History of Gugulethu Ballet Project

"Fourteen years ago, inspired by the Kristin Pichaske documentary 'Gugulethu Ballet,' I traveled to the South African township of Gugulethu to teach ballet for a program called Dance For All serving underprivileged youth in the South African townships. The experience transformed me as I encountered the talent and dedication of these young dancers and saw first hand how much they had to offer the world of ballet. Since then, I have returned each year with the support a of a variety of partners, including Stanford University and St. Mary's College, to teach and organize cross-cultural training opportunities for students and professional dancers throughout 14 townships in South Africa. Today this effort finds its home in the nonprofit organization Gugulethu Ballet Project."

KRISTINE ELLIOTT, Founder and Director    


Annual Research and Teaching Trip to South Africa

2004: Kristine Elliott visited South Africa as a guest instructor for Dance For All, which serves underprivileged youth in South Africa

2008:  Stanford Art History and advanced ballet student, Emily Hite, joined Kristine on her trip to South Africa, where Emily assisted in setting choreography by Amy Seiwert for the Dance For All dancers.

2009:  With generous support from the Flora Family Foundation,  choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie (an eminent black choreographer and Juilliard graduate from Harlem) traveled to South Africa with Kristine to create original choreography for the Dance For All Youth Company.

2011: Kristine Elliott creates a Dance South Africa course for St. Mary’s College LEAP program, bringing six professional dancers to teach ballet at dance schools in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa for a period of 2 weeks. These dancers were Garen Scribner, Alejandro Piris-Niño, Lucy Van Cleepf, Olivia Ramsay, David Tamaki, Annie Colbeck.

2012: Kristine Elliott travels to South Africa with Tiffany Brand as Tiffany's coach for the International Ballet Competition. During this trip, Kristine teaches at Dance For All. 

2013: Kristine travels to South Africa with LEAP students Aaron Perlstein, Emily, Sarah Van Patten, Keelan Whitmore, Jean Michelle Sayeg, Emily Wagner. Noluyanda Mqulwana, a former Dance For All student at the time dancing with the Lion King Production in Hamburg, returned to teach at Kristine's invitation. 

2013: Kristine teaches at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

2015: Kristine Elliott travels to South Africa with LEAP students Caroline Rocher, Mary Kate Sheehan, Lara Tant, Tammy Silva-Pessagno, Keith Kuhl, Marina Benedict, Damian Smith to teach at ZAMA Dance School and Dance For All. 

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Scholarships for South African students to study in the United States

2006: Mbulelo Ndabeni and Bathembu Myira, students from Dance For All, spent the summer with an American host family and studied ballet intensively, on full scholarship, at the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco.

2007: Xola Putya and Nqaba Mafilika, students from Dance For All, spent the summer studying ballet intensively in the San Francisco Bay Area and returned to South Africa with new repertory created especially for them for the Dance For All program.

2010:  Nqaba Mafilika and Zandile Constable studied at the prestigious Alvin Ailey School in New York City for the spring term on full scholarship.

2011: Byron Klassen and Thembisa, students from Dance For All, were brought to the U.S. with the aid of former LEAP students Alejandro Piris-Niño and Olivia Ramsay. Thembisa studied with the Marin Ballet and a collection of private coaches, including Kristine Elliott. Byron Klassen did a week workshop with Ohad Naharin.

2015: Aviwe November and Nathan Bartman, students from Dance For All and CAPA, studied at the  Alonzo King Lines Ballet Summer Program on full scholarship. 

2017: Odwa Makanda and Lwando Dutyulwa, students from Dance For All and CAPA, studied at the Alonzo King Lines Ballet Summer Program on full scholarship. 

2017–2018: Odwa Makanda and Lwando Dutyulwa studied on full scholarship at The New Ballet School in San José.

2018: Thimna Ndwe and Linathi Louw, students from DanceScape and Igugu-Lethu Arts and Leadership Project, studied on full scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet School Summer Dance Intensive. Olwethu Katase, director of Igugu-Lethu Arts and Leadership Project, studied at ODC Dance Commons on full scholarship, the recipient of ODC's Thea Anderson Scholarship

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2009: At the invitation of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Kristine Elliott directed and organized a performance in Vancouver, Canada for their “Diversity in the Arts” event. South African dancers Zandile Constable, Nqaba Mafilika, Xola Putya, and Bathembu Myira all participated.

2009: Kristine Elliott created a residency for four South African dancers at Stanford University with the goal of fostering cultural awareness and an exchange of ideas. The South African dancers taught a master class and danced in a performance called “A Sharing of Cultures through Dance,” accompanied by Stanford’s a capella group, Talisman, who sang in Xhosa for the event.

2017: In partnership with City Arts & Lectures, GBP organized a conversation between Misty Copeland and Laurene Powell Jobs at the historic Nourse Theater in San Francisco’s Performing Arts Center to benefit Gugulethu Ballet Project.  This conversation was broadcast on more than 130 public radio stations across the country.

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