Pupils swing their way to success

Matthew van Hansen and Natasha Steyn do some fancy moves on the dance floor.

They move to the rhythm with the grace and astuteness of seasoned ballroom dancers. But these kids, ranging in age from nine to 13, have only been training for a year, and in that time have notched up many accolades.

Last week, on Thursday January 26, they danced for the Metro North Education District’s Circuit 9 principals’ meeting.

Their brief five minutes in the limelight saw them perform two snappy and sassy dances, which received resounding applause from the 25 school heads present at Ysterplaat Primary.

The pupils clearly have plenty of drive but also patience as well as faith in their dance instructor, Angelo Harding.

Angelo, 27, who lives in Ottery says, “I started training them in January last year and what they have only achieved in one year is phenomenal. I was told after their performance that the headmasters were so inspired that many wish to initiate similar programmes at their schools.

“I call them my protégés, and I am taking them all over the country – they are competing in dance championships in George in September and they are off to Durban in November; hopefully next on the cards will be an overseas visit.”

But before all, that Angelo is also planning to enter them in Artscape’s Annual Schools’ Arts Festival, in August.

Last year, Matthew van Hansen, 13, and his then-dance partner Kayleigh Lakay, 9, achieved fifth place in both provincial and national Latin and ballroom contests for their age groups.

The story of Matthew is enough of a story in itself. As a baby, in 2005, he was abandoned and brought to Groote Schuur Hospital.

His father, Riaan, now divorced, was at the hospital when his then-wife, a nurse at Groote Schuur, showed him the malnourished tiny tot, wrapped in a newspaper.

Fortunately for Matthew, his biological mother had called the authorities and that’s how he ended up in Riaan’s care.

When Riaan separated from his wife, he brought Matthew up in a shack in Brooklyn, until they were given a place in the school where they now live and Riaan works as a caretaker.

“He was a very small baby and his head was too big for his tiny body. And despite some of his naughty ways he has shone in his new vocation,” Riaan says.

He told Tabletalk, “Matthew used to hang around the classroom and was not focused.

“Following a function, we managed to get Angelo to come and teach here, and initially Matthew was reluctant to go.

“But eventually he did some moves and from there his talent just grew and grew. It’s also amazing that at the principals’ meeting last week, it was the first time he partnered with Natasha (Steyn) and he looked so at ease. He can reach far – it has been proved.”

Angelo adds, “He is a natural”.

The children practise every Monday and although it’s meant to only last for 90 minutes, they often carry on much longer.

“It gives them a real lift,” says Angelo.

They are taught ballroom and modern dancing and all the classic moves and turns and twists.

In their brief performance in the school hall on Thursday, the children, who were a little nervous as they waited their turn, quickly got literally into the swing of things, once on the dance floor.

Relaxing afterwards, they heaved satisfied sighs of relief and Liyah Mullins said, “Ah it was too, too quick,” to which all the children nodded and agreed.

Their parents all peeked into the dance hall where three couples performed. Aside from Matthew and his new dance partner, Natasha, there was Aickhum Josephs, 12, and Kayleigh Lakay, 9, and Liyah Mullins,10 and Daniel Abrahams 11. Watch this space as these naturals are dancing their way high up the success ladder.