South African Cuban School Makes History
Elena Cangas (Havana) and Dr. Ramona de Saa (Havana) with students from the SA Cuban School at Joburg Ballet
Joburg Ballet’s initiative to create the South African Cuban School has developed into a centre of excellence for preparing dancers for the professional stage. This institution makes history as the first South Africans complete their assessments over the next week under the examination of the Director of The National Ballet School of Cuba, Dr. Ramona de Saá, one of the leading international figures in ballet training.
This project was launched by Dirk Badenhorst in partnership with Cuban ballet, continuing and strengthening the dance ties with Cuba, Dirk Badenhorst initiated in 2008 and which has played an increasing central role in ballet in SA over the last five years. Badenhorst’ s vision of creating a similar Cuban level of training in South Africa takes shape as Joburg Ballet and other South African dancers and teachers become the first ever Cuban method teachers in South Africa following the trend of the South African Cuban professional exchange programmes over the past decades.
The historic generosity of the Cuban’s willingness to give of their time and knowledge is significant as South Africa and Cuba benefit from a healthy exchange in many industries. The company’s dancers and teachers alongside other South African practitioners develop professionally as they acquire their qualification in new valuable teaching skills and knowledge. Dancers, teachers and students now have access to training that Cubans receive in Havana and work to secure a continuing path of improvement as Cuban teachers such as Dr. Ramona de Saá share their knowledge here in South Africa.
Boys from SA Cuban School in first position at the barre during class at Joburg Ballet studios
Dance practitioners like John Tsunke and Lerato Letlape have come full-circle working their way up the ranks from the company’s Development School, into the professional dance sphere and now giving back to the community as Cuban method teachers. This is a success story that stands testament to the integration that the South African Cuban School aims to achieve as a true cultural inter-change programme.
Appointed by Mr. Fidel Castro and a disciple of Madame Alicia Alonso, Dr. Ramona de Saá studied at the Academy Alicia Alonso and in 1954 was part of the first international tour of the Ballet Alicia Alonso. As a founding dancer of the National Ballet of Cuba (1959), she became one of the company’s most promising dancers before an injury led to her retirement as a dancer in 1966. She subsequently pursued a career as a teacher, winning acclaim for her work in Cuba and internationally, receiving many awards in recognition of her achievements. Many of her students have won international fame, among them Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta.
Following the success of an activation using ballet to promote healthy choices in the Sedibeng area for over a thousand children, Joburg Ballet and The Gauteng Departments of Social Development and Health will provide lecture demonstrations to schools in Soweto on Tuesday 22nd October. In an effort to introduce ballet and dance to promote focus, dedication and teamwork, Joburg Ballet dancers and teachers will act as role models providing necessary social skills to combat teenage pregnancy and drug abuse and instil life skills and values into the lives of children. Through this engagement with communities and audiences, Joburg Ballet aims to expose our development to the greatest possible cross-section of South Africans.