The Imibala Ballet School opens

Budding ballet dancers in the Helderberg Basin, Cape Town, now have a professional studio space to hone their skills

By Debbie Hathway
Imibala Ballet School Ⓒ Supplied

If ever there is to be a prima ballerina coming out of the Helderberg Basin, Cape Town, it won’t be for lack of opportunity thanks to the foresight, facilities and passion of the founders and teachers at the Imibala Ballet School at the Imibala Trust village in Somerset West.
Ballet luminaries, teachers from local schools, and supporters gathered recently at the Imibala Trust campus for the official opening of the new dance studio.

Mrs Gaynor Rupert, who founded the Trust in 2002, shared her desire to open the studio personally because ballet is so important to her. “Ballet has always been close to my heart and has taught me discipline, perseverance, love of Chopin, love of Tchaikovsky, [and given me] permanently turned-out feet, no matter if I try to stand straight .”

The dance space features an imported sprung floor, professional acoustics, a double barre and walls of mirrors. Look up, and you’ll marvel at the artistic expression of the trussed ceiling, which enhances the sense of space and makes it even more beautiful. Dedicated ballet teacher Gail Hattingh says: “When I walk in here, I get a glad feeling, a happy feeling. And I’m sure that transfers to the children.”

Some of the 80-strong dance contingent gave a delightful demonstration of classical ballet exercises to show how much they’d learned. They come from five schools in the Helderberg region for lessons twice a week. But the school is much more than ballet and dancing, according to Imibala Trust CEO Theo Williamse. It is another step in supporting, nurturing, and developing disadvantaged children within the framework of a holistic, whole-child pipeline. “The vision of Imibala is to touch as many lives as possible. That is what we do every single day. Seeing the transformation of the children, the smiles on their faces when they walk away is an amazing experience.”

Imibala Ballet School Ⓒ Supplied

Ayabonga Mani, who participated in the Imibala Trust dance programme and is currently on a dance scholarship in New York, says: “The inspiring work done by Imibala is about creating dreams, and changing the hearts and minds of those it touches. There is no doubt that by integrating art and creative education at a grass-root level, there is an impact on all the children that take part in the programmes. I am very proud to have been a part of that and hope one day to give back to the Trust and the next generation of Imibala children.”

The Imibala Trust has entered a mentoring partnership with Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB), which involves guest instruction given by the CTCB professional ballet dancers, monthly visits to CTCB rehearsals, trips to the theatre, and other dance-related experiences for the children.

“Imibala is truly food for the soul… its state-of-the-art ballet studio adds even more to what I can only describe as a most inspiring project that goes far beyond what one expected to see. Children are given a chance to be children in an environment that stimulates an interest in a diverse selection of cultural endeavours,” says Debbie Turner, CTCB CEO. “My visit was restorative in many ways. I can see this project as a catalyst for life, and the opportunity of exposure to such positive and committed role models can only do a mountain of good for all who cross into the space.”

The Imibala Trust offers a range of programmes to children in the area, including art, cooking, pottery, drama, music, needlework, maths, and computer literacy classes. Visit imibala.com for more information.

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