The National Ballet Centre was destroyed yesterday morning after the roof caved in leaving the building unsafe and unusable. The Dance Trust of Zimbabwe announced that the collapse of the centre, which was built 35 years ago and has housed and trained the national dancing community for decades, is a national disaster and throws doubt over the future of dance in Zimbabwe. All dancers, teachers, parents and friends of dance were devastated by the news as it leaked out yesterday.

The National Ballet centre, situated on East Road, Harare (behind Reps Theatre) has staged many shows over the years including its annual dance festival Starlight Dancing. It is also registered as a Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) examination centre and its facilities are used daily by many of Zimbabwe’s top dance studios and dancers including the Tumbuka Contemporary Dance Company, The Dance Foundation Course, The Outreach Project and the National Ballet dancers themselves.

When the Ballet Centre initially opened, it focused on classical ballet. Later it was then realized that it was essential to take dance to the community as a whole, especially to the high-density suburbs. "Vana vano tamba" (children who dance) was soon launched in 1984 - a project initially confined to children under twelve in Harare's high density areas who would otherwise have had no exposure to dance other than traditional. The teachers went to various schools and a class was given on a Saturday morning to teenagers, who formed the City Youth Group. A few dancers, who showed potential, were awarded scholarships to learn ballet at a more advanced level from classical teachers.

This initiative soon led to the first workshop. So successful was this course that the training was extended and culminated in a formal three year Dance Training Programme specifically aimed at talented young schools leavers from economically constrained backgrounds. The course was free of charge and all students were provided with daily transport and lunch money. The first course was completed in 1992. The graduates were then employed either by the newly formed Tumbuka Dance Company, or the community based Outreach Team. This was an innovative and exciting move because of its employment creation policy and the possibilities for future expansion.

The Outreach Programme, which was initiated as”Vano Vano Tambo”, developed into a formal programme with an Administrator and a Coordinator. Currently there are four teachers, one of which doubles as the Co-ordinator, who teach 4500 children. The classes are given free of charge.

Chairman of the Dance Trust of Zimbabwe Tereza Carter, said that “Rebuilding The National Ballet Centre, is critical to ensure that all the gains over the past 35 years are not jeopardized. Dance in Zimbabwe must continue and it’s important that The National Ballet Centre remains at the hub of that national project.

For more information contact The Dance Trust of Zimbabwe on

AuthorCato Litangen