Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Back to Africa

One of my most popular articles when I started this blog was What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013. It was about the classes given by the remarkable Mike Wamaya to kids in one of the poorest and toughest neighbourhoods of Nairobi.

I am returning to the topic again because of a news item on the class on the RAD website. It is headed "Former Faculty of Education student, Amy Shelton, gives a fascinating insight into her personal experiences of teaching ballet to children in Kenya in this month’s edition of Dancing Times," The students are up to date with the new RAD syllabus and as you can see from the film above and those in my earlier post they are as diligent and ambitious as any in the world. I have high hopes that some of  Wamaya's kids will perform one day at Covent Garden and the Met.

What Wamaya has done in Kenya could be repeated elsewhere in Africa including Sierra Leone. That country has already produced Michaela DePrince. It is going through a terrible trial right now just as it did two decades ago when DePrince was born. Sierra Leone survived the civil war and it will survive ebola but, as I said in  Could the Arts not do something about this horrible Scourge 8 Oct 2014,  "Sierra Leone and its neighbours will need massive help in rebuilding their economic, social and cultural institutions when the immediate crisis is over."

A ballet school for Freetown may seem an odd priority for a country that needs to be rebuilt but men's minds and souls need feeding as well as their bellies and dance provides some of that food. We know that from our own experience for it was the Vic-Wells Ballet that kept us going during the Second World War (see David Bintley's Dancing in the Blitz: How World War 2 made British Ballet BBC website) just as it helped generations of Russians survive decades of famine, war and oppression. Look what Wamaya has achieved in Kenya. Why not the same in Kroo Town, Kissy or Kenema?

Further Reading
28 Nov 2014  Michaela DePrince at TEDx Amsterdam


  1. Interesting reading and ideas. Thanks Jane
    Lesley, Danceworks London

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting on my article. Michaela DePrince is a remarkable young woman. Hard to believe that she is not yet 20. She is the most thrilling young dancer I have seen for a while'