School Kids Engage in the Wonder of South African Dance

Paul Kotapish on November 28, 2017
Richmond elementary students arrive at Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall to enjoy a free performance of the Festival of South African Dance, featuring the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Each season, several Cal Performances concerts are reprised in one-hour “SchoolTime” performances. For the Festival of South African Dance SchoolTime event, Cal Performances invited all Berkeley Unified School District 6th graders and students from Wilson and Washington elementary schools in Richmond to see performances by the Gumboot and Pantsula Dance Companies.

Students learned how Gumboot and Pantsula dances emerged from South African townships and urban cities as forms through which to defy oppression, inspire change and tell stories of life in Johannesberg. Gumboot dancing — performed in rubber Wellington boots — was developed by black miners to accompany work songs and serve as a form of communication when talking and drumming were prohibited. Pantsula, an energetic urban street dance with precise, technical footwork, originated in the black townships during Apartheid. Both dances are grounded in social movements and have evolved over decades, along with the country’s shifting political climate.

Students had the opportunity to interact with dancers before — and during — the show. Oakland photographer Stephen Texeira was on hand to catch the action.

Thamsanga Hlatywayo, owner of the Jikelele Dance Company, welcomes students to Cal Performances’ SchoolTime performance. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Bay Area Teaching Artist Melanie De More teaches dance moves to a few Berkeley Unified School District 6th graders before the show. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Cal Performances Student Engagement Manager Rica Anderson and Bay Area Teaching Artists Micheal Mpyangu, Moeketsi Gibe, and Thamsanqa Hlatywayo welcome all Berkeley Unified School District 6th graders to a free performance of the Festival of South African Dance. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Sixth graders from Berkeley Unified School District join dancers from the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies on stage for a dance demonstration. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Sixth graders from Berkeley Unified School District enjoy a performance of the Festival of South African Dance, featuring the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Performers from the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies invite a teacher on stage to perform with them. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Sixth graders from Berkeley Unified School District join dancers from the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies on stage for a dance demonstration. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Sixth graders from Berkeley Unified School District join dancers from the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies on stage for a dance demonstration. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Elementary school students from Richmond enjoy a performance of the Festival of South African Dance. | Credit: Stephen Texeira

Did you enjoy the article?

Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest articles every Tuesday