Tina George

I Am dance. Those three words encompass a whole lot for the dancers of Afrika Ablaze Dance Company.

They delve into the heart and aim to unveil some of the mystery around the power of dance and why dance can and has become a home for many who search for acceptance and love.

This is evident at Afrika Ablaze, the dance school that has for the past 10 years worked tirelessly at helping children, specifically those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With its latest production, entitled I Am Dance, it will show audiences exactly what this uninhibited passion entails.

It all started with Glenda Jones, founder and owner of Afrika Ablaze, who has been instrumental in developing young dancers into well-seasoned performers who have graced the stages of many theatres.

Bright young faces and agile bodies are hard at work during a rehearsal in the hall of a high school in Wynberg, their practice space.

The cast of 50 performers afforded me a taste of their talent.

The pieces choreographed in this bold and colourful display range from ballet to hip hop, contemporary dance and cabaret to kwaito. The performers themselves choreo-graphed the second half of the show and, according to Jones, this is the highlight of the production.

Coming from a disadvantaged upbringing herself, Jones says that as a little girl her chances of reaching her dream of becoming a dancer were about zero. “I was one of nine children and couldn’t afford to go to a dance school.”

Jones recalls peeping through the window to watch dance classes at a school in the afternoons, then imitating those dance moves to the children at home so they could learn them.

“I would put on a show in my yard and the stage was made of four tyres and a plank and the neighbours would pay 2c or 5c at the door to watch.”

Jones later created her own dance syllabus and soon opened Afrika Ablaze, which is funded by her and a small fee from the dancers.

“The world has taught me to dance. There is no one in this world who can say ‘she was in my class’. We take risks, it’s experiential development of movement at grassroots level. I have never experienced the emotional capacity, resistance and resilience these dancers have.”

I Am Dance runs August 1 to 4 at Baxter Theatre. Tickets at Computicket.