Durban - From hip hop and contemporary to African and Bollywood, dancers from the The Popular Dance Movement will showcase their skills in a celebration of dance at The Playhouse Theatre in two shows today, at 2pm and 7pm.
Taking to the stage for their 10th anniversary production, the project director, Jarryd Watson, said this week that more than 2 000 youths from Wentworth and surrounding communities had been through the dance programme, with many having gone on to a career in dance or on the stage.
“Our dancers have performed in many festivals and stage productions and have represented South Africa four times at prestigious international events.
“I can’t believe this year (the tenth anniversary) has come so fast. I can still recall nervously signing up students in the first year, 2008,” said Watson.
Having grown up in Wentworth, Watson is well aware of the poverty and gangs dealing in drugs in the area. So he started the project to get children off the streets.
“The kids didn’t have any form of activity or entertainment and I felt I wanted to give something back to my community.
“I’m passionate about dance and decided to get young people involved,” he said.
The dance group meet at The Transhaven Centre for underprivileged children in Treasure Beach, and Watson said children could attend his dance classes from the age of five.
The project started with 50 youngsters signing up. There are now 78 dancers. They have taken part in many local productions, including the recent Jomba! production, while Watson was co-choreographer with Daisy Spencer for the Footloose production with the late Themi Venturas.
The group’s first overseas visit was to the Aberdeen festival in Scotland in 2008. The dancers competed in the UDO World Championship Street Dance and finished runners-up to the US.
Watson has been a professional dancer for 15 years, with his favourite styles being hip hop and contemporary.
“In 2013, we were invited to the Broadway Dance Centre in New York to train with their dancers.
“They were totally on another level as they have many resources available to them, but it helped to lift our own dancers to that level. Our previous international experience helped, so the gap wasn’t that great,” he said.
Last year, he took one of his top dancers, Sherwin Green, who started with the project in 2000, to the US to get a perspective of the dance industry in Hollywood and to sign up with some agents.
“These types of visits expose my dancers to what is available out there, including bursaries. We have never had any government support. We raise our own funds and many of our kids have never seen an airport, let alone had the experience of going on a plane,” said Watson.
He said he was inspired to express what was going on in the world around him.
“There is always a narrative behind our work on anything that is happening. I also wanted to create a platform for social justice,” he said.
Watson clearly walks the talk when it comes to caring for his community: he also trains the disabled in dance and has a number of wheelchair dancers, as well as teaching the elderly.
“With the elderly, we do exercises and line-dancing. When it comes to all of my dancers, the smiles on their faces are enough for me at the end of a day,” he said.
There will be two performances at The Playhouse Theatre today, with tickets R90 for the 2pm show and R100-R120 for the 7pm show.
Book your tickets through Computicket or contact 082 683 9665 for more information.
The Independent on Saturday