Township ballet craze

IN ACTION: Penelope Thloloe with her ballet pupils. 11/05/09. Pic. Shane Robertson. © Unknown.
IN ACTION: Penelope Thloloe with her ballet pupils. 11/05/09. Pic. Shane Robertson. © Unknown.

Lebogang Tsele

Lebogang Tsele

Often regarded as a rich people's pastime, ballet has gripped the hearts of township children through the Kasi Ballet Theatre.

With the aim of identifying and developing young talent from the townships, specifically Alexandra and Ennerdale, the Kasi Ballet Theatre is the brain child of renowned ballerina Penelope Thloloe.

Thloloe, who herself has been dancing for more than a decade and has numerous accolades under her belt, or perhaps tutu, says she would like to see more black ballerinas in the industry.

Fellow teacher and professional dancer Lerato Letlape says that teaching at the academy is both fulfilling and hard work.

"I love working with children. But you need to have that patience to guide them at every turn," he says.

Lerato says the children do well at the academy and enjoy the classes very much.

"Some of the kids come from really difficult backgrounds and dancing is the one activity that helps them forget some of the things they may be experiencing at home or at school," he says.

Lerato's foremost philosophy comes through in helping the children strive for more in their lives through ballet.

He says: "Things like drugs will always be there.

"You can tell a child to not do drugs, but if they want to experiment with drugs then they will.

"The best thing to do is to groom the kids to make better choices for themselves," Lerato adds.

The academy also has a programme where members of the public can adopt a dancer and sponsor the child with anything that he or she may need.

Kasi Ballet Theatre not only trains the young dancers in the art of classical ballet, but includes contemporary Afro Fusion, jazz, hip-hop as well as the new and old street dances such as pantsula. - Sowetan Online