Music and dance has often provided an avenue for artists to emerge from some of the most impoverished communities and go on to become established professional performers.
Ballet is a dance form that has typically only been accessible to children attending the most elite institutions in the country.
But a project that introduces young children in the slums to ballet has attracted international attention and goodwill with top ballerinas from the world’s leading dance companies offering their support and sharing their skills with the precocious talent in the slums of Nairobi.
In 2006, the charity organisation, Anno’s Africa set up an arts programme, including dance and music, for underprivileged children in Kibera.
What started with 150 children has grown into a project with over 2, 500 children developing their creative talents.
A ballet programme, widely watched online, has become the flagship for the initiative and top international ballet dancers regularly visit the project to share their skills with the children.
In August, two dancers from the project will be part of a summer training programme in France after being awarded scholarships by the Paris Open Ballet Company. The two girls were selected for displaying promising skills during a training session conducted by the visiting principal of the dance company Leonore Baulac in January this year.
This Saturday, seven international ballet dancers are in Nairobi for a gala performance at the Alliance Francaise in support of the training classes for the children.
The show will open with a showcase presented by the children who are part of the dance training programme in Nairobi.
In January 2018, English ballet dancer, Nick Jones and Spanish ballerina Julia Begua, members of the German dance company, Ballet de Rhin, spent two weeks with the children in KAG and Spurgeons schools in Kibera. In July 2018, the dancers returned with five other professionals to perform at a fund raising gala in aid of the arts programme. It is this same group of dancers who will be in Nairobi for a special performance at the Alliance Francaise on Saturday.
Jones graduated from the Royal Ballet School in the UK and performed with the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany, Ballet du Rhin in Strasbourg, France and in 2018 became a dancer for the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montreal.
His partner Bergua studied at the Conservatory in her native Spain before moving to Germany to study at the John Cranko School in 2011. She was at the Ballet du Rhin for one year and joined the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 2018.
The two dancers have performed in popular ballets like “Romeo and Juliet”, “Swan Lake”, and John Cranko’s “Taming of the Shrew”
Nick is accompanied by his brothers Alexander who is the principal dancer from the Zurich Ballet Company and Oliver who is a dancer with the Staatsballet, Oldenburg in Germany.
Alexander Jones also graduated from the Royal Ballet School and joined Stuttgart Ballet rising to become the Principal Dancer, before moving the Zurich Ballet in a similar position. He has performed in ballet galas in Berlin, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Milan and London.
Oliver Jones graduated from the Central School of Ballet in London in 2012 and is now a dancer with the State Ballet Oldenburg Company in Germany
The other visiting dancers are Diana Leon from Mexico, Australian James Lyttle from the Montreal dance company and Ji Min Hong from South Korea.
The Ballet Gala is a one night only performance tomorrow, 20 July at the Alliance Francaise from 6pm.
Leon studied dance in Cuba and the Netherlands and was winner of the National Ballet Competition of Mexico in 2006. She was part of the National Dance Company of Mexico before joining the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens for five years.
Lyttle started his career with the Australian Ballet Company in 2010 and then joined the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, Germany in 2012. In 2018, he joined the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montreal where he has performed in shows like Giselle, the Firebird, and the “Nutcracker”
Ji Min Hong originally from South Korea, trained at the National Ballet School in Toronto and then joined the National Ballet of Canada in 2010. She joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 2014 and became a soloist in 2018.