Cuban Ballet in South Africa


Many thanks to Peter Jordens for sharing three articles on an exchange program between the South African International Ballet Competition and the Cuban Ministry of Culture. Cuban ballet teachers are training teachers in South Africa’s townships; the plan is “to train at least 1000 teachers in three years, so they can pass on their new skills to young people.” The three articles are “Cuban ballet comes to the townships” (which has a video on the program in action), “Training future ballet stars,” and “Taking ballet to the streets of Soweto via Cuba.” Here are excerpts from “Training future ballet stars,” by Shinga Darangwa (see links below for all articles):

In this small hall in a community centre across from the Hector Pieterson memorial in Orlando West, Soweto, a Training Teachers in The Township session is in full swing. It’s fast-paced and rigorous. De Los Angeles, who is in South Africa under the exchange programme between the South African International Ballet Competition and the Cuban Ministry of Culture, puts the teachers through some exercises, correcting their form and technique when necessary. The Cuban methodology she uses in her practice has consistently produced some of the best ballet dancers in the world.

She trains them as if they are the young kids for whom this training is intended, so that they are able to experience and understand the very lessons which they’ll be giving to their own students. From here, they will then go and teach what they have learned to various students in ballet classes across Soweto, Ekurhuleni and Ennerdale.

Within the next six weeks, De Los Angeles will go to each one of the teachers and observe as they teach to ensure quality control. This is hugely important in this programme because many of these teachers have not received classical training, so there is a need to ensure that progress is monitored.

Dirk Badenhorst, the chief executive of the South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), founded the Training Teachers in the Township programme to improve the standard of ballet in South Africa.

“I’ve been running the SAIBC since I founded it in 2008,” he told. “I’m not feeling that we’ve transformed classical ballet enough in South Africa. A lot of people have been doing amazing programmes but still we don’t even have 50 percent black dancers in our companies or competitions.”

This lack of transformation is the force that’s driven Badenhorst, who also frequently judges at international competitions around the world, to consider how best to fast-track transformation.

“I’ve been working with the Cuban methodology for a long time and I’ve seen the impact of Cuban methodology around the world. Given its strong basic technique and how it speaks to the typical South African body, which is similar to Cuban body in that it is slightly hippier, slightly bustier, this was the ideal methodology to use.”

In his pursuit for the advancement of ballet in South Africa, Badenhorst has been pushing the head of the National Ballet School of Cuba for a teacher who can specialise in teaching young kids. [. . .]

For “Cuban ballet comes to the townships ” (BBC, June 6, 2016), see

For full text of “Training future ballet stars” (Shinga Darangwa, Independent Online, June 1, 2016), see

Also see “Taking ballet to the streets of Soweto via Cuba” (Sue Blaine, Business Day Live, May 16, 2016) at


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