reDance the City - activating inner city dance spaces.

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reDance the City - activating inner city dance spaces.

Johannesburg, South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

I am a dancer. I have danced ballet since I was three years old. I am also a capoeirista, training with groups in Gauteng, and I have dabbled in other urban dance styles.

Because I have experienced the life changing lessons and beliefs that dance offers a person, I believe that this is an important project to implement in the city. Apart from the obvious benefit of keeping youth off the streets and out of trouble, it offers a sense of achievement, belonging and support that young people need in a sometimes crazy world.

You learn about discipline, teamwork, flexibility, simple enjoyment and it gives you a sense of achievement every time you progress.

I believe in urban regeneration through empowering the people that already live in the space, and not replying on outside help all the time. The residents living in the city centre are not victims or the baddies. Urban regeneration should not be synonymous with "cleaning out" the people already living there and bringing in the bohemian artists (as I feel happened too often in Cape Town). Where do these residents go? To townships?

This is not the answer. People from outside the city centre need to realise that it is in fact safe to be in the CBD, and they too can take part in the dancing as well. Youth in the city centre will also be given the opportunity to realise that self expression and self care can improve the places they live in.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

My project uses this hypothesis as a spring board for my idea: you do not need to clean up an area and then install public art. Install the art and the area will be cleaned. My idea uses dance as the means to this achievement. Cities are the economic hub of any country and Johannesburg is tipped to become a global city. One of the important milestones to reach in developing sustainable, people friendly city centres is to fully exploit the way public space is used by the people.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

My idea is to instal dancing and rehearsing in public spaces. To do this the places need to be clean, free from glass and papers. Dancers will be encouraged to keep their dance areas clean. Dance becomes a way for youth to understand and care for their surroundings. This project will be in part, therefore, youth development as well. I also believe that dances and sports like ballet and capoeira are little understood, because we rehearse in halls, behind closed doors. Capoeira was birthed in the slave fields of Brazil, in the public, for everyone to join in. When we have public capoeira rodas in parks, the public loves to join in. I believe bringing capoeira into public spaces more will activate these public spaces in the city to be vibrant spaces filled with performance. I similarly feel that there is a wonderful gritty side to ballet that young urban youths can identify with. Where capoeira teaches you community, flexibility and strength of body and self, ballet teaches you commitment, discipline and gracefulness. Value proposition: To use dance as a form of urban regeneration as well as give city youth the tools for their own development. What is innovative: dance has for a long time been used for development. It is well documented that break dancing and urban dance is a key tool for “keeping kids off the street and out of trouble”. However, little focus has been given to the roles of other dance (and sports) forms – ballet, capoeira and parkour.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

I believe in using what is already in a space. Therefore, I will spend time finding the dance groups that already exist in the city centre and surrounds. And then i will work with them to bring that dancing and sport into public spaces. This first phase will not cost much, apart from time spent lobbying Joburg City Parks to allow us to use the parks, squares and side walks without having to spend money renting these spaces. The dancers are already here, all the first phase will consist of moving their dance spaces to public areas. The second phase will be getting the project to be financially sustainable. My idea is to 'market' the dancers and the dance groups to perform at events, brand activations etcetera. We charge a fee, and this will cover stipends for the performers, transports costs, other sundry costs and money to keep the company financially stable. I propose to organise performances and events in the public spaces within the city that would be viable to host these performances (rooftops, corporate squares, public parks, green lungs). The idea behind this project is to offer a platform for dancers to be seen by the public. Dance is a public phenomenon, the dancer requires the audience to validate their dance, to become a part of the performance. I want to use this project to give youth a creative way to express themselves, enjoyed by the public. For some people, dance is what defines them, if we can provide a platform for dancers to be validated and appreciated, I believe that we can provide a place for dancers' self-esteme to grow.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

I do believe that while there are many urban and youth development projects in Johannesburg and in the country, there are few, if any, that focus on urban dances and performance type sports in giving the youth in the city one way of improving their environments for themselves. I feel this is a powerful method, opposed to the usual reliance on outside structures; youth can develop ways of keeping the city clean and safe in ways that fit in with the ebb and flow of city life. I hope to develop a strong supporting network with Joburg City Council, Joburg Parks and existing dance companies in the city. The councils could prove challenging if they feel that I am encroaching on their territory. I do feel that by embracing dance, something that so many young South Africans love, as a way of improving inner city life, and perceptions of the inner city, will be well received among dancers and pedestrian/audiences.


Can we use dance as a means of place making? Who has ever danced in a public space?

Hello Lauren,
Yes, dance is used for placemaking often in the US, but frequently those who craft the dance are then moved out once the place has been stabilized by their moves. Actually, this also happened in Salvador Bahia-Brasil with Olodum, a carnaval group that brought real change to the neighborhood Pelourinho. Once they stabilized the area, most of their followers were priced out of their residences, especially since UNESCO granted the neighborhood a Cultural Heritage designation.

All that said, I would be keen to put you in touch with OvaSoul7 aka d. Sabela Grimes, if don't already know him. He's danced with Rennie Harris and run projects in Philadelphia.

As for myself, I do dance projects in public spaces. Have a look at Be in touch!