Magazine article Dance Teacher

Dancepeople: All Abroad!

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Dancepeople: All Abroad!

Article excerpt

A team of San Francisco Ballet educators head to South Africa for cultural exchange

San Francisco Ballet's education and outreach manager, Charles McNeal, headed an 11-day cultural exchange, June 7-18, with The South African Ballet Theatre in Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa. The team comprised McNeal, who observed and taught outreach classes in nearby townships, SFB hallet master Ricardo Bustamante, who coached SABT on its first staging of Giselle, and SFB soloist Peter Brandenhoff, who worked with preprofessional students in several area arts schools, as well as a documenter and cultural liaison.

The exchange began at the invitation of SABT CEO Dirk Badenhorst to share ideas, offer mutual support and teach staff how SFB runs a professional ballet company. "South African Ballet Theatre is at a crossroads," says McNeal, explaining that government funding for the company was cut after apartheid ended in 1994. "A lot of people felt that an all-white company presenting a Western artform was not really appropriate." According to McNeal, government funding was directed toward cultural, folkloric and traditional cultural arts. "But you don't think of art [in terms] of its origin within one cultural milieu or another," he says. "In the same way that people of every race and culture explore West African dance or salsa, you don't say, Oh, it's ballet, so Africans aren't interested in it.' What [the government! really did was rip culture away from people just as it became accessible to them."

Since 1994, SABT has been privately funded, depending on donations, ticket sales and cultural sponsorships to survive. …

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