The Dance Project

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THE DANCE PROJECT is an exciting community project introducing kids across the Cape Flats to the excitement of different dance styles: one can see the enjoyment in the rhythm of tap, the Razzamatazz of the musicals, the energy of Hip Hop, the guts of the Gumboot, the punch of Pantsula, the quickness of Kwaito, the control of Contemporary to the earthiness of Jazz.
Over the past 16 years the Dance Project has focused on delivering Dance skills and training to members of the community who would not otherwise have access to these skills. Classes are offered to all ages ranging from 5 years old to 45 years old. The intention is to be inclusive and for a period even the learners from the Dominican School for the Deaf were attending classes. Finance, skills and age have never excluded anybody from taking part in the project and individuals of all ages have attended for different reasons.
 
The fundamental objective is to bring skills and opportunities to communities that were previously disadvantaged due to a lack of facilities and financial constraints. And to provide recreational opportunities for those with little experience, while providing professional training and preparation for talented youth and individuals who wish to be developed to their fullest potential.
 
Shows, Eisteddfods, Festivals, Competitions, performances form part of the annual programme providing on-stage experience that any dancer needs to acquire excellence, stage craft skills and the essential ability to work as a team member.
 
The project is being developed and implemented as a well-managed venture in its own right and strives to generate income through fees and the sale of tickets for their community shows in order to ensure self-sustainability and ensure its long-term future viability and success. This is not made easier by the fact that shows and performances can be extremely expensive to mount and many members of the community cannot afford to meet even the limited fees that are recommended.
 

HOW WE BEGAN

It was started in 1998 and is run by Trish Notcutt and Mercia Nkonyana who have worked together since 1995.Mercia was a pupil at the CAFDA Community Centre where Trish taught. Trish has run her own studio and worked in community projects for more than 25 years. She is fully qualified and teaches dance as a Matric subject in the schools for the Education Department. She has been on the Dance SGB which has developed, organised and written the Dance Assessment Standards and Outcomes for the current curriculum.
 
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She has also completed the Dance sections of six Arts and Culture setwork books for Grades 4-9.
 
The Dance Project started as a community project based in the Wynberg area with 18 students. The only publicity was the buzz and excitement from the students by word of mouth. Now it has 80 students from the community. (of which 50 can afford to pay fees)
 
We are currently training up some of the senior dancers who have shown an interest in teaching to become teachers. From time to time we also try our best to get in well-known experts in their field to come and give master classes to the team.
 

THE PROJECT AND ITS AIMS

The project aims to extend the experience of its students by:
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  • Serving all age groups in the wider community in dance.
  • Keeping costs to a minimum
  • Offering exposure to Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Pantsula, gumboot, Afrojazz, etc and styles of today.
  • Preparing learners with the professional dance training – with formal warm-ups and correct stretching exercises before each class.
  • Preparing students for Eisteddfods, Festivals, competitions, assessments and public performances. LOOKING AT INTRODUCING DANCE AS A MATRIC SUBJECT AS OF 2015.
  • Encouraging its members to take the knowledge and experience gained from this venture back to the community

SOME SUCCESS STORIES

The Dance Project has taken part in National and International competitions. Over the past 16 years teams and individuals have won various 1st, 2nd, third and fourth places at the Regional Hip-Hop Dance competition in all age groups at the Grand West Casino and attended the International Dance Competition at Sun City both in 2001 and again in 2007 where they achieved top placings.
 
The Dance Project’s efforts over the past 16 years have focused strongly on developing and enhancing the ultimate employability of the talented individual with potential though he/she may have lacked training and experience. During this time three students have been accepted into the UCT dance degree course, as well as four members were accepted into Jazzart as fulltime professional dancers.
 
Other success stories are that three pupils have gone on to be well known actors and dancers and choreographers on the Cape Town theatre scene, as well as overseas.
 
Dance is a vibrant and unique expression of life in every culture. We believe that it is all about life, and dance is the way to celebrate it! If your heart dances then your life sings. To this end the Dance Project exposes its students to the different cultural forms found in dance, with particular focus and reference to those found in this country.
 

THE CURRENT SITUATION

For the last few years the Project has based itself in school halls which are not entirely ideal but have an open area big enough to accommodate large groups of individuals dancing. Financial restrictions have also limited choices when considering venues and school halls have proved the best compromise at a low price.
 

THE FUTURE

The Dance Project is growing in skills and excellence. It is creating more and more opportunities yet it still finds that it is not able to develop these possibilities further due to financial constraints. Serving an historically disadvantaged community it will always face limitations as it seeks to provide for a community that is not rich in resources. It cannot derive more from the community it is trying to provide for. It needs to break this cycle.
 
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To increase its ability to offer opportunities it needs to expand further, to take on more teachers, trainers and choreographers. It cannot achieve this without increased financial input.
 
Pressures are mounting to expand the project to contribute to other communities. This has cost implications in procuring suitable facilities and providing appropriate teachers. The aim is to develop volunteer teachers with the right skills to develop quality training. The Dance Project would support by administering and managing each programme thus empowering each volunteer teacher to be responsible for Dance training. Fees would apply in the same way as the current Dance Project with the intention of enabling an honorarium for each teacher at the end of a term.
 
Ultimately the aim is to establish a venue that could become a Cultural Centre, which supports programmes in Dance, Drama, Visual Arts, Choirs and Music.
 

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

In summing up:

The Dance Project aims

  • To support and build Dance within previously under resourced communities and to inspire in the youth/unemployed an appreciation of a variety of culture with a particular focus on Dance.
  • To offer access to Dance and, through professional training, the skills required to perform, to create and to achieve excellence in Dance.
  • To keep up-to-date with all current developments, forms and styles of dance by sending teachers on relevant courses, conferences or workshops.
  • To offer varied opportunities to perform. This will be achieved by preparing learners to participate in annual local festivals, Eisteddfods and shows and equipping them with the skills to face competition and take their place in the wider dance community.
  • To encourage learners to be positive role models and to express a greater community involvement by giving back and using their newly acquired skills and knowledge to assist in developing these skills in their own community.
  • To develop a recognized teacher training skills programme which will equip young dancers to go out and teach dance and in that way be able to support themselves financially.
 
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