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Cuban ballet teacher brings artform to townships

Reporter: Rene Del Carme 丨 CCTV.com

05-25-2016 01:20 BJT

Cuban ballet dancers were instrumental in bridging racial divides during South Africa's Apartheid years. Now, they are helping to empower formerly disadvantaged kids in the artform.

Another step towards strengthening cultural ties between South Africa and Cuba -- a dance programme by top Cuban ballet teacher Maria De Los Angeles, who is in South Africa to train ballet teachers in Soweto and other townships.

"Cuba has been instrumental in helping South Africa in areas of agriculture, of health, and particularly now with the arts such as classical ballet. And I'm here sharing my love and passion for ballet with the South Africans," Angeles said.

During South Africa's apartheid era, ballet was divided along racial lines. South-African ballet teacher Dirk Badenhorst realized the artform needed more than just tutus and point shoes; it also needed transformation.

"I started importing Cuban dancers that really excited all audiences. And I realised I had something there - something that was speaking across racial barriers. The Cuban Methodology is so perfectly suited for South Africa at large because it speaks to an audience that has not been growing up with classical ballet. So they need to be excited about what they see on stage. Many turns, big jumps, and that is what the Cuban Methodology trains. It trains you to balance. It trains you to hold your body well, and we have seen how they spend so much time on preparing the body physically, for what it is that it needs to do classically," Badenhorst said.

Within the next year, the programme hopes to have trained around 100 dance teachers in the townships, who will eventually go on to open their own studios. They are keen to grasp this opportunity.

"Maria accesses a vast talent, so basically she brings something out from you, even if you're a teacher, you've been trained before. She gives you that platform to be able to explore that," said Gustin Macdise, township dance teacher.

"I really want to do this for the kids. You know it's difficult. Maria makes you understand. She goes with you. You really become that kid, that child. You get to understand what they go through when you do that with them, you understand the pain, you know. It's a great opportunity," said Mmule Mokgele, township dance teacher.

"Because I felt it was so important for us to work with these kids… And I love working with these kids, who are mostly from previously disadvantaged communities, and I feel that we have to do so much for them. I feel that there's so much love, and there's so much passion, and we have to teach them to dance well, using their expressions and expressiveness," Angeles said.

All the ballet teachers in this South Africa-Cuban collaboration say they are doing it to empower kids like the ones behind me - formerly disadvantaged South-African children from the streets of Soweto and townships across the country who may someday become top, international ballet stars.

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