Beautiful black ballerina
Kitty Phetla has come a long way
TO BREAK into a dance genre that is predominantly white and still achieve international acclaim is no mean feat, but ballerina Kitty Phetla has done exactly that and more.
There are only a few black female ballerinas of Phetla's stature in the world. As a black girl in a world of white ballerinas, race certainly sets this South African dancer apart from the majority of dancers in the professional world of ballet.
She recently made history when she broke barriers in the world of the arts by being the first black ballerina to perform the Dying Swan in Russia.
"This is one of the most prized achievements of my career. I love to move and to watch people move and my movements begin with and is influenced by music. My mind and soul are consumed by the art and craft of dance and I live for this beautiful craft," Phetla says.
She says performing for Nelson Mandela and the Dutch royal family in Amsterdam were some of her highlights of her illustrious career.
Phetla is now looking to produce another dazzling performance in the first ever South African production of Le Corsaire, with the new company, a merger between Mzansi Productions and The South African Ballet Theatre.
"I have been invited to dance as a guest artist with the National Ballet of Cuba and I have also been invited to dance in Russia again in September," says the dancer from Alexandra township, Gauteng.
Phetla was trained by Martin Schönberg from the age of 9 and later joined Schönberg's Ballet Theatre African. Her training included classical ballet and Spanish, contemporary and Afro-fusion dance.
She also received extensive training as a dance teacher, obtaining her Cecchetti Associate Examination, an international teaching qualification in classical ballet.
The Mzansi Productions dancer is one of the most recognisable personalities on the South African stage. She can be seen in a First National Bank television commercial and is known to television audiences as a judge on SABC1's dance reality competition Turn It Out.
She says her philosophy is: "Now is my future. I live for the here and now, one moment at a time, with a smile and with discipline."
Phetla also teaches dance to children and women who have little or no dance experience.
"My dance classes for older women are specially designed to make women feel good about themselves," she says.
She thinks South Africa has a long way to go in European contemporary and classical dance. But she thinks that in African contemporary and fusion techniques, South Africa is developing very well.
Phetla has some sound advice for aspiring dancers: "Dreams are something you should always have. You should never give up on your dreams. Dreams do come true through discipline, hard work, passion, commitment and dedication. It is important to know who you are and where you come from. Always believe in your inner strength."