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.

How Royal Ballet dancers prepare their pointe shoes

Each Season The Royal Ballet dances through thousands of shoes at a cost of over £250,000. A gift of £39 to our annual Pointe Shoes Appeal could buy one pair of pointe shoes for a Royal Ballet dancer.

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Choreography by Nacho Duato


Choreography by Ohad Naharin


Choreography by Jiří Kylián

Fear, vulnerability, passion – the dark extremes of human emotions dominate the three works of the ballet program “Duato | Kylian | Naharin”. While “Castrati” by Nacho Duato revolves around the fear of an aspiring singer before castration, Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort” deals with the aggressive as well as the vulnerable sides of sexuality. “Secus” is an abstract work by Ohad Naharin, based on power, extremes and raw meat.

Music by Vivaldi and Jenkins is the basis for Nacho Duato’s contribution to this ballet evening. However, the focus of “Castrati” lies on the dark side of the castrati era. Jiří Kylián’s piece equally revolves around the genital – since the French term “petite mort” describes nothing else but the sexual highpoint. The music is by Mozart. And for the very first time Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin will work with the Staatsballett.