Ballet Is Giving Boys In Kenya’s Slums A Chance to Get Out

Thirteen-year-old Shamick Otieno left behind a one-room house in Africa’s largest slum to start taking an intense 10 ballet classes per week at the Dance Center Kenya in Nairobi.

Otieno is from Kibera, a sprawling and densely populated slum in Nairobi and the largest in Africa. Four years ago, he was taking dance classes with Annos Africa, a nonprofit that brings arts to kids living in poverty when his instructor noticed Otieno’s talent. He was offered a scholarship that now covers his housing, school fees, and dance training.

Living away from family has been hard for Otieno.

“The family was very poor. It was not easy,” his mother, Joyce Tawa, said. Even though she had her initial doubts about Otieno dancing, she now hopes his classes will be a ticket to a brighter future.

And there’s reason to believe that could happen. Otieno’s mentor, Joel Kioko, is also from the slums. He trained through the same program and now has a full scholarship at the English National Ballet in London.

Kioko and Otieno inspire each other and both hope to return to the slums as professional dancers to give other kids the same opportunities.

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The Pain and Euphoria of Ballet

Five principal ballerinas of the Czech National Theatre open up to London and Prague-based director Tereza Bila’s Life On Point, an unflinching portrait of bodies pushed to the limit. Bila reveals the discipline and emotion involved not only when dancers step onto the stage, but in the hours and years that precede the moment of performance.

The School of the Hamburg Ballet John Neumeier

The School of the Hamburg Ballet, established in 1978, trains young people from all over the world for a professional dance career.

All classes are held in the Ballettzentrum Hamburg – John Neumeier. This building has nine studios, used by both the Hamburg Ballet Company and the School. Boarding facilities are also available within the building for 35 pupils.

Entrance examinations for pupils are held annualy in spring. Preparatory classes are for children aged 7 to 9, professional ballet classes for those aged 10 to 16, and the Theatre Class program for pupils aged 16 to 18 (boys to 19). Prospective students will be tested on physical aptitude, rhythmic and improvisational talents, as well as their level of classical ballet technique in relation to their age.