Dance for All academy in Athlone. A new show called Wistful featuring the academy’s students aims to raise funds for struggling artists during the Covid-19 crisis. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Dance for All academy in Athlone. A new show called Wistful featuring the academy’s students aims to raise funds for struggling artists during the Covid-19 crisis. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Dancing for their supper

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Oct 24, 2020

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Returning to the dance floor was like being "in heaven" says dancer Philasande Majikela.

He is among a group of Cape Town dance students at Dance For All school who will be performing at a charity concert to raise money for students’ fees and staff costs. The non-profit organisation will stage two performances of their new show titled Wistful at their studio in Athlone on October 30 and 31.

This comes as the school faces the fallout of lockdown which has seen funding and student training impacted, as well as a number of events cancelled.

Majikela, from Eerste River, who will be performing in Wistful, said returning to the dance floor was a relief. “It feels a lot better,” he said. “During lockdown, I was home alone, all I could think of was dancing and being here and allowing my emotions to flow. The moment I got here, it felt like I was back in heaven. Being able to talk to people and create and connect with them.”

One of the school’s full-time students, Majikela is trying to raise funds to continue his studies at the University of California in the US next year after being awarded a partial scholarship. “Why only be a dancer when I could be a choreographer? I could start my own school,” he said. “Instead of looking for a job, I could make my own choices and not just stick to dance. There are other performing arts. Music, theatre, and dance. Mind over matter is the biggest thing. If you feel you can do something, then you can do it.”

The school offers a number of dancing programmes such as ballet, African, and Contemporary, as well as a full-time bridging programme for students interested in pursuing a career in dance.

However working with a mask has been challenging. “Working with a mask is the most annoying thing,” Majikela added. “But again, mind over matter. Sometimes the mask does disturb my breathing and disturbs my energy. Now I have to work to contain my energy and not completely lose it. But at the same time, I find my balance.”

Wistful was the creation of company choreographers Leeroy Samuels, Bruno Wani, Luyanda Mdingi, and Yaseen Manuel. According to Manuel, the show was inspired by people’s experiences of the lockdown. “The driving idea was missing a space, as we were not sure how everybody felt amongst the performers, where they are and where their heads are at,” he explained. “They want to come back and for the lockdown to end. The word came from that. During the lockdown, you are yearning for this space and we took it from there.”

Each of the four choreographers contributed portions of the show, each exploring their own ideas. “There’s a duet of mine in it that speaks to missing that particular person you couldn’t be in contact with,” Manuel said. “Some of us were separated for that time. There’s also a trio piece that we developed but couldn’t perform last year, but we can now.”

During the lockdown, Dance For All introduced online methods of teaching for its full-time students, with them submitting video clips to demonstrate their progress.

Allison Hendricks, artistic director of Dance For All said it was up to South Africans to show continued support for the arts. “The reality is that the entertainment and performing arts industry has been hugely affected, but it is also reality that entertainment and the arts will always be there, it has a history of more than decades and centuries old,” she said. “The importance of South Africans to support the industry, and by all means the youngsters, sends out the message of support and being seen or heard and certainly acknowledged.”

Hendricks added: “One thing we can say with confidence is that we have helped our students to build the resilience they need to get through challenging times. Their dance training has equipped them with physical and mental fitness, and a spin-off of their rigorous training is that they have learnt how to take responsibility for their health, how to be disciplined and focused, to maintain a positive attitude and to persevere.”

Tickets to Wistful cost R60 and performances start at 7.30pm. To book, email [email protected] or call 021 697 5509.

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