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Written by: Janet Buckland

Amaphiko (Wings) Township Dance Project Overview

The Project seeks to provide holistic development and empowerment for disadvantaged young girls & boys through formal dance training. The training instils confidence and self-esteem while promoting self-discipline, commitment and the pursuit ofc excellence. Besides providing for over 150 teenagers and younger children with a structured activity for two to four afternoons a week, regular classes aim to demonstrate to the dancers just how dedication, commitment, hard work , passion and love of their art can beat seemingly insurmountable odds. Despite constantly battling for funding the Amaphiko Township Dance Project has been going since 1993

How the community benefits from this Project

Although South Africa has become a democracy, large sections of the youth still find themselves adversely affected by the disadvantaged society set up during the apartheid era. Learners in the township still do not have access to arts and cultural activities and yet projects like this are a vital part of healing and empowering young people to develop holistically;
The dancers give electrifying performances in a number of different styles ranging from Hip Hop to contemporary dance. These are in constant demand and are overwhelmingly well received. They have performed regularly at the various Schools Festivals, at the National Arts & Science Festivals, five times live on TV for the Highway Africa Ceremony, danced for ex-President Thabo Mbeki and won a host of Gold Awards at various Eisteddfods and dance festivals. It has been said that any performance by these dancers is a life-affirming experience for the audience.
(Add feedback - I am waiting for Lily to send me the 2009 feedback)
Dancers are prepared to enter AIDT examinations which are of an international standard and form the climax of the years work. The emphasis here is on striving for technical excellence and reaching international standards. Their achievements are rewarded with a detailed personal report and a certificate. 160 dancers were entered in 2009 and 32 dancers achieved 95% - Honours with Distinctions.
The classes promote feelings of self-worth and self esteem in the young girls and boys. This is vitally important in social contexts where women may still find themselves on the lowest rung of the social ladder. The self confidence instilled in the girls through dance, empowers them by encouraging them to take ownership of their own bodies. Girls with a heightened mind /body connection are more in control of their physical expression and are thus better equipped to deal with encounters with the opposite sex. This complements the Love Life Programme (an HIV/AIDS intervention programme) as it proactively equips young girls with self-knowledge and confidence and makes them less vulnerable to being victims of circumstance and possible infection.
The Teacher Apprenticeship programme, involves the training of a senior dancer from the Township who earns a fee for assisting with classes and after she has qualified, she will be in a position to facilitate her own classes and earn a living from this teaching. This will ensure sustainability of the project as well as contribute to poverty alleviation and skills development. Wendy Stamper was her first dance teaching qualification in 2008.
A regular event is the end-of-the year prize-giving for parents and families. At this event the dancers proudly perform for their families and this is still more evidence of how meaningful the project is in their lives.

Without a doubt the classes allow the dancers to see themselves differently to have an alternative vision of themselves being constantly told to pull up feel tall and proud feel beautiful project your power etc eventually has an impact on the dancers and their self image. I have seen the classes promote feelings of self-worth and self esteem in the dancers and have experienced dancers transformed physically and mentally become some body they can be really proud of. (Project leader Janet Buckland)

In a recent interview with Aretha Phiri the dancers said the following: My parents used to complain that I was always dancing, but when I danced for President Thabo Mbeki at Alicedale in 2007, they saw that dance can help you go places and help you meet different people. I think Ill dance until I die. Dance is a great way of telling a story about yourself; its a way of expressing yourself, Unathi Gwente says.

Fellow dancer Thabisa Mamani has been dancing since 2005 and finds dancing useful in other disciplines. People think dancing is just exercise. Its not. Dance teaches you how to focus and train your mind, which is useful academically as well. I have gained confidence through dancing at Amaphiko. Amaphiko has become more like my family.

Past Highlights at a Glance

160 dancers are taught in the Amaphiko Township Project. 14 classes were taught on a weekly basis in the Ntaba Maria Hall, the BB Zondani Hall, the Recreation Centre and the Noluthando Hall. Learners from a large variety of schools attended these classes and this year saw the involvement of an additional school Samuel Nlebi.

2010 4 Amaphiko dancers completed Grade 12 Dance Studies with outstanding results;

In 2010 6 Amaphiko dancers are chosen for the First Physical Youth Company and perform at the National Arts Festival and in the Eastern Cape Eisteddfod;

Learners from the Amaphiko contemporary class achieved numerous gold awards at the Eastern Cape Eisteddfod;

Amaphiko dancers participated in Vumelani at the National Arts Festival;

Dancers experienced numerous international dance productions at the National Arts Festival;

Over 120 dancers are entered into the international dance examsall passed successfully while 34 achieve Honours With Distinction i.e. 95%

Struggling learners in the Amaphiko Township Project receive academic support and improve significantly in their school work.

Dance Studies

The Whole Person venture finally took off with HCI financial support and the following was implemented:

1. A weekly contemporary dance class was offered to learners from disadvantaged schools and from the Amaphiko Township Dance Project in order to extend on their knowledge of dance styles and to introduce them to the possibility of studying dance as a school subject;

2. An intensive Grade 10- 11 Dance Studies Course was implemented for the four Grade 10-12 learners throughout the year.

3. Learners in the project struggling with school work were assigned tutors and provided with extra classes. Where possible every attempt was made to assign mentors to learners who faced additional social problems.

4. Additional opportunities were sought to expand dancers horizons by affording them the opportunities to attend specialised dance courses, competitions and shows.

Dance as a school subject the whole person venture
Four young dancers, two from Mary Waters and two from Nombulelo embarked on studying dance as an official school subject in 2008 and this was continued in 2009. Anelisa Matika and Noluvuyo Shwempe (Nombulelo High) and Phinda Mnyamana and Busisiwe Kepe (Mary Waters) completed their Grade 11 examinations in Dance Practical and Dance Theory and we are really excited about the prospect of taking these dancers through to Grade 12.

Janet Buckland, Project Co-ordinator

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