Jikeleza Dance was founded by Edmund Thwaites a professional dancer (who continues as Artistic Director) and Atholl Hay in 2002 in response to the decline of the fishing industry in Hout Bay.
Initially a dance programme aimed at disadvantaged children and young people the project has developed a more holistic approach to supporting and turning around the lives of children and young people living in the Bay’s informal settlements.
Jikeleza Dance: A Community Hub
In the words of one donor, the project ‘has become the hub of the entire community’ and from an initial intake of 30 girls and boys it has expanded in its reach, the volume of its activities and the scale of its ambition.
This is the project has realised that while it is a space ‘of magic and beauty’ it cannot succeed in its vision of community transformation if it treats dance, music and performance in isolation from the social conditions of its participants. For example, children cannot dance on empty stomachs. And dance in and of itself will not surmount poor educational attainment and broken and desolate homes and hopes.
By championing young people and children from the informal settlements of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg at Hout Bay the project works as a community hub to address a wide range of social issues (poverty, neglect, violence, drugs, HIV/Aids, poor educational attainment and unemployment) that blight young lives through high quality and community-based dance, music and performance.
Outreach: a trusted presence in chaotic and disadvantaged communities
Jikeleza has established over the years a privileged rapport with the communities in which it works. It is a trusted presence in a sea of chaotic lifestyles, multiple deprivations and violence.
It has created a place of safety and purposeful activity where children and young people can escape the pressures and dangers that surround them daily.
Support over time: building long-term relationships
Jikeleza works to establish long-term relationships with its participants and to support them from their primary school years through High school. By doing this it builds trust and a knowledge of the difficulties and barriers facing its children and young people and their particular strengths and aspirations.
The Project has grown and adapted its programmes to serve the needs of the community. It has embraced growth by constantly adding to the services offered in an attempt to change and reform often broken and destructive lives and to create lifestyles filled with purpose and direction that will ultimately result in meaningful employment and sustainable and independent futures.
Building souls: Life skills and an unbreakable spirit
After having started out as purely a dance program over the last 10 years Jikeleza Dance has evolved into so much more. The project focuses not only on the artistic development of the children and young people, but it also focuses on their lives as a whole, from nutrition and safety to education and future employment.
Jikeleza Dance believes in the proven empowering impacts of the performing arts. They not only provide children and young people with enjoyment, fun and fulfilling activities but also have powerful longer-term benefits such as building character, self-esteem, confidence, toughness and discipline. Participation also helps to keep children and youth off the streets, making them less vulnerable to involvement in gangs, crime and substance abuse.
Building skills: dance and music create multiple skills
Jikeleza Dance offers young people an after-school programme where choices can be made between Spanish Dance, Ballet, Contemporary, African Dance, African Drumming and Marimba.
Skills in each genre of dance are taught from beginner levels through to advance. Jikeleza aims to develop the skills of young people in the various genres so that they can ultimately qualify as dance instructors and use their skills to generate an income and hopefully follow a career path in the arts.
Dance and music build more than dance and music skills. They create discipline, teamwork, time management, listening skills, physical co-ordination, and problem solving. These are skills that are vital for later employability.
Four unique aspects of Jikeleza Dance as a community project are:
1) the trust is has developed within the two disadvantaged and marginalised communities of Imizamo Yethu and Hangber;
2) the privileged access it has to the children, young people and families of these communitie;
3) the magical learning environment it has create;
4) the sense of calm, safety and purpose that it offers children and young people.