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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Documentaries: Ghetto Ballet

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I just finished watching a 45 minute documentary that follows a group of students who mainly live in poverty in South Africa but train in ballet and hope to get into the company Dance For All. It touches on their daily poverty, body issues, company opportunities and keeping the ballet spirit regardless of audition outcome. I found it intriguing.


It played on HBO recently. I imagine they will replay it soon.

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In our area, it's on the HBO "On Demand" list. If you have that, you can watch it until about mid-January, I think it said. Saw it today.


Interestingly, my best and favorite teacher, the one who helped me back to health physically, used to dance in South Africa. Although this particular program was not the one she was in (she is not black African), she was in one run by Martin Shoenberg (sp?) - Ballet Theatre Afrikaan (sp?). Apparently, he's started or had started something similar but his program is extremely highly selective. Only 30 students are selected vs. the few hundred for the one on the above documentary.

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Which category is it under on HBO? Movies, documentaries, etc? I didn't see it in our area unfortunately. However, there we do have the Jacques D'Ambrose "The Other Side of the World" documentary from Shanghai which was a treat.

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Jacques D'Amboise did a lot in NY as well, as I recall. I remember a documentary and book about his efforts to bring dance to inner city New York children.

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Ghetto Ballet


Jacques founded the National Dance Institute!

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Guess comcast only gives our area one dance program at a time. We got the Jacques D'Ambrose documentary but not Ghetto Ballet. Hopefully we will get Ghetto Ballet later.

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Under what category are you all finding these shows? I never actually use this on demand but I know I have it. I tried to navigate to the right area. Perhaps I'm not getting this show, but I have a feeling that it is there, if I know where to look....thanks!

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The title made me cringe also caliope, but I bit my tongue this time. :)


When I went to ON Demand, I think I did TV shows (maybe it was Movies?) then Premium Channels, then HBO, then Documentaries

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I watched it On Demand from HBO as well. It was certainly a reminder to be thankful for everything we take for granted on a daily basis.


I was slightly confused on what they were auditioning for. A selective school or student company?

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From the link that is in post #5 above: "Ghetto Ballet


From acclaimed filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, GHETTO BALLET focuses on several young dancers enrolled at Dance for All, South Africa's first ballet-training program for black students. Targeted at children living in Cape Town's poorest townships, the program gives young dancers the opportunity to train abroad at many of the world's top ballet schools, most notably in Paris, or to dance professionally in their own country. Ghetto Ballet profiles several of the program's most promising dancers, each of whom commutes to the Dance for All studio in Cape Town to train with founder Philip Boyd and his staff. The goal of these elite students is an all-important audition, when dancers will be asked to join a professional dance troupe in Cape Town or to train in Paris - with life- changing ramifications. Premieres Wednesday, December 30 at 8pm on HBO2. Read more."


I did find this documentary and was very glad to have watched it. My husband and I reflected at length on just how fortunate most of the dancers we know are in their training in this country. We were so proud of those students and dismayed at the disappointments that some had to endure. I surmise that the title reflects the accurate conditions of life in poverty, and most likely the impoverished areas are called ghettos. A harsh word, to be sure, but there it is.


I would very much like to find a way to support such students as portrayed in this film. I am so proud of the man who founded this program. I know we can't save the world all in one swoop, but a child at a time, in the quest for ballet....would be very satisfying.

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Actually, 'ghetto' originally means a place populated by a minority race/ethnicity, specifically Jewish, but the term can also be applied to many ethnic enclaves -- it's mainly in the American setting that slums/projects became transferred to 'ghetto' (although in many cases the identity and economic markers overlap)... but the slang of 'ghetto life', etc, is definitely American. In South Africa, these areas, as noted in the synopsis, are townships, which are creations of Apartheid. While the division between city and townships is most definitely racial (originally), often there are different ethnic groups in the townships, especially the urban ones. It is undoubtedly true that townships are impoverished, and the material living conditions are analogous to 'regular' slums in developing countries.


Needless to say, the title also made me bristle, although I still would like to see the documentary!

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  • 6 months later...

My daughter attended a screening of this film last night with the rest of the Atlanta Ballet SI students. The film was being shown as part of the National Black Arts Festival and one of the main subjects of the film, Simbakle, is attending AB this summer on scholarship.


My daughter was extremely moved by this film. The story of how Simbakle came to study at AB this summer is that a woman from Atlanta saw this film on TV and wrote to Sharon Story of Atlanta Ballet asking if there was any way to finance this girl to come to Atlanta Ballet to study for the summer. In a crazy world like this it is nice to hear that someone can be so moved by a film and literally change the life of a young person forever.


National Black Arts Festival

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