Chairman: Raymond Ackerman Trustees:
Freya Griffiths, Ruth Bele, Mervyn Williams
Andrew trained at the Legat School of Russian Ballet in Tunbridge
Wells, England. His first engagement as a professional dancer
was with the Essener Ballet in Germany and later with the German
Opera on the Rhein in Düsseldorf, under the direction of
former Bejart principal dancer Paolo Bortoluzzi.
Andrew worked with some of the classical dance world's best-known
choreographers. These include Hans van Manen, Uwe Scholtz, Peter
Breuer, Heinz Spoerli and Tom Schilling. In 1990 he moved to Cape
Town where he danced for CAPAB Ballet, then directed by Veronica
Paeper, which became Cape Town City Ballet under Elizabeth Triegaardt.
In 1998 and 1999, he toured South Africa twice with the smash-hit
musical, Queen at the Opera, and was cast as Phaedra,
the lead Cagelle, in Janice Honeymoon's production of La Cage
aux Folles at The Civic Theatre, Johannesburg.
Following a tour to Taiwan with the Durban-based Fantastic Flying
Fish Dance Company, Andrew returned to Cape Town and successfully
graduated from the UCT School of Dance with a dance teacher's
diploma and as a Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) registered teacher.
He then rejoined Cape Town City Ballet as part of the small management
team where he took charge of the company’s public relations.
In 2003 Andrew took himself and Cape Town City Ballet into the
Guinness Book of World Records with the Largest Ballet Class in
the World. Five years later, he beat his own record of 530 professional
and student dancers with the current record of 989 dancers.
Andrew served as ballet master at Debbie Turner's Cape Academy
of Performing Arts from 2002 and taught ballet at the UCT School
of Dance. He began teaching ballet at Zama Dance School in 2009,
and on Arlene’s retirement at the end of 2011, was promoted
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Classical Ballet and
Leanne's training began at the Anna Nel Studio and the National Art School in Johannesburg.
She continued her training at the University of Cape Town’s School of Dance where she graduated with a Performer's Certificate in Dance with Distinction.
Leanne's professional career began in 2001 with the CAPAB Ballet Company. Under the direction of Veronica Paeper, Leanne worked with local and internationally acclaimed choreographers such as Christopher Kindo, Adele Blank, Jean Paul Comelin and Veronica Paeper.
A highly successful career then followed with the Cape Town City Ballet, where she performed roles such as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Giselle, the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Phrygia in Veronica Paeper's Spartacus. Leanne spent the next year with the PACT Dance Company in Johannesburg where she worked with Esther Nasser and choreographer, Marie Bolin–Tani.
She returned to Cape Town where she performed Odette/Odile to British dancer, Jonathan Olivier’s debut as Prince Siegfried and to her various teaching posts at the UCT School of Dance, Adult Evening Classes and Dianne Cheesman's Cape Junior Ballet.
Following a tour to Singapore as assistant to French choreographer Jean Paul Comelin, Leanne returned to Cape Town to qualify as a hatha yoga instructor and an Equilibrium Pilates Mat 1 instructor.
Leanne teaches yoga to the patients at Cape Town’s Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital and ballet to the students at Zama Dance School where she has taught their daily ballet classes for the past 5 years.
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Guest dance teacher and Choreographer
Mamela is an award-winning dancer from Gugulethu near Cape Town.
At the age of eight, her grandmother enrolled her at Zama Dance
School to keep her "off the streets and out of trouble".
In 1997, she completed a national diploma in dance at the then
Pretoria Technikon. The following year, she received a one-year
international scholarship to attend the Alvin Ailey Dance School
in New York.
In 1997, at the age of 20, Mamela was the first South African
woman to receive a scholarship for Alvin Ailey American Dance
Theatre in New York. "Without the training in strength and
technique I learned from Arlene, I don't think I would have been
chosen for Alvin Ailey," she says.
Mamela then joined the dance company at the Pretoria State Theatre.
Career highlights also include dancing the lead
role in Richard Loring's African Footprint; performing
with The Lion King in The Netherlands; receiving a scholarship
to attend the Vienna International Dance Festival; winning the
FNB Vita Award for The Dying Swan at Dance Indaba, and
being selected as the South African representative for the Superstars
of Dance television show in the US. She made it to the semi-final
On her return to Cape Town, Mamela taught at Zama Dance School
for six months, where she also choreographed two pieces for the
school, and has taught and choreographed for various dance companies
in the area.
She coordinates a project under MOVE 1524 for the University
of Stellenbosch, which addresses social issues such as HIV/Aids,
domestic violence and drugs.
Mamela has toured a self-choreographed solo piece,
Hatch, to the Netherlands, Mexico and around South Africa.
Choreographic commissions include Kutheni for the FNB
Dance Umbrella and Mendi for the Baxter Dance Festival.
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It's not only the children who come to regard Zama Dance
School as their home away from home. Vuyokazi (Vuyo) Rubuxa, secretary
at the school since 1999, feels the same way.
"The school is open Monday to Friday but when we have Saturday
rehearsals, performances or visitors to the school, I'm always
there to host them," she says.
She had completed a one-year administration course at the Skills
Training for Employment Centre in Salt River, near Cape Town,
when "Miss Arlene" arrived looking for somebody to work
at the school. Vuyo was selected and began fulfilling basic secretarial
duties at the school. Arlene coached her on writing and communication
skills and Vuyo is now able to correspond with parents and visitors
to the school, help organise functions, arrange transport to events
and attend meetings.
She says she loves working with the children and talking to their
"I also accompany the children to events. I'm their dresser
and child minder and I make sure they all return home safely afterwards,"
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Peter Johnson – Senior Tap Teacher
Peter obtained his musical theatre diploma at Cape Academy of
Performing Arts in 2009. He has been tapping since the age of
nine and has appeared in many professional productions choreographed
and directed by Paul Johnson and Debbie Turner. He is currently
a freelance performing artist and accomplished musician and composer.
He teaches the senior tap class at Zama.
Sam Snow – Junior Tap Teacher
Sam has been tap dancing since she was five years old. She has
taken part in many professional tap shows over the years, choreographed
and directed by Paul Johnson from Rhythmworks. These include Tap
Crazy as well as numerous private and corporate functions. She
is currently studying for a BSc Sports Science and teaches the
junior tap class at Zama.
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Since Arlene Westergaard chose to follow her dream of
teaching ballet to African children, she has paved the way for
some illustrious careers in dance, choreography and musical theatre.
From the age of three, Arlene studied most forms of dance from
classical to Eastern and jazz dance. After school, she settled
down to earn a "sensible" living working in a bank and
then as a typist for the railway company. "I was neither
banking nor typist material. All I wanted to do was dance,"
In 1984, Arlene gave up teaching at a jazz dance centre in Cape
Town to teach six children in a church hall in Gugulethu. To survive
financially, she sold her house in the southern suburbs, invested
the money and lived off the interest.
Arlene says she had always wanted to work with underprivileged
children but had to overcome the stereotypical fear of working
in the townships. "I drive through Gugulethu and people throw
kisses, not stones. It's home to me now."
It was with great sorrow that we heard of Zama Dance School’s Founder and former Principal Arlene Westergaard’s passing on the 19th August 2017. A true ground breaker, Arlene worked tirelessly to introduce non-white dancers to classical ballet during the apartheid era. With the help of Mr. Raymond Ackerman, she turned her dream into reality and Zama Dance School stands today as a testament to her vision and drive 28 years on. In 1984 Arlene put heart and soul into living her dream when she left the jazz dance centre she ran in Cape Town to work with African children. A dancer from age three, Arlene had always wanted to work with underprivileged children and began by asking the Department of Race Relations to find her some students. She was given six children, one of whom had a father who was a minister in Gugulethu. He became interested in what they were doing and, surprised to learn that township children were keen on classical dance, offered them the use of the church. Once the pews were pushed back, it made space for once-a-week classes for 56 students from Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Langa and Gugulethu, ranging in age from 5 to 19 yrs. Within a year, classes were held five days a week and Arlene was teaching full time. To support herself, she sold her house, invested the money and lived off the interest until 1990 when she persuaded Dr Dulcie Howes and Raymond Ackerman to be the school's patrons and Pick n Pay to become its major benefactor. Almost immediately, Mr Ackerman established a trust to ensure a long-term future for the school and its students. In 1985 when questioned as to why black dancers were doing classical ballet instead of their own kind of dancing, Arlene replied; “I'm sick and tired of hearing people say, 'but they haven't got the feet for it... they don't have the physique... it's not in their culture... how do they listen to the music?' What a load of codswallop. Zama encourages growth and development. We don't think in a box."
Sheer guts, determination and a refusal to accept anything less
than the best for her young protégés has paid off.
Zama Dance School moved into custom-made premises in Gugulethu
in 1999 where about 80 children per year have enjoyed the benefits
of this internationally recognised training institution. Although
new to the concept of contemporary and classical dancing, the
natural rhythm and exceptional talent of these pupils made them
"Children spend hours in the studio — they consider
it their sanctuary," said the late John Simons, former Capab
Ballet dancer and part-time teacher at Zama.
Countrywide civil unrest in the 1980s disrupted classes but teargas,
pangas, rubber bullets and burning barricades could not keep Arlene
and her students apart. "On the days that I could not get
into the township, the children would come to Claremont and we
would practise for their exams in a private corner of Claremont
Park. I think it was during this time that the people of the area
and the students realised I was dedicated to teaching them seriously
with a view to their future and was not 'just another whitey'
out there for quick fame and a fast buck."
"I wanted to start a ballet company for black people to
give them the opportunity to develop their natural talent."
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Nomtha Mzongwana – Cook
Our Feeding Scheme was first launched in 2010, and was put in place to ensure our students receive a nutritional meal after their 3 weekly classes.
Sandwiches with assorted fillings, hotdogs or beef burgers with chips are all prepared daily on the premises in our tiny kitchen by Nomtha and are accompanied by fruit and juice or milk.
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