400 dancers to grace stage at Port Elizabeth Dance Festival

Port Elizabeth dancer Gemma Bisseker of the Candice Johnstone Dance Academy takes off during a warm-up session at the Tramways building ahead of the 39th edition of the PE Dance Festival
Port Elizabeth dancer Gemma Bisseker of the Candice Johnstone Dance Academy takes off during a warm-up session at the Tramways building ahead of the 39th edition of the PE Dance Festival
Image: Dirk Moggee

Since its establishment 39 years ago, the Port Elizabeth Dance Festival has become an annual highlight, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of dancers and lovers of dance.

The PEDF has also served as a vital foundation stone for dancers who have gone on to achieve global career success.

One such dancer is Warren Adams, who was recently appointed to the prestigious Tony Awards Nominating Committee.

Adams left the Toynbee Club Ballet School in Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth, 25 years ago on a dance scholarship to England, and ended up performing in and choreographing productions across the globe.

Adams, who is now an award-winning producer, director, choreographer and an adjunct professor at Princeton University and NYU in the theatre department, has fond memories of the Port Elizabeth Dance Festival.

“My first PE Dance Festival was in 1984, and I remember it vividly,” Adams said.

“It was the beginning of a journey that has taken me all over the world and opened more doors for me than I could ever have imagined.”

The 2019 dance festival will kick off on Tuesday, August 27, with an impressive selection of seventeen dance studios showcasing 837 dance entries from more than 400 talented dancers from Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Grahamstown, Graaff-Reinet, Cradock, Knysna and George.

Dancers from the ages of four to 42 will entertain audiences with modern, freestyle, ballet, tap, hip hop, cheer squad and Indian dance performances.

Participating dance studios include: Candice Johnstone Dance Academy, Amaphiko Township Dance Project, Charismatic Dance Crew, Geetanjali Academy of Arts, Carmen’s School of Dance, Channae Erens School of Ballet, Marlene Rubidge Ballet School, Prestige School of Dance, Toynbee Ballet Academy, SA Dance Academy, Defying Gravity, Chinelle School of Dancing, Renee Ferreira, NMU Cheerleaders, Natasha Tait Dance Studio, Leanka Laubscher School of Dance and Diana Townsend School of Ballet.

NMU cheerleaders, from left, Kaylan Matthews, Erin Cupido, Michaela Key, Cailan van Heerden and Savannah Pretorius will take part in the 39th edition of the PE Dance Festival
NMU cheerleaders, from left, Kaylan Matthews, Erin Cupido, Michaela Key, Cailan van Heerden and Savannah Pretorius will take part in the 39th edition of the PE Dance Festival
Image: Dirk Moggee

The Port Elizabeth Dance Festival was founded by Jennifer Abrahams and Hermione Ballinger in 1981 to promote the love of dance.

Nici Lovemore, daughter of the late Ballinger, who is continuing her mother’s legacy as chairperson of PEDF, is looking forward to the five-day festival.

“We will continue to create a professional platform for dancers of all ages to gain and enjoy stage experience”, she said.

A huge coup for 2019 is the confirmation that Nigel Lucas, who is at the forefront of dance development in SA, will adjudicate the 2019 festival.

Lucas has a wealth of experience of many dance genres and is at the forefront of dance development in SA.

The dance festival will culminate in a glitzy gala celebration of dance and an awards ceremony, compered by Niqui Cloete-Barrass, on Saturday, August 31.

The PE Festival starts daily at 2.30pm and entry is R30.

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