This shy young girl of eleven or twelve was already practicing her dance alone when I was invited into the gloomy, bare building where every late afternoon excited youngsters of all ages arrived to practice their traditional dance routines. She seemed lost in the moment and seemed to be dancing for her life.  She was a scrap of a thing with the physical signs of a poor diet and not a regular attender at school. In Soweto, if you don’t have a school uniform, you don’t go to school. But she danced with such energy and enjoyment – breath-taking. The bars at the doors and windows were like a cage and she, like a delicate bird, reached for the light.

I never forgot this nameless girl. On visiting Kliptown again, more than two years later, I met a group of girls working in the SKY yard with a dance teacher from a Johannesburg theatre. I had used the image of the girl on one of my business cards and on enquiring if they knew the girl there was a chorus of ‘It’s Nokuthula!’ They called to a girl watching the dance teacher’s every move.

Thanks to the work of Soweto Kliptown Youth, Nokuthula was starting to flourish; attending school – and, at the time of taking, was still dancing. But life is fragile in Kliptown…

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7 Comments Add Yours

  1. Tricia

    A wonderful story – and connects with all that I know from a lifetime of dance. Will attach a link to my next blog post, if you’re happy.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Thanks, Tricia. I knew you would like this. As you say, having spent most of your life deeply involved in dance, this tells a powerful story. The arts save lives.

  2. Sylvia Selzer

    Happy to link to your next blog post, Tricia.

  3. Nina Hajiyianni

    Beautiful Sylvia! A story I never knew! Love your use of imagery and words, here and throughout your site

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Thanks, Nina, for your appreciative words. You will remember the group of girls we met that day in Kliptown in the yard where the dance teacher was working with a group of young people. But how could anyone know Nokuthula’s story?

  4. Ashen

    What a wonderful spirit you spotted there. May Nokuthula’s future have wings.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Thank you Ashen. My wish for Nokuthula is the same as yours but her struggle is all uphill.

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