The Kliptown Youth Program Gumboot Dancers (previously) are returning to Shanghai for a performance at Cottons on Xinhua Road this Saturday, the 17th of November. We spoke with Kliptown Deputy Director Thando Bezana about the program and what attendees on Saturday can expect.
For those who don’t know, can you give us a brief description of who the Gumboot Dancers are and what you’re raising money for?
We are from the Kliptown Youth Program, KYP, which is a non-profit in Soweto South African that supports the children in the Kliptown community through education, sports and performance art programs. Our group in China is made up of students and team leaders, and when in China we perform the traditional South African Gumboot dance, at events and at local and international schools. Each year, we bring a new group to China to provide as many students as possible with the chance to benefit from the experience.
This is your third time in Shanghai, can you tell us what it is that keeps bringing you back to China? Have you picked up any Mandarin?
The China tour helps us to raise funds for our program in Kliptown, and also to raise awareness about what we do. Most importantly though, it gives our students and members the chance to experience a new country and culture, and to be exposed to new opportunities. It also allows us to teach people about our own culture and country and to show them who we are, where we come from, and how we do things. We have learnt a few words of Mandarin, the hellos, goodbyes, good morning, and many of the group are also quite good with their counting. We put in an effort to learn when we come, but we are far from fluent.
How does it feel that Thulani Madondo, the director of your program, was nominated as a CNN Hero? How could the $250,000 prize help the Kliptown Youth Program?
We feel very very good and we are honoured, really. It is big achievement. And Thulani really represents many people in Kliptown, if you look at his story, the journey he took. Not only is it great because he is from South Africa, from Kliptown, and the fact that he has been nominated for such a big thing, but it also shows that our initiative, our program, has been successful. We all support him, the whole community supports him, because if he wins, he is winning for the whole community. It proves all that we do at KYP, and that we are
getting results. It is humbling and very very good.
We are planning to use the 250 000 to build a proper computer lab at our centre. We have had a one laptop per child program for some years and this has created many opportunities for us, in fact, it is how the idea for our China tour began, with us being able to perform for audiences here in China over skype straight from the centre. With a new computer lab, we could facilitate much more training and progress.
Anyone unsure of what exactly to expect from a Gumboot Dance performance should read this extensive interview conducted by Shanghaiist’s Paul Cambre with the Kliptown team in 2010:
So what exactly is gumboot dance? Can you describe what a performance is like for us?
Gumboot dance has its origins in the mines of Capetown. The miners were not allowed to talk with one another so they developed a system where they would hit their boots. This soon became more than just a communication system as they started to incorporate dance and step into it.
The dance itself is very energetic with lots of rhythm and emotion. It combines a special technique of slapping the boots with traditional songs that the miners used to sing as well as other African beats. I can promise that you will not be disappointed. We want to show that South Africa has talent and its own style!
Cocktails for Kliptown
Where: Cottons, 294 Xinhua Lu
Time: 7pm – late
Entrance: 50 RMB, includes one drink