As all of you know, Michael and I began a fundraising effort to assist the incredible organization Dance for All based in the Cape Town suburb of Athlone. This inspiring organization, in existence for 21 years, offers classes in various forms of dance to over 1,000 children from historically disadvantaged communities. DFA’s vibrant Outreach Programme classes take place daily at their studios, as well as at service points in the surrounding townships of Gugulethu, Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Langa. Ranging in age from three to young adults, students learn ballet, contemporary, African and Spanish dance from a talented and dedicated team of teachers.
By providing an enjoyable and constructive extra-mural activity, DFA gives students the chance to spend their afternoons in a safe environment while learning valuable dance skills. In addition, the students develop important life skills such as discipline, confidence and positive self-esteem – which helps them set goals for their future.
Charming, erudite, elegant, passionate and inspiring, former dancer, founder and CEO of Dance for All, Philip Boyd literally welcomed us with open arms and an open heart. He proudly gave us a tour of their multi-story building, donated to them five years ago by South African businessman Gareth Ackerman, which houses the administrative offices, a wardrobe department and multiple studios all appropriately outfitted with the various accoutrements including barres, mirrors, hardwood or sprung floors and sound equipment, yet he still marvels at how DFA has grown to become this life-changing organization.
We spent five hours at DFA with Philip as he invited us to meet his teachers and kids as they learned and rehearsed, most of them taking multiple classes back to back in 40 degree heat without air conditioning, never complaining, working hard, staying focussed, helping their peers and striving for excellence.
Philip shared the story of the beautiful young woman who hopes to attend university and do her thesis on the rampant teen pregnancy in her township, of the sixteen year old who wants to become a doctor and is studying dance so he can learn about anatomy and body movement, of the young boy without parents or family who showed up one day without any teeth, as the dentist had pulled them all, and DFA raised money to get him dentures and the teachers brought him food to ensure he would eat. This painfully thin, shy boy is becoming a glorious dancer. There were so many poignant stories and so many success stories of changed lives.
With a shoestring budget of only $500,000 CDN, DFA manages to teach and mentor over 1,000 kids and young adults annually. But funding is always tenuous and often public funding doesn’t come through. Many of these talented and dedicated kids dance barefoot, without shoes, prone to serious injury. The 60,000 ZAR (Rand) we raised will make a difference and purchase many, many pairs of shoes. But it’s not nearly enough.
So I implore you, if you have yet to make a donation, please do so today. I have seen these kids; I have watched their joy as they dance; I can attest to how DFA has changed their lives. Please visit Dance Shoes for All and give generously.
I will let these pictures speak the volumes of words I cannot adequately express: