Worldwide performer gives back to the kids

BORN TO DANCE: Former professional Jerry Fortuin is passing on his knowledge

Since retiring from the professional arena 15 years ago, Fortuin, 58, has used his time teaching dance – at no cost – to underprivileged children from around the Bay, particularly the northern areas.

That was until last year when they lost their practice venue at The Athenaeum in Central due to financial constraints.

Despite the loss, Fortuin continued private lessons with a group of four young dancers whom he identified as “very talented”.

He has since redirected his attention to assisting university students.

“For the past two years, I have been providing NMMU [Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University] musical theatre students with private lessons [free of charge].

“I am training them in all aspects of dance and theatre to helping them prepare for exams and so on. I spend about two weeks Monday to Friday training them for about two hours a day.”

Fortuin, who now works at the Animal Anti-Cruelty League in Cleary Park, said. “I work closely with Linda-Louise [Swain] who informs me about the students who need help and avails her studio to us, and I take it from there.

“I had my opportunity – now I want to give back to my community and impart the knowledge I have acquired.”

Fortuin was spotted by talent scouts after his ballet performance in Hello, Dolly! at the Opera House in Port Elizabeth in 1981, and asked to perform professionally with the Johannesburg Performing Arts School. His next stop was international stages in the US and UK, and a string of South African performances. But ultimately, his heart belongs to northern areas youth.

“I thoroughly enjoy helping at the university but I would love to go back to teaching kids, identifying talent and moulding it into something great. These kids here in the northern areas are more talented than they themselves and their parents realise,” the Mount Croix resident said.

“Once I acquire enough funding and a suitable venue I intend to go back to coaching youngsters from schools in the northern areas.”

One of Fortuin’s former students, Jody Basson, said he had learnt more in his two months with Fortuin than in his two years of formal dance lessons.

“You can tell he is world class and has experienced dance at a international level,” the 18-year-old said. “He was able to provide tips and insight that assisted me a lot in fine-tuning my dances.”

Basson’s dance partner and cousin, Kelly Basson, said: “That man can dance! We received training from him together and what he said stuck. You can tell he knows what he is doing so everyone pays attention when he speaks.” – Tremaine van Aardt

InspireDO you have a similar story? How are you inspiring Port Elizabeth?

Perhaps you are helping a neighbour, paying a child other than your own’s way through school or taking care of someone in your community.

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