On 21 September 2014 at 20h27 on SABC3, the acclaimed series 21 ICONS South Africa will feature the eighth icon of its second season: award-winning ballerina, choreographer and model Kitty Phetla.
Adrian Steirn, photographer and filmmaker pays tribute to South Africans who have helped to shape South Africa and he says “Kitty Phetla is a young South African woman who has emerged from the townships and become one of South Africa’s illustrious ballerinas. She became part of this project because her story illustrates the potential for development of a ballet culture within South Africa. To understand the journey she’s taken to become ‘The Black Swan’ is an inspiring story about discipline and perseverance and what can be achieved through independent thought and focus.”
Martin Schonberg, choreographer and dance teacher picked Phetla from a crowd of 60 hopeful children at Orange Grove Primary School and she began the long and arduous process of becoming a dancer trained in classical ballet, Spanish dance, Afro-fusion and contemporary dance. She is currently a senior soloist and choreographer with Joburg Ballet. Phetla also models, and has a radio show on Radio 2000 and she is intent on helping other black children train as ballet dancers through Joburg Ballet’s outreach programmes reaching over 300 promising dancers from ‘new suburbs’. “Ballet has always been seen as a westernized art, but we’re slowly breaking that stigma. Ballet, and the arts, are for our people, and there’s a hunger for them in our communities.”
The first time I saw Kitty Phetla dance she was very young, about sixteen or seventeen. She performed a role that she has now made her own, The Dying Swan, in a black tutu and black stockings and shoes, because she is black. I fell in love with her then. Since then countless numbers of people have fallen in love with her, and with ballet, because “she makes me feel something I have never felt before” (in the words of one child to Joburg Ballet’s CEO, Dirk Badenhorst).