Kenyan Ballet Dancers Stage Early Christmas Performance for their Community

Children rush to change out of their everyday clothes into pointe shoes and other ballet attire as the sun sets on the tiny streets of the largest informal community in Africa.

Brenda Branice, a fifteen-year-old who is dancing, is ecstatic and can’t contain it. In Kibera, one of Nairobi, Kenya’s busiest neighborhoods, the Christmas show is about to begin.

There’s an open field with plastic sheets coated in dust instead of a stage. More than 100 local ballet students are performing, giving locals an early holiday. They have been rehearsing after school every day.

Eyeshadow sparkles. A girl’s braided hair swings. Some dancers go barefoot.

The mother of another ballerina, Monica Aoko, smiles as she watches the performance. Hundreds of residents, young and old, have come to the annual holiday event.

“This dance has given me a Christmas mood. Now I know Christmas is here,” Aoko said. She said she’s impressed knowing that when her daughter steps outside their home, she’s engaged in something meaningful.

The ballet project is run by Project Elimu, a community-driven nonprofit that offers after-school arts education and a safe space to children in Kibera.

“Dance has the ability of triggering resilience, creativity and also calmness in you as an individual,” said founder Michael Wamaya. “I want to use dance for the emotional well-being of children here in Kibera.”

Written by PH

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