Award-winning dancer wants to uplift local youth

HE discovered his love of dance in his early childhood and is now using the passion he grew and nurtured to empower and uplift young people.

Port Elizabeth-born ballet dancer Dane Hurst always had a dream to make a name for himself abroad one day. Fourteen years later he’s an international award-winning choreographer living in London.

Now back in his home town, the St Thomas High School alumnus, together with professional dance teachers have dedicated their afternoons to providing free dance and photography workshops for over 80 disadvantaged learners in the northern areas.

“This is really what our lives are about,” Hurst said. “With privilege and success comes responsibility, a duty to give back and give someone else the chance and opportunity that so many of us take for granted. I’m so excited to be a part of something truly great.”

The workshops are aimed at helping young people escape the streets.

“When young people are kept busy, there is less chance for them to engage in social ills.”

Hurst added that in most cases children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to feel a sense of unworthiness.

“We want to show these kids that greatness is achievable, that one’s upbringing and circumstances don’t determine one’s future.

“When I was growing up, there was a guy who lived in my street who was a dancer. He won competitions and then got a scholarship to go to London. That made it possible for me to say I also want to live in London and I also want to provide for my family. He showed me that it’s possible.”

Hurst explained that bringing professionals to come teach the children goes a long way in terms of giving the dance profession credibility.

“What is important for these children is for them to have role models. When you tell a child to come to dance classes after school so as to get them off the streets, they won’t understand, but when you put a professional in front of them, you make it tangible for them to believe that it is possible.”

The need for Hurst to share his skills with youth from underprivileged areas resulted in him establishing an organisation called the Moving Assembly Project (MPA) in 2016.

The project is aimed at connecting people from diverse backgrounds and communities from all corners of the world and provides access to high-quality training and performance.

Last year the organisation held a two-week dance workshop at the Ubuntu Health and Education Centre in Zwide.

“Next year with more funding we want to offer singing, computer programming and film-making. The idea is to create an art centre eventually at a place that is accessible, preferably a travelling studio so that we can engage children from all around the Eastern Cape,” Hurst said.

He has brought with him dancers from Poland and England, and together with some local dancers they are preparing a dance piece themed Who Are We? which will be staged at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.