What we do...
Gugulethu Ballet Project unites art and service by partnering with dance communities to expand the opportunities of disadvantaged children in the townships of South Africa.
We have three main types of projects:
- Annual Research and Teaching Trip to South Africa
- Scholarships for South African students to study in the United States
- Financial Support for Dance Schools in South Africa
Plus fundraising events which we always try to make of interest and benefit to the arts community.
Annual Research and Teaching Trip to South Africa
Each year, Gugulethu Ballet Project's founder and director, Kristine Elliott, makes a trip to visit our partner schools and dance programs in South Africa, teaching classes, setting repertoire––often bringing along other professional dancers or teachers as well––checking in with schools to find out their needs, reconnecting with former students, identifying young talent, and researching ways in which Gugulethu Ballet Project can fulfill its mission.
We've found over the years fulfilling our mission doesn't only involve ballet. Past support for dancers and dance schools have involved providing meals so students are fed before class, furnishing leotards, tights, and dance slippers so our young dancers are properly equipped, securing transportation so children can arrive at the classroom safely, and even arranging dental care! These yearly trips are incredibly important to keep Gugulethu Ballet Project attuned to the needs of those we aim to help.
Scholarships for South African students to study in the United States
Each year, Gugulethu Ballet Project brings promising young dancers from our partner schools in South Africa to spend a summer in the United States studying dance intensively at one or more prestigious dance schools. We are grateful to have such wonderful partners in the United States such as the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center, ODC Dance Commons, San Francisco Ballet School, The New Ballet School, The Ailey School, and Kaatsbaan International Dance Center.
Gugulethu Ballet Project is often able to arrange for the dancers to attend these summer intensive sessions on full scholarship, generously provided by the U.S. institution. On our end, we then arrange and fund the students' travel to the U.S., including securing passports and visas, provide the students with a host family to stay with, provide for all the students' expenses while in the U.S., including meals, dance clothes/shoes, transport, health insurance, and incidentals, and support the students during their time here by remaining closely involved in their experience.
Gugulethu Ballet Project also facilitates cultural exchanges between the South African dancers and their peers at their places of study, and arranges for them to attend performances, shows, and festivals for an all-encompassing cultural experience. Finally, we introduce them to dance school and company directors, forging important connections for their future.
More than once, our U.S. partners have been so impressed by these students that they have invited them to stay for their year-round training program! When this happens, we continue to support the students and assist them take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
Financial Support for Dance Schools in South Africa
Our final project is providing financial support for our partner dance schools in South Africa. Currently GBP sponsors two dance schools in South Africa, Dancescape in Zolani township in the Western Cape and Igugu-Lethu Arts and Leadership Project in Gugulethu township. These are schools that we have a long history of working with and maintain close connection with, visiting them each year. In exchange for financial aid, these schools provide Gugulethu Ballet Project with an annual report of the activities supported by the funds.