“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” Agnes de Mille, American dancer.
Tsogo Sun’s SunCares Arts Academy is launching in 12 schools in Gauteng in March with a carefully designed full-year curriculum that uses the arts as a catalyst to provide opportunities for change in the lives of young people in our communities. The launch of the Academy this week is aligned with International Day of Theatre for Children, which is celebrated on 20 March each year – and sees hundreds of thousands of children around the world being exposed to the arts and encouraged to enjoy the joy and wonder of theatre.
“The SunCares Arts Academy aims to make a real difference in learners’ lives, by developing artistic talent; providing life skills development to the learners; supporting the educational framework by providing extra-curricular activities; and providing tertiary opportunities to learners within the programmes,” says Shanda Paine, Tsogo Sun’s Group CSI Manager. “This launch signifies the start of a new dimension of experiences for the selected learners – experiences that we believe will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.”
The SunCares Arts Academy is part of Tsogo Sun’s SunCares programme, which was launched in 2012 to bring Tsogo Sun’s various social programmes, entrepreneurial development and environmentally responsible activities under one umbrella body. Arts development within the school environment was identified as an extra-curricular activity that is directly in line with the resources and ethos of Tsogo Sun, while also having a strong impact on the communities where the group operates. “Building talent and capability in the performing arts sector is a natural fit for Tsogo Sun as the leading entertainment and hospitality group in the country,” comments Rob Collins, Chief Marketing Officer of Tsogo Sun.
The SunCares Arts Academy is currently running in six schools in Diepsloot near Montecasino and six schools in Mayfair near Gold Reef City, with 480 learners in total – 40 from each school. The learners, who have been through a rigorous selection process to ensure that they have the potential and the dedication to do well in the arts programme, come from Grades 4 to 7 in nine primary schools, and from Grades 8 and 9 in three high schools.
Support for the programme comes from Gold Reef City for the Mayfair schools and from Montecasino for the Diepsloot schools.
Glenn Joseph, GM of Montecasino is enthusiastic about the potential for the programme. “We are extremely proud to be able to reach so many youngsters in such a meaningful way. I’ve no doubt that we’ll soon see these youngsters embrace these new learnings in their lives and make the most of the opportunities they’re being offered. We’re committed to this programme and look forward to one day seeing these youngsters make a real contribution to the performing arts in South Africa – having started in our Arts Academy.”
Gold Reef City’s GM, Mike Page, agrees. “This SunCares initiative is giving us the means to provide gifted youngsters from Mayfair with the knowledge, confidence and lifeskills needed to reach their potential through the performing arts. We’re also particularly delighted that the programme includes a strong element of life skills training, which will help to give them the ability to cope with the demands and expectations they are likely to encounter in their lives.”
The SunCares Arts Academy programme is closely aligned with a key government priority to introduce extra-curricular activity back into schools and Tsogo Sun has worked closely with the Gauteng Department of Education in identifying schools and developing the programme and curriculum. Tsogo Sun has commissioned Minimax Performing Arts, which has been providing young South Africans with a platform to express themselves through the performing arts for more than 12 years, to develop and run the programme in the schools with four co-ordinating staff members and six facilitators, who are given ongoing training on a weekly basis.
The programme includes two sessions a week at each school run by two facilitators. It provides a foundation in the basics of drama, dance, vocal training, and voice projection, together with a structured life skills course that covers a broad spectrum of topics to empower the youngsters to make sound life choices throughout their lives. Keeping a journal is an important part of the programme, as is art, which is incorporated into the lessons. The first lesson entails the children tie-dyeing T-shirts which then becomes their uniform for the duration of the programme, while also being an individual expression of their creativity.
At the end of each year, the programme will culminate in a performing arts extravaganza where the children will present their own productions within their communities. These productions will be adjudicated and the outcome will be the measurement of the success of the programme.
“The Academy is a conduit through which the youngsters can be reached on the exciting world of the performing arts, as well as on other elements of importance in their lives. We wait with eager anticipation to see the outcome of the contribution that we will be making in hundreds of young lives every year,” says Collins.
For more information on SunCares, log on to www.tsogosun.com.