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​​Teaching the world to dance
​​​A special project: Penelope Thloloe teaches at the Ballet Theatre Afrikan's Alexandra academy
L​ittle girls across Johannesburg have turned their dreams to ballet, thanks to Penelope Thloloe, a 24-year-old professional teacher at Ballet Theatre Afrikan's (BTA) satellite academies.

Thloloe is also a proud winner of the Amstel Salute to Success Award.

Amstel Salute to Success is a show celebrating South Africans who have made a great success of their lives. They have never compromised and have often overcome great difficulties in their efforts to achieve their ultimate goals.

These people are now outstanding members of society who not only excel in their fields, but are also community-minded in their outlook.

According to the shows judges, sustainability of the project and the improvement of lives were among the criteria they looked for in the candidates.

Speaking to the judges, Thloloe said there was dance talent to be found in Joburg, but a lack of training.

"Allow me to prepare them for a better life. Enable me to open doors and create jobs with your support and belief. Let me show others that dreams do come true," she said.

She will share the R300 000 prize money with two other young winners - Masingita Masunga and Mikhael Subotzky.

Today the director of BTA's satellite schools, Thloloe dedicates her time to school children five times a week.

One of her special projects is the Alexandra Ballet Academy, which recently hosted the Sisonke We Dance (together we dance) show at the Alex Altrec Stadium.

After months of rigorous training four times a week, the children showed off their dance skills to an audience made up of their peers and school teachers on a sunny Friday afternoon.

In addition to the Alex project, once a week children from five primary schools - Chinese School, Saxonwold, Parkhurst, Wynberg and Highlands North - are taught ballet by Thloloe during their arts and culture lessons.


Thloloe started her dance career at 10, under the guidance of Martin Schonberg, BTA's artistic director. She won a scholarship to study in London and became a professional dancer at 18.

She danced for the BTA Company until she became a professional ballet teacher and later the director of satellite schools.

Private and corporate sponsors, together with the Region 7 arts and culture department, sponsor her satellite programmes.

Masunga, who has cerebral palsy and who "petitions for the physically disabled," is the managing director of Tinyungubyiseni, which runs the Miss Confidence SA pageant, which is aimed at physically disabled young women.

She also runs a music competition for people with disabilities.

The third winner is a photographic artist. Subotzky has a fine arts honours degree from Michaelis School of Art at the University of Cape Town.

His exhibition of photographs of inmates at Pollsmoor Prison impressed the judges. He spent a lot of time at the prison, while giving the prisoners art lessons for creative and therapeutic reasons.​​

​​Teaching the world to dance