Gugulethu Ballet Project is a 501(c)(3) organization and gifts are tax deductible as allowed by law.

History of the Gugulethu Project

Kristine Elliott, Founder and Director


In 2004, I first visited South Africa as a guest instructor. During that stay, I taught ballet classes for a program called Dance For All (serving underprivileged youth in the South African townships) as well as for the University of Cape Town’s School of Dance and the associated Cape Town City Ballet Company. On this trip, I witnessed firsthand how classical ballet training can affect social change in a country where widespread poverty, violence and crime still pose serious threats to children and adolescents. The principles inherent in the study of ballet, including self-discipline, perseverance, respect for the self and the integrity of the body, are all transferable into the daily lives of the students who are fortunate enough to be involved in such training. Furthermore, the resulting employment opportunities have proven to be an avenue out of poverty for more than a few South African young people. 

Background and Accomplishments

The following is a chronology of accomplishments associated with my work in South Africa to date:

·         In 2006, organized for Mbulelo Ndabeni and Bathembu Myira to spend the summer with an American host family and study ballet intensively, on full scholarship, at the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco.

·         In 2007, Xola Putya and Nqaba Mafilika came to our home for the summer, studied ballet intensively and returned to South Africa with new repertory created especially for them for the Dance For All program.

·         In 2008,  brought Stanford Art History and advanced ballet student, Emily Hite, with me to South Africa, where she assisted in setting choreography BY AMY SEIWERT  for the Dance For All dancers in an enriching cultural exchange.

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

·         May 2009, at the invitation of the Young Presidents’ Organization,  directed and organized a performance in Vancouver, Canada for their “Diversity in the Arts” event. Zandile Constable, Nqaba Mafilika, Xola Putya, and Bathembu Myira all participated.

·         May 2009, created a residency for four South African dancers at Stanford University, with the goal of fostering cultural awareness and an exchange of ideas between young people here in the United States and underprivileged youngsters growing up in South Africa. The South African dancers taught a master class and danced in a performance called “A Sharing of Cultures through Dance”. They were accompanied by Stanford’s a capella group, Talisman, who sang in Xhosa for the event.

·         January 2010,  obtained full scholarships for Nqaba Mafilika and Zandile Constable to study at the prestigious Alvin Ailey School in New York City for their Spring Term.

·         June 2011, in conjunction with St. Mary’s College, created a travel course, bringing six professional dancers to teach in South Africa.


All of these experiences and achievements have been immensely rewarding and enriching for all those involved. Teaching and mentoring underprivileged South African young people, whose talent far outweighs the opportunities they have, has been an eye-opening experience. Seeing them succeed and, in many cases, return to their communities to act as mentors for the next generation of youngsters, has been an inspirational learning process, and one that I look forward to continuing.


For more information since 2011, please check out our Facebook page.