JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The children's eyes dart from their reflections in the mirrored wall to the dance instructor as they try to imitate her straight posture from elbow to knee. Some of the budding dancers wear tutus and soft leather shoes while others make do with leggings and frayed sneakers.
The Dansazania project brings together children from Johannesburg's leafy suburbs, gritty inner city and once segregated townships to learn ballet, hip hop and tap, whether or not they can pay, says instructor Cinda Eatock.
"All she sees is the creativity and all she takes from the children is the willingness to want to do it," said Patricia Eatock, a social worker and the instructor's mother.
The worn wooden floors of the dance studio have become a haven for troubled children and Eatock is alternatively stern and encouraging to the children aged between five and 18. Eatock teaches about 80 students in 10 classes per week. She says many of her students are helped by the discipline and creativity of the lessons to deal with their difficult circumstances.
"There is actual reassurance of the foot going onto the floor with a sound that is also quite entertaining and the rhythm is very good for some children who are feeling insecure in this world, emotionally and physically," said Eatock, tapping her fist on her open palm to illustrate her point.
Every year the young dancers participate in regional competitions and the learners and parents come together to make costumes in what she describes as a "kibbutz of dance."
All her students received A grades before the performance. The girl who was once the shiest dancer is the first to volunteer to dance.
Eatock says she is delighted: "We conquered something."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Denis Farrell)