From South Africa to our Studios: Talking to Two International Summer Program Students

Every year, extraordinary pre-professional dance students from across the nation and around the world join us in San Francisco for our Summer Program. This year, we were honored to be joined by two wonderful individuals from Cape Town, South Africa.

Read more about their unique dance experiences below in this international student spotlight…

I am Odwa Makanda.

I am from a city called Cape Town in South Africa. I was born in September, 1994 which makes me 22 years old. I started dancing African dance when I was 9 years old. It so happened that the company I was dancing for had ballet classes that they taught once a week and I joined them. The classes extended to four times a week when I was in high school. After I finished school, I did a gap year at Dance For All, where I had ballet classes 6 times-a-week in addition to other styles. After the gap year, I received a scholarship to major in Performing Arts but the school was mostly dance-focused. I got my diploma the end of last year.


It has been been 14 years that I have now been dancing. The main thing that made me start dancing was a sense of curiosity. I ended up loving it with each and every fiber in my body. I do not want to stop dancing because every time there is something new that arises. Ballet has a lot of challenges and I love challenges. I knew about Alonzo King LINES Ballet when Keelan Whitmore (past company member pictured below) came to South Africa for a LEAP program. I was fascinated by this long-limbed man who danced big, and so I began to do some research. When Kristine (Elliott, founder of the Gugulethu Ballet Project) said she had organized for us to come to this LINES Ballet Summer Program, I was way too happy because I’ve always had fantasies about this company. And the main reason I decided to do this program is to gain new knowledge and a different vocabulary, especially Mr. Alonzo King’s vocabulary.

I would like to know how to move big, fill the room, and expand my artistry after this program. One memorable thing that I’ve experienced in the last few days is that I come from a place where in ballet they prefer perfect positions, which doesn’t allow a dancer to sing the music with their bodies.

But here, it is all about singing each and every note of the music with your whole body, which brings joy in my life!

My name is Lwando Dutyulwa.

I am from Cape Town in the small Township called Nyanga. I am 23 years old and I’ve been dancing for 12 years.

At the age of 10, when I was in primary school, I decided to begin taking some African dance classes. Back then, I didn’t really know that it was going to take me this far – I was just doing it for fun and to take me off the streets. The township that I grew up in was not good for young boys to be around the streets. At the age of 12, I decided to expand my knowledge of dance and began taking some contemporary and ballet classes. Fortunately, I joined an organization called Dance For All which taught free dance classes to the kids in my neighborhood. I continued to dance there for nine years. After my matriculation, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship at Cape Academy of Performing Arts. There, as I continued to dance, I was exposed to all sorts of styles and to international choreographers.

Now I feel like I would never be able to live my life without dance because it runs through my veins and in my heart.


In 2015, Ms. Kristine Elliott (pictured above) brought members of the LEAP program to South Africa and one of those members was a dancer from LINES Ballet, Keelan Whitmore, who taught repertoire from Alonzo King LINES Ballet. At that moment, I fell in love with LINES Ballet because I loved the way they moved. I started to watch more of their YouTube videos, which made me want to meet Mr. Alonzo King in person because he is such a genius. And luckily enough, Ms. Kristine Elliott managed to organize an opportunity for me to come to LINES this summer. I think this was a perfect time for me because I really feel the need to gain more knowledge as a young professional and I’ve wanted to get this training from LINES Ballet.

I am hoping to get more knowledge and more exposure to different styles of dance and to learn how to really move without restricting myself. It is important for me to be exposed to the LINES Ballet Repertoire because that is the style I see myself dancing in the future as a professional dancer.

I come from a style of technical training where, as a dancer, you are very restricted in your movements. I don’t find that wrong at all. Coming to LINES and this program though has opened up my mind to more ways of moving as a dancer, even in a ballet class.

I have the mindset that in a ballet class, my goal is to control my body and create positions. Coming to the LINES Ballet Summer Program and taking their ballet classes, I find that there is so much more freedom to the body when you are not being told to create positions but to just dance. Dance outside of yourself with soul and always remain in control of your body. This experience for me has been wonderful since I am more interested in LINES Ballet vocabulary and style. That is something I’m going to continue working on without losing the technique that I was taught back at home. Both things are important to keep with me always.

See a video of Odwa, Lwando and Kristine’s work together which they used to fundraise for their travels to San Francisco:

Cover photo by Michael Powers; photos with Keelan and Kristine courtesy of Gugulethu Ballet Project, photos at LINES Dance Center by Katie Wong