The Sigiya Sonke, (meaning “Youth Stand Together” ), Dance Group empowers disadvantaged young people through dance. Based in Alexandra Township, the group is led by Jack Letsoela and his wife Beauty. Both grew up in Alex and understand the difficulties faced by young people. In the 25 years since Sigiya Sonke was started, over 400 pupils have been taught by Jack and many trophies and competitions have been won. Taking young people from the streets of Alex, the group learns traditional dance, hip-hop, pantsula, R&B, modern dance, as well as gumboots dancing.
The streets of Alex are tough and poverty and unemployment is high. Many young people are struggling to survive with either one or both parents absent or deceased due to HIV/AIDS. Some may just have a grandparent on whom to rely, others are simply from child-headed households. Nonetheless, there is a spirit of hope and optimism among the young people who still believe that they can achieve their dreams, many with exceptional talent and motivation, despite their deprived backgrounds. Sigiya Sonke is so much more than a dance group with Jack and Beauty providing valuable counselling, support and friendship to the young people. Gumboots Foundation funds the group’s essential expenses, costs of their outings, performances, new costumes, instruments and the meals that Beauty provides from her home.
Many years have passed since Sigiya Sonke first began in an abandoned warehouse, with Jack and his students training on a daily basis in conditions that were either stiflingly hot or freezing cold, often by candlelight. Gumboots Foundation has supported this project since 2005, funding the renovation of the warehouse which sadly was taken over by squatters and finally destroyed by fire. Jack moved the rehearsals to his small backyard which has been far from ideal. However, work on a two-phased building project to include a performing arts centre and an educational support project has now begun, (presently named Alexandra Youth Project – see elsewhere on our website for further details), and this will become the new home of Sigiya Sonke!