Dance industry leader Eunice Marais. Picture: Lynette Van Der Bijl

Few of our best young dancers, after years of studio training, continue with dance in professional careers. 

With a training industry bursting at the seams, it is a tragedy that most of these students, upon reaching their peak in their training, discontinue dance altogether and pursue careers in completely unrelated fields.

Industry leaders Debbie Rakusin and Eunice Marais are well aware of this unfortunate inclination and are now joining forces to bridge the gap between the training industry and the professional industry. 

They recently founded the centre for high-performance dance education (HPDE) which sets out to facilitate talented dancers in getting top-notch training by experts in the professional fraternity.

Rakusin, an esteemed choreographer and producer, and Marais, an expert in dance education, believe that with effective professional guidance, more of our top young dancers will not only continue with professional careers but will do so successfully.

Working daily with professional dancers, Rakusin said that for dancers to be successful in a highly competitive industry, they are required to be both technically exceptional and versatile enough to master a variety of different styles.

Rakusin said that HPDE would primarily focus on helping to prepare dancers through their competitive years and also give them a strong grounding for the many different paths in the industry.

“By a substantial well-designed programme, HPDE hopes to add value to each and every dancer, teacher, trainer, choreographer, and parent who supports it,” she said.

It is HPDE’s objective to provide world-class dance instruction through versatile and meaningful high-performance classes.

Marais said that HPDE is not studio based. Its most crucial value is to be seen as a support and not a threat in any way to any teachers and their studios. Their vision is to support teachers, trainers and dancers in a manner of collaboration and respect, thus creating a cohesive relationship, adding value, insight and experience.

HPDE embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. They recognise their responsibility in providing an open, welcoming environment where students, staff, and volunteers of all backgrounds collaboratively learn, work and serve.

Marais said that they believe that each dancer has the ability to increase their physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being through their dance programme. Through the inspiration and leadership provided by a variety of teachers and choreographers, each dancer will be encouraged to develop their own unique style.

HPDE endeavours to expand each dancer’s experience through a diverse variety of classes and styles. The programme comes as a package. Dancers will not be permitted to select certain classes and only attend those. The programme aims to develop well-rounded, versatile dancers, and thus all classes need to be attended.

The programme will include training in tap, jazz, modern and contemporary dance, musical theatre and hip-hop. Guest classes will include African dance, Latin dance, drama, Pilates, and yoga. 

As core essentials in their weekly programmes, there will be a focus on fitness, strength, flexibility, body conditioning, ballet and jazz technique and release technique. Guest speakers will also address issues around preparing for the industry, preparing for auditions and choreographic skills for trainers and dancers.

HPDE training is specifically for talented dancers who have already reached a level of excellence in their respective studios and would like to excel even further in order to prepare themselves for professional careers.

HPDE will have scholarships available for talented dancers who display a level of excellence and who cannot afford the tuition fees required for the programme.

It needs to be reiterated that HPDE is training-driven and will neither be producing productions nor entering competitions. On the contrary, it aims to effectively support teachers and their dancers in producing their own work.

On August 10, interested dancers, teachers and parents were invited to attend an HPDE open day in Doringkloof, Pretoria. The response thus far has been fantastic.

The HPDE programme will commence on August 17. For more information contact Eunice Marais at [email protected] or on 082 784 6349.