Feature: Dance school transforms young minds in Namibia

  • World
  • Friday, 02 Jun 2023

WINDHOEK, June 1 (Xinhua) -- A dance studio in Windhoek, Namibia's capital, crackled at youngsters' energetic stomps and movements in artistic costumes. They made dance a dazzling spectacle.

"One more take but this time with more liveliness. Focus and manage your steps," heeded Stanley Mareka, dance instructor and founder of Equipped Dance Academy. The academy is transforming contemporary dance in Namibia by grooming young talent. It melds theory, practice, modernity, African music, and culture to shape young minds in Windhoek.

"Youth is a vessel, and I vowed to groom young talent," Mareka said Thursday.

According to Mareka, dance is not given adequate attention in Namibia, and he hopes to bridge the skills deficit in the arts fraternity in the country.

"Although under-utilized, the creative sector provides fertile ground for opportunities for youth empowerment and development," said Director of Arts in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture M'kariko Amagulu.

A performance-based lesson could involve over ten moves in 30 seconds. The youngsters also undergo comprehensive physical and mental training to promote self-expression and gain valuable life skills.

"I am training the youngsters to understand today's lifestyle, and I make them understand how the world works," Mareka said.

The academy has trained more than 500 solo and group dancers since its inception in 2002. It was progressively registered as a business with the Namibian Trade Ministry in 2011.

Mareka also complements training efforts with knowledge acquired from art and theatrical studies in dance completed at the Dance Academy Balance 1 in Berlin, Germany. He has captivated world stages and boasts accolades, including the Dance Africa Championship in 2008, a title he defended for three years.

The sustainability of the academy is rooted in its strategic partnership with the corporate sector and a contribution of 350 Namibian dollars (23.51 U.S. dollars) monthly, paid by participants who can afford it.

Many youngsters have lauded the academy for helping them carve talent. Mareka prepared the youngsters by arranging group stage performances and progressing to solo dance for individuals.

Rejoyce Neema never got a chance to undergo training to improve. Early this year, the 14-year-old joined the Equipped Dance Academy. "In a short space of time, I gained so much. Our trainer helped me overcome stage fright, and I embraced myself. This also helped me at school," said Neema.

Oiva Neshila, aged 22, joined the academy in 2021. What doesn't surprise him is his new ability for dance to shift many aspects.

"Mareka is the best. I have learned teamwork, discipline, and time management, applied to other areas of my life," Neshila said.

In turn, the youngsters also train their peers. "Some are pursuing studies and business interests," Mareka said.

Mareka's vision is to transform dance through education and further curating steps that define distinct dance moves of Namibian contemporary under his well-known stage name, "African Cobra."

"Dance is the joy in steps. It lives on, and young people can maximize it for business or career progression," he concluded.

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