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May 2017

4 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 Grade1 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.

May: General

  • 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.

Former Zama Dance School student Neige Rooiland in 2009

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
Love Neige

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

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April 2017 April was an exciting month for everyone at Zama with the arrival of Tamara Moubayed from the Russian Ballet Society (RBS). Miss Tamara was here to teach a week of Russian Ballet workshops, which our students had been looking forward to for a long time, as well as being here to train Leanne and I in the Russian training method. We’d both been studying the Russian method with Miss Tamara via email and phone since the beginning of 2017, and we are extremely proud to announce that we have become fully qualified Russian Ballet teachers with the RBS and very proud recipients of Professional Dance Teachers' Diplomas. The Russian teaching method is one of the purest methods and is interesting to both teach and learn.

Left: A relaxed Leanne, Andrew and Tamara Moubayed at the end of our last exam day. Right and below: Miss Tamara gave a Russian Ballet workshop to 66 of our young student during the Easter school break.

A brief history of the Russian Ballet Society teaching method (Legat)
Nicolas Legat joined the Mariinsky Theatre ballet company after graduating from the Imperial Theatre School in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1888. He was soon performing principal roles in Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee and Sleeping Beauty, partnering great ballerinas of the day, Mathilde Kshessinska and Olga Preobrazhenska. He also taught at the Imperial Theatre School, where his pupils included Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Mikhail Fokine and Vaslav Nijinsky, all of whom in their turn became stars both in Russia and abroad when Diaghilev brought Russian ballet to the west.

As a teacher, Legat was the link between Petipa, Cecchetti and his own pupil Agrippina Vaganova, who never left Russia and Alexander Puskin, the beloved teacher of the great Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Having lived through the revolutions and upheavals of the first two decades of the 20th century in Russia, Legat finally severed his ties with the Mariinsky Theatre and the Imperial school in 1923. He spent some time in Europe and was ballet master for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in the mid 1920’s before finally settling in London in 1930. Legat’s popular “class of perfection” was attended by the founding figures of English ballet (The Royal Ballet) and included Ninette de Valois, Anton Dolin, Alicia Markova and the young Margot Fonteyn. (Adapted from an article by Jane Gall Spooner)

Miss Tamara’s visit was made possible by the Russian Ballet Society who reduced their training fees considerably to accommodate Zama. We would like to thank the RBS President Deborah Adamou and Artistic Director Robert Hampton for making this possible and Miss Tamara who not only taught 66 of our enthusiastic Zama students but also managed to train and examine both Leanne and I in just 7, intensive days! Miss Tamara you were amazing. Thorough, patient, encouraging and so inspiring.

Also during April, we had the pleasure of Swiss-German photojournalist Corinna Guthknecht’s company. She is currently studying for her Bachelor degree in Photo Journalism at the University of Hannover in Germany. Her thesis is centred around life in a township and how young dancers (in particular 6 Zama students) express themselves through dance, finding hope, joy and perspective through ballet. Corinna spent many hours in the studio with Leanne and I as well at the homes of the children with their families who were all so welcoming and generous with their time. One of her 6 dancers is Zama Dance School graduate Thimna Sitokisi, who is now a first year Scholarship student at Debbie Turner’s Cape Academy of Performing Arts in Westlake. We are still very much involved in Thimna’s life at Zama. Ensuring he has sufficient travel funds and food as well has driving him to his orthodontic appointments are just a few of the things we do to help make his life a little easier. On his 18th birthday this month, Zama bought him a razor which I hope will last him many years. Just like my dad taught me how to shave when I was 18 years old, I was able to do the same for Thimna this year. We’re so proud of him!

I would love to share all Corinna’s photos as they are beautiful, but I have promised to wait until after her Bachelor’s presentation and exhibition in Hannover (June 2017) before doing so. She has given me permission to share these though of Thimna at home, at the dentist and with his CAPA teacher Daniela Di Lorenzo during class and rehearsals.

Corinna enjoys a slice of birthday cake at the Sitokisi house in Gugulethu

Thimna and his pas de deux partner at CAPA

Thimna with CAPA’s Head of Ballet, Daniela Di Lorenzo

Teaching Thimna to shave on his 18th birthday, and one of our regular trips to the orthodontist.

Thank you letter from Thimna Sitokisi
I would like to send my sincere thanks and gratitude to the entire Zama Dance School board of Trustees and to the funders who have assisted me with travel costs, to and from CAPA, food and all my practice clothes. To name just a few Mr & Mrs Ackerman, Uthando SA, First Edition Clothing and the entire Raymond Ackerman Family Foundation. Thank you for the huge part you have played in my life by assisting me financially. I am truly honoured and grateful for the support. The funding has been helping me from the beginning of the year in terms of getting me my dancing attire, transportation money and weekly groceries for school lunch. I am also thankful to Miss Turner at CAPA and my former director Mr Andrew Warth who have both been guiding me in this new journey. Once again from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.

Yours Sincere
Mr Thimna Sitokisi

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March 14th: Doreen and Bob Ward with Shoes for Africa
We had an amazing afternoon with Doreen and Bob Ward from Leeds, England on Tuesday the 14th. Last year they donated 2 pairs of tap shoes to Zama, which had belonged to their grandson, a student at Ballet Rambert in the UK. He had out-grown his shoes and wanted to find a new home for them. They ended up at Zama and fitted a delighted Nkulie perfectly.

Tap Shoes Tap Shoes

February 2016 Nkulie wearing the tap shoes from
the Ward’s in Leeds, England

Fast forward to March 2017, and Doreen and Bob have returned. This time with beautifully written letters to our students from young dance students at the Northern Ballet School in Leeds, and a massive suitcase of dance shoes!

The interesting twist to this story, which made it so very special is that one of the letters from the Northern Ballet School is from an 11 yr old boy, whose father, Andile Sotiya trained at Zama Dance School with Arlene Westergaard many years ago. Andile received a scholarship to study at the Rambert school in 1994 and went on to have a very successful dance career in England, where he still lives today with his wife and children. He also teaches contemporary dance at the Northern Ballet School in Leeds, where both his sons are students.

Tap Shoes
Tap Shoes

Tap Shoes

It was also lovely meeting Andile's Mum, Mrs Sotiya, who came to meet Doreen and Bob and we would like to thank everyone who helped make this extraordinary afternoon happen. James Fernie at Uthando, Phil Rendel (Parker House) and Jill Winter for the beautiful photos. Thank you Andile Sotiya and his 2 sons. Doreen and Bob, we can’t believe you managed to bring so many shoes and letters! Well done to you, and thank you. The most important and biggest thank you I’ve saved for last and it goes to the amazing Northern Ballet students who collected all the dance shoes and wrote the beautiful and inspiring letters to Zama. Thank you so much, our students loved your letters, and I know they will all enjoy dancing in their new shoes next term. Thank you for all the time you spent writing to us and for collecting so many beautiful shoes. Thank you Asanda and Uvs for translating the letters here at Zama, and it was lovely meeting you Mrs Sotiya. Love from us all at Zama Dance School.

At the age of 11 Andile convinced his parents to let him join classes at Zama where Arlene Westergaard was teaching. "Despite being mocked by the other boys who called me 'sissy', I loved to dance. I thought it would just be a hobby. I had no idea it would become a full-time career," he says. Andile came from a creative and supportive family background and attributes part of his success to Arlene — "she kept me focused".

In 1994, he won the Sanlam International Ballet Competition at the Pretoria State Theatre as well as a Vita Award for the Most Promising Male Dancer in the Contemporary Category at the Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg. He was the first recipient of a scholarship to the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in 1995. He currently teaches at the Northern Ballet School in Leeds. He has taught extensively in the UK and in South Africa. "One of the highlights of my dancing career” says Andile “was arranging for the Phoenix Dance Theatre to be involved in the Millennium Square Celebrations in Leeds where we performed for Nelson Mandela and his wife Graça." The dancers were later invited to lunch with the former president and his wife.

March 17th: Helping the Firestricken Communities of Hout Bay
After the devastating fires that ripped through the Hout Bay townships in March, we wanted to try and lend a hand. We filled-up the Zama bus with clothes donated from CAPA, our own cupboards at home and the Zama storeroom and contacted our friend Helena Fagan. Helena heads-up the Harvest Youth Project, a Hout Bay NGO above the market in the harbour, and we set off for what turned-out to be quite an adventure. Helena and her students were waiting for us when we arrived and made a huge fuss of the Zama students. Their kind hospitality, spontaneous entertainment, passion, and drive was quite overwhelming, and literally (actually) moved us to tears. A huge thank you, Helena, for distributing our collection of clothes, furniture, and dance togs (from Zama Dance School & Debbie Turner and Haley @ CAPA) into the fire stricken communities of Hout Bay and beyond. Thank you for the most inspiring afternoon, and for sharing your students' artistic energy and love. We really look forward to seeing you all at Zama in Gugulethu one day soon.

Dearest Andrew and Leanne from ZAMA DANCE SCHOOL, Debbie Turner, and Haley from CAPE ACADEMY OF PERFORMING ARTS and all your beautiful young dancers and their families who have opened their kind hearts for the children of Hout Bay. We want to thank you ALL from the very bottom of our hearts!!!! Our children are simply overwhelmed by this extremely generous gesture and to see all these dance shoes and fabulous gear - oh golly it simply put them into a spin of excitement! You are bringing happiness and inspiration to children, many of whom have lost everything including their homes. Harvest Youth Project will be sharing with other NGO's in Hout Bay to make sure everything goes to a most worthy home where it is most needed. THANK YOU! It was such a special occasion to have ZAMA drive all the way in Friday traffic to come visit us. Our children are most excited and looking forward to visit Zama Dance School in Gugs.

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January/February 2017

January 23rd: Zama Opens for 2017 Registration.
Zama opened its doors for 2017 registration on January 23rd which was again coordinated by our secretary, Vuyokazi. During the same week, the dusty studio and dressing rooms were cleaned and prepared for classes, and shopping was done for Feeding Scheme. Launched in 2010, the Feeding Scheme ensures all our students receive a delicious and nutritional meal after their 3 weekly classes. Sandwiches with assorted fillings, hotdogs or beef burgers with chips are all prepared daily on the premises by Nomtha and are accompanied by fruit, juice, or milk. Classes began on Wednesday the 25th and as always with a special welcome to our lovely new Grade 1 class. We spent time going through Zama’s Promise form with them, which they took home to be signed by their parents, and fitted them with their first pair of brand new ballet shoes. Our numbers are a little lower this year, much to the ballet shoe elastic sewers relief, but we have a lovely group from the Amy Foundation (Amy Biehl Foundation), making our Friday Introductory class the largest ever, with 40 dancers!

Our 2017 Grade 1’s stand in 1st position in their new blue leotards and ballet shoes.

Zama’s Intro class which includes 20 children from the Amy Foundation take their first stretch class under the watchful eye of Miss Leanne and with the assistance of our Grade 5 students

96 registered students this year, a little lower than 108 in January 2016
Registered Students 2017
Intro Class x 40
Grade 1 x 22
Grade 2 x 13
Grade 5 x 5
Seniors x 6

January 25th was also the first day of classes for the students at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) in Westlake where Zama’s 2016 graduating student Thimna Sitokisi is now a fulltime student. A huge thank you to the Raymond Ackerman Foundation and James Fernie at Uthando for assisting Thimna with his daily travel costs from Gugulethu to Westlake and back, as well as CAPA for Thimna’s full bursary

February 4th: Friends and Other People (FOP) Rehearsals Began
Rehearsals for Friends and Other People (FOP) began on the first Saturday of the month and will continue until we first perform it in June. FOP was Leanne’s first large group piece for Zama and was first performed at the 2013 eisteddfod and was awarded 100% from the 3 adjudicators and a Diploma. This year’s FOP will include some of our junior dancers, making it a cast of 17 and our largest group in recent years

Zama seniors re learn FOP from a 2013 DVD and assist Leanne in rehearsals with the juniors

February 11th: The Great Moscow Circus
A very special thank you to Berniece Friedmann and the Producers of the Great Moscow Circus for inviting 15 of our students to their matinee performance on Saturday the 11th of February. Being an afternoon performance, we could include some of our younger students who were literally popping with excitement. We sat in one long row, which offered them plenty of opportunities to play around, but they were so well behaved and we felt so proud to be there with them.

From the students: For some of the younger ones it was their first circus and they were very excited driving there on the Zama bus. We were also excited, but Asanda said she was afraid of clowns. After the show, she said they were like normal actors who rehearsed their parts, and she is not afraid anymore. The clowns were very good. We all thought it was great and they all worked very hard. It was dangerous and everyone screamed. Even Mr Andrew. Thank you, Miss Leanne, and Mr Andrew for taking us and Miss Berniece for our chance to see the Great Moscow Circus in Cape Town.

Last Minute News and Our Thanks ...
Congratulations to former Zama Dance School student Candice Dongwe who graduates this June from the UCT School of Dance with a Dance Teacher's Diploma. Candice is pictured here (left) during her 3rd year at UCT with the internationally renowned South African dancer, choreographer Gregory Vuyani Maqoma.

Many thanks to Melissa, CAPA and the Ballet Shopfor the beautiful clothes, Vanessafor the teddys & colouring books, Megan & Valentina for the German chocolate,and the Great MoscowCircus for your wonderful performance.

8 yr olds Lilitha and Anako play ‘point and flex’ in the dressing room before class


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