The Sigiya Sonke “Youth Stand Together” Dance Group empowers disadvantaged young people through dance. Based in Alexandra Township the group is run under the leadership of Jack Letsoela – a hard working and talented dancer who grew up in Alex. In the 20 years since Sigiya Sonke was started, over 400 pupils have been taught by Jack and many trophies and competitions have been won. The group learn traditional dance, gumboots dancing (the lively and innovative dance style created by the miners who had no instruments other than the rhythmic stamping and slapping of their gumboots), hip-hop, pantsula, R & B and modern dance.
The streets of Alexandra 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 to rely on, others are simply alone. Nonetheless there is a spirit of hope and optimism among many young people who still believe that they can achieve their dreams in the new South Africa. Many of the kids that dance with Jack, despite having come from very deprived backgrounds, have shown exceptional talent and motivation. When Sigiya Sonke first began in an abandoned and semi-derelict warehouse, Jack and his students trained on a daily basis, in conditions which were either stiflingly hot or freezing cold, often by candlelight and with no music, clapping or singing out the beats! Gumboots has been supporting this project since 2005 and has funded the complete renovation of the warehouse which today is now a bright, clean and safe rehearsal and performance space. A homework room, cooking, toilet and showering facilities were also all added. For some students this is the only running water to which many they have access.
This project has, and continues to make, a tangible difference to the lives of many of the young people of Alex. It has become so much more than a dance group with Jack and his wife Beauty, providing the kind of support and friendship to the young people which is so absent from their lives. Indeed since Jack and Beauty were made redundant we have provided them with a small stipend to allow them to continue their work. Gumboots SA is working towards the purchase of the warehouse, which will provide much needed security for the future of the project. With your support we can take this project to the next level which is to develop it into a community resource centre providing social, leisure and learning facilities to a wider group.