ work, but their behaviour throughout the tour, Zama’s first tour can only be measured as a huge success. And the growth in confidence and boost to self-esteem through pride in their achievements should not be under-estimated, as this goes together with humility in the presence of professional dancers, and respect for the industry.
When rehearsals first began for Michelle Reid’s new piece Penumbra with CAPA, our students were understandably shy, and one got the feeling that they did not see themselves as artistically valuable. Within a few rehearsals, our dancers were enmeshed in the artistic process. We noticed a natural growth of genuine respect, understanding and a desire to get it right. The first collaborative work between Zama Dance School and the Cape Academy of Performing Arts had proved to be a wonderful success.
We would like to thank the following Sponsors & Dance Partners for making our tour to the National Arts Festival possible.
EXACT and The Foschini Group : The Flora Family Foundation : The Raymond Ackerman Foundation The Ackerman Family Foundation : Uthando SA : Leonora Sauls : Geert van Doorn at Springbok Atlas and our two wonderful drivers Reggie and Peter.
A very special thank you to Debbie Turner for making Zama your special guests this year at the National Arts Festival, and for all it has meant to our dancers as individuals, and as members of Zama’s performance team and CAPA’s production of Chasing Shadows. May their new-found pride, excellent work and enthusiasm last forever, or at the very least, to our next collaboration!
Monday 18th July: Classes Resumed at Zama
Classes resumed at Zama on the 18th July and it was wonderful to see our inspired performance team working so hard. We were sorry to say goodbye to one of our team members, Sinethemba Tafeni. Her mother had spoken to me earlier in the year about Sinethemba’s school marks, and that she would be taking after school classes for the remainder of 2016.
Tuesday 19th July: Thimna Sitokisi, Tshepang Shumba and Timna Nofemele Newspaper Interview
The Vukani is our local newspaper, and they were keen to speak to the students about the tour to Grahamstown.
July 2016: Thimna Sitokisi
24th July: In preparation for Thimna’s scholarship audition for the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, I took him to see Peter Johnson who helped prepare him for the vocal part of the audition. Thimna was extremely nervous for the singing and drama part of the audition. It was difficult for Leanne and I to help as neither of us can sing, so thank you Peter for coming to the rescue.
26th July: Thimna and I went to see the dental surgeon who will be removing his teeth before his braces are fitted by Dr Marius Coetsee in October. Dr Aniruth said Thimna will have 8 teeth extracted.
29th July: Andrew Petersen drove Thimna and his mum to Tygerberg Hospital to open a file, ahead of the operation.
Thimna’s first singing lesson with Peter Johnson. Known best for his wonderful tap choreography, Peter is also an accomplished musician and composer.
February 2016: Thimna’s appointment with the Orthodontist
We are so very grateful to Dr Marius Coetsee who gave Thimna Sitokisi a free consultation on the 17th of February at his practice in Blaauwberg. Dr Coetsee’s diagnosis is that 3 teeth must come out and then he is to be fitted with braces for up to 24 months. Dr Coetsee was my orthodontist, and he’s not just brilliant at his job; he’s very generous too. Dr Coetsee has offered to fit Thimna’s braces and treat him for free. This is such a wonderful offer. Something Zama & Thimna will be forever grateful for.
Wednesday 4th May
Uthando (Love) South Africa Visit with Media from We Are Africa Travel Trade Show
The "We Are Africa" Travel Trade Show is an annual event held at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium and brings the top tourism businesses and media from around the world to Cape Town. The show's aim is to introduce overseas travel tourism to some of Africa's best travel brands. This in turn sheds light on Africa’s diverse countries, organizations and people. One such travel brand in South Africa is a Zama Dance School Funder, Uthando (Love) South Africa. Uthando is a unique nonprofit that is linking tourism and community development. It was a treat for Zama's young Grade 1 class on Wednesday the 4th May when Uthando's founder and Director James Fernie arrived with his We Are Africa guests to observe their dance class. The guests represented top media houses including Conde Nast, Forbes, Saveur and Amuse Magazines. This was Grade 1's first opportunity to dance for an audience, other than ballet teacher Miss Leanne or myself. The result was quite extraordinary and if I'm honest, was not expected. All 22 Grade 1's present that day, with an average age of 8 yrs. and just 4 months of structured ballet classes put their beautiful performance faces on and danced with commitment, confidence and joy. They took instruction well in front of strangers, and enjoyed the visitor's applause. Needless to say, our 2016 Grade 1 class is really something quite special. As a result of the visit, Zama Dance was recently featured in Forbes Magazine online.
Zama Dance School’s 2016 Grade 1 class strike a pose
with 10 year old Lathitha (centre) whose birthday it was.
Saturday 14th May: Dancers for Dancers
Zama joined the Theatre Dance Association and many Cape Town based dance studios for the 2016 Dancers for Dancers gala at Artscape Opera House. This annual dance highlight is a benefit performance for the Cape Town City Ballet. We placed and lit our new tap group, Joy on Friday the 13th before the 9am Final Dress Rehearsal the following morning and performance later that evening. It was a long and tiring day for all. Our meeting time was 7am at Zama, returning home way after dark. Zama provides breakfast for the students who don’t get at home, as well as lunch and juice throughout the day.
Saturday 14th May: Grahamstown Rehearsals at CAPA
Between our Dancers for Dancers rehearsal and performance that same evening, the students rehearsed at CAPA in Westlake with the rest of the Grahamstown tour cast and choreographer, Michelle Reid. This new collaborative work called Shadows combines both Zama and CAPA students.
Zama's performance team rehearse Michelle Reid’s Shadows at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts in Westlake with the full CAPA Shadows cast
Thursday 26th May: Security Meeting with Carl and Princeton
Following an armed burglary at Zama in October 2015, security has been upgraded. An automatic gate closer has been installed and Princeton’s Grade D guards have been replaced with Grade C. At the time we were unable to find a rapid response company in our area, but with SECUPRO Security on board now we feel a lot safer. Sourced and negotiated with much help and guidance from the Ackerman Family security manager, Carl Lassen.
* Rehearsals for our much anticipated Grahamstown tour continued at Zama and at the CAPA studios in Westlake.
* Zama's Maths homework class with Daniel Rajna continued through May on Sunday afternoons.
* Zama's Director Andrew Warth adjudicated at the Water Front Theater School’s Choreographic Competition.
Former Zama Student: Neige Rooiland
Dear Mr Andrew May 9th 2016
I am here to thank you and Zama Dance School for being such an important factor in my growth as not only a dancer, but as a human being. Thank you for being super human when it comes to helping create diamonds out of coal and thank you for your un relentless belief in me. The tough love. The subliminal compliments when I got a move right, the "well done Neige" to the "are you mad"? were all part of the wonderful mentorship you bestowed upon me. I hope you still have that ballerina girl statue I gave you with the promise that I'd become a renowned ballet dancer.
Life happened. I ended studying Law instead of dance but everything happens for a reason. I hope you're still proud of me either way. It is good to see the amazing work you are doing at Zama in other little people's lives. God bless you. I believe you put on the earth for something very special. To bestow rhythm upon us lost souls who would not necessarily become dancers. But to keep dancing in whatever we end up pursuing. Dancing lawyers. Dancing doctors. Dancing engineers. Dancing dancers. The rhythm will never stop. Thank you once again Mr. Andrew
Former Zama Dance School student
Neige Rooiland in 2009
Forbes Online Magazine I May 2016
An Essential, Enriching Side Trip from Cape Town. Laurie Werner
I wasn’t sure what to think at first when James Fernie, the director of the South African community outreach and fundraising organization Uthando, came to pick us up to take us out to the townships outside of Cape Town as one of the philanthropic cultural tours that he conducts. I liked James immediately for his no-holds-barred commentary on the challenging conditions of life in South Africa today and for the fact that, as he said, he would have addressed the iconic Nelson Mandela not as President despite his great respect for him but as "homie" since they came from the same place. What I wasn’t sure of was how we would be regarded, as visitors to areas in which people are living in depressed conditions. Would they see us as gawkers, should we even be there?
All doubts were dispelled, though, as soon as we settled into our lineup of chairs in the front of the room used by the Zama Dance School in Gugulethu, one of the programs in this township that Uthando supports. The director of the school, Andrew Warth, an Englishman who previously danced with the Essener Ballet before moving to Cape Town and dancing with the Cape Town City Ballet, is a taskmaster, but a supportive one, and he runs his ballet class of young girls and several boys through sequences choreographed to Cole Porter’s "Cheek to Cheek" and "Night and Day." He praises them when they've done well and calls them out when they move in the wrong direction or gets the streamers they’re carrying tangled in one sequence. In between he explains how these classes help these kids with self-esteem and place them in a constructive environment but some have definite talent and several have gone on to professional careers. We've been introduced as friends and we applaud wildly after every dance, prompting shy smiles and giggles from the girls. After the first class exits, we ask to stay on and watch another class, the second year students until we have to move on because we’re expected somewhere else.
As he explains where we’re going, James chokes up and as he tells the story, we understand why. We’re heading to an after school program sponsored by the Amy Biehl Foundation, named for an American student who had come to South Africa in the early 1990’s and worked with members of the African National Congress and the University of the Western Cape’s Community Law Centre on the country’s new Constitution and approaching free election. In August, 1993, the year before the election, she was murdered in an episode of political mob violence. Four young men were convicted of her murder but were later freed, partly after a grant of amnesty by Amy’s parents who fund these programs in her memory to give the troubled youth of this region other opportunities besides turning to crime.
When we get to the center, we’re dazzled by music, by rhythmic dancing, by singing, three different groups of children excelling in performance and then enjoying the reaction they get. We’re humbled by the Biehl family’s efforts, turning their grief into support for these vulnerable kids and by Uthando’s fundraising to support more of these programs. By the end of the day, we definitely knew why we were there. Any visitor to Cape Town should go.
Zama Dance School’s 2016 Grade 1 Class put their beautiful performance faces on and danced with commitment and confidence for our guests from We Are Africa Travel Trade Show
Wednesday 6th April: Term 2
After a short but refreshing break, Zama returned for Term 2. The performance team returned refreshed, focused and ready for long rehearsal periods ahead of the Grahamstown tour. We were delighted to see all 27 of our Grade 1’s found their way back too, along with our Grade 3, 4 and Intermediate Foundation classes.
Saturday 16th April: Class & Rehearsals at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA)
Work began on Michelle Reid's new piece at CAPA for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. This new collaborative work called Shadows, combines both Zama and CAPA dancers. CAPA invited Zama to take part in the various morning classes before the 1:30 to 3pm Shadows rehearsal with Michele Reid. It’s a long day with an early start for Zama. Their first class at CAPA in Westlake is at 9am, returning back to Gugulethu after rehearsal at 3pm. We make breakfast for the Zama students who didn’t have at 7:30am and bring them lunch and juice later, during their 12pm break. Morning classes at CAPA include ballet, different levels of Pointe work for the girls and a boy’s contemporary class focusing on core strength.
Zama Dance School’s Grade 1’s with Mr Andrew, their Wednesday afternoon ballet teacher. Grade 1 have two more ballet classes a week with Miss Leanne Voysey
Zama and CAPA students in rehearsal for Michelle Reid’s new collaborative work Shadows which will be performed at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival
April 23rd: Cape Town City Ballet Open Day
On Saturday 23rd April we performed Joy for the Cape Town City Ballet at their 22nd Open Day, at UCT School of Dance. This year was a whole lot easier for us, as our usual one hour lecture demonstration was cancelled due to lack of studio space. It was however a rewarding afternoon with Joy being extremely well received at the studio performance.
Backstage and performance photos of Zama Dance School’s Joy at the Cape Town City Ballet’s annual Open Day
Sunday 24th April: Math Homework & Catch–up Class
With Zama’s performance team working their way towards matric over the next few years we are mindful of their increasing academic responsibilities. With this in mind and considering our current rehearsal schedule, we have put a plan in place to assist our performance team members with extra math (catch-up/homework) classes on Sunday afternoons. This wonderful idea came from our ballet teacher Leanne and her husband Daniel Rajna, who is no stranger to us in his teacher/choreographic capacity.
Classes are held at Zama on Sundays from 2pm to 3:30pm and are of course free of charge. They are conducted by Daniel Rajna who has a BSc in applied mathematics (UCT) and has very kindly offered to give his time and mathematical knowledge. As classes are based on their individual needs, students bring their school text books with them and homework they may be struggling with.
Daniel Rajna has a BSc in applied mathematics (UCT) and is a qualified Civil Engineer. He trained at UCT Ballet School, Cape Town and joined CAPAB Ballet in 1990, before leaving in 1997 to join PACT Ballet in Pretoria. He returned to Cape Town in 1999 as principal dancer with the Cape Town City Ballet. He is known for his interpretation of dramatic ballets and his dance partnership with Tracy Li. He and his wife Leanne Voysey, a former principal dancer with Cape Town City Ballet, have a son Finn (born 18 July 2007). He is the son of composer Thomas Rajna and has performed as a guest dancer in Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, The United States, South Africa and Taiwan. Daniel retired from the stage in 2007 to study and qualify as a Civil Engineer.
March 7th to 13th: Joy Premiered at the WPDTA Showcase of Dance at Artscape
Zama’s new tap piece named Joy made its debut at Artscape in March with the Western Province Dance Teachers Association’s (WPDTA) Showcase of Dance. Choreographed by Leanne Voysey and Peter Johnson, Joy explored relationships within families’ and between generations. This allowed the performance team to draw on their acting abilities before fast foot work in the Pantsula section. Work on Zama’s ‘tapped’ version of this African dance style began in October last year when Senior lecturer of African Dance and Choreography at the UCT School of Dance, Maxwell Xolani Rani gave tap teacher Pater Johnson and the performance team Pantsula workshops.
Zama students backstage with Leanne and Andrew as well as during performance at Artscape for the WPDTA’s Showcase of Dance
"JOY performed by Zama Dance School. Choreography: Leanne Voysey and Peter Johnson. This was such a slick and wonderful performance. I enjoyed it even more than last year’s Point the Way. I’m not the biggest fan of tap dance but this was most enjoyable. Lovely choreography." Klaus Warschkow
March 10th: Mr Ackerman's Birthday
March was a busy birthday month with both Leanne and Andrew celebrating, but it was also Zama’s Chairman of the Board’s birthday, Mr Raymond Ackerman. It was lovely that we could join him for celebrations at the Pick and Pay head office in Kenilworth, as Leanne did this year. Thank you for the children's cake Mr Ackerman and thank you Freya Griffiths for this lovely photo.
Left: Leanne Voysey joined Mr Ackerman, his family & friends on March 10th for his birthday celebrations. Right: Zama students make friends with students from Mr Ackerman’s Golf Academy, RAGA at Wendy Ackerman’s Gala at Herschel
March 18th & 19th: Surprise Gala Performance for Wendy Ackerman
Zama’s Performance team spent two days at Herschel in Claremont on Friday 18th & Saturday 19th , putting a surprise gala together for one of our beloved sponsors, Mrs. Wendy Ackerman. Mrs. Ackerman and her family have played an important role in the development of Zama Dance School from the very start; 27 years ago! It was a privilege to share the stage with so many other projects; all supported by Mrs. Ackerman and her family. The show teed off with golfers from the Raymond Ackerman Golf Academy (RAGA), followed by amazing musicians, the Cape Town Opera and the enthusiastic Boland Youth Orchestra. Well done and thank you to Suzanne Ackerman – Berman and Jonathan Ackerman for this fabulous idea to honour their Mum, and for allowing Zama to take part and show our gratitude. The production team was amazing, and so thoughtful with regards to the artists. Lunch, snacks and tea was delicious and the students loved their clothing gifts which fitted perfectly. Well done Michael Williams and team from Cape Town Opera for an excellent show.
Top Left: A shared changing space at Mrs Ackerman’s surprise Gala on March 19th with the Boland Youth Orchestra. Top Right: Beautiful clothing gifts for the Zama students.
A quick warm up in the beautiful Herschel grounds before Zama’s performance of Point the Way
March 24th: Holiday Class with Former Zama Dance School Student Sonia Yabo
We welcomed former Zama Dance School student Sonia Yabo back to the studio on the 24th when she gave the Performance Team a ballet class. This was a valuable practice class for Sonia, who takes teaching exams at the Waterfront Theatre School later this year. For Zama’s students, nothing beats mentorship from a former student who they all relate to. Also during March, Sonia was able to meet with Ruth and Cecil Hershler, Executive Director and Director of the Canadian non-profit foundation, Education without Borders. Education without Borders has been instrumental in getting Sonia to her daily classes for the past year by sponsoring all transport costs as well as funding her annual dance exams, practice clothes and dance shoes. Thank you Cecil and Ruth for your support and thank you Delia Sainsbury for facilitating their visit at short notice. I don’t think one could ever adequately thank you Delia for what you’ve done and continue to do for Sonia at the Waterfront Theatre School.
March 22nd: Farwell to Dean Bennewith
Dean Bennewith, our dear friend and colleague for over 20 years, lost his battle to Cancer on Tuesday 22nd March. Dean was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer in August 2015 whilst working on FLIP with Zama Dance School.
Above: Rehearsals for Dean Bennewith’s FLIP at Zama Dance School during 2015. Below: Zama dancers performing Dean’s Flip at the end of year concert in Gugulethu.
January / February 2016
January 25th: Zama Opens for 2016 Registration.
Zama opened its doors for 2016 registration on January 25th and was again coordinated by Zama's secretary,
Vuyokazi Rubuxa. During the same week, the studio was prepared for classes and shopping was done for Zama's
Feeding Scheme. Launched in 2010, Zama’s Feeding Scheme ensures all students are fed after class. Sandwiches
with assorted fillings, hotdogs or beef burgers with chips are accompanied with fruit and either juice or milk;
all prepared daily on the school’s premises by Nomtha.
January 27th: Classes Began with 108 Registered Students.
Classes began on Wednesday the 27th with a special welcome to our new Grade 1 class. Vuyo read and explained Zama’s Promise form to them, which they took home to be signed by their parents. Grade 1 get their first pair of ballet shoes at this time, which Zama ordered from Teplov in Somerset West last term. Ballet shoes are held on with elastic which must be measured, marked on the shoe and sewn on by hand. Not our favorite job considering there are 30 Grade 1’s. This is a job for all the Zama staff and combined with the rest of the school’s ballet shoes, can take a week to complete.
Grade 1 fit their ballet shoes with Miss Leanne
Registered Students 2016
Intro Class x 33
Grade 1 x 36
Grade 3 x 14
Grade 4 x 7
Int Foundation x 7
Adv Foundation x 4
February 17th: Thimna’s Appointment at Groote Schuur Hospital
Andrew spent the day at Groote Schuur hospital with 16 yr. old Thimna Sitokisi. We were concerned that he had not yet started puberty and that his body was not developing as one would expect a 16 year old lad’s to. Thankfully, everything is as it should be and we can begin developing more strength in is legs and core.
February 18th: Phil Rendel of Parker Cottage Shoe Donation
It was wonderful meeting Phil Rendel on the 18th, when he kindly brought donated dance shoes to the school in Gugulethu, on the behalf of the Ward family in the UK
From the Parker Cottage Face book page:
If you're sorely in need of a 'feel-good' moment, then read on. Earlier this week we posted about our two past guests Bob and Doreen whose grandson donated two sets of dance shoes to Zama Dance School in Gugulethu. Today, the director of the school, Andrew Warth, sent us this photo of the recipient of the shoes, Nkulie. Just look at that smile. I think this young lady is going to go far! Phil Rendel
February 19th: Thimna’s Orthodontist Appointment
We are so very grateful to Dr Marius Coetsee who gave Thimna Sitokisi a free consultation on the 17th of February at his practice in Blaauwberg. Dr Coetsee’s diagnosis is that 3 teeth must come out and then he is to be fitted with braces for up to 24 months. Dr Coetsee was my orthodontist, and he’s not just brilliant at his job; he’s very generous too. Dr Coetsee has offered to fit Thimna’s braces and treat him for free. This is such a wonderful offer. Something Zama & Thimna will be forever grateful for.
LEFT: Pre consult nerves at the orthodontist. Thimna’s being a clown!
RIGHT: Dr Coetsee inspects Thimna's teeth.
February 20th: American Guest Teacher Kristine Elliott
The performance team enjoyed class with our American guest teacher, Kristine Elliott. Kristine is no stranger to Zama, but is better known for her work with Zama and the Stanford University LEAP program she coordinates. Kristine was in the country for the 5th South African International Ballet Competition at Artscape during February.
Former American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Principal dancer Kristine Elliott spent a morning at Zama, coaching the performance team. Following a career on stage that spanned 15 years, working under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Kristine has gone on to become a highly regarded and sought after ballet teacher and coach.
February 27th: SA International Ballet Competition Judges visit Zama Dance School
Zama buzzed with excitement on Saturday the 27th of Feb, as students and staff prepared for a very special group of guests. Nothing was left to chance with even the rehearsal being rehearsed, as our guests that afternoon were the judges from Dirk Badenhorst’s 5th South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC).
Literally a Who’s Who of today’s dance world, the judges represent the finest ballet companies from around the world and were carefully handpicked by Dirk for the 5th SAIBC. The South African International Ballet Competition is the only one of it’s kind on the African continent and attracts dancers from around the world, competing for gold medals and substantial monetary prizes.
One such dancer is 12 yr old American Gold medallist Caroline Grossman, from New York who in "a display of generosity" as described by the SAIBC organisers, donated her R7500 prize money back to the competition, and specifically to Zama Dance School.
Saturday, 26th February. Zama’s performance team entertains judges from around the world at Zama Dance School in Gugulethu
Twelve year old American Gold medallist Caroline Grossman
Thank you very much for your generosity - we are overwhelmed by how kind you are and for thinking of us at Zama Dance School. The money you have given us is going to be used when we go on our first tour (Ever!) in July this year. If you come back to Cape Town one day, we would love to invite you to our ballet school in Gugulethu, and maybe you could do a ballet class with us. We hope you had a good time in South Africa and liked our city.
Much love, Mihlali Bele (age 16) and all the students at Zama Dance School
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