Kids find freedom in gumboot dancing

Thabiso Mapalane teaching Grade 3 pupils how to do gumboot dancing at Heideveld Primary School

Pupils at a Heideveld primary school are learning to gumboot dance and play the marimba, thanks to a Clareinch-based non-profit that teaches music to children living in some of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Heideveld Primary School does not have a music programme, so MusicWorks visits on Thursdays, teaching gumboot dancing to Grade 3s in the morning and marimba to Grade 7s in the afternoon.

One of the instructors, Thabiso Mapalane, says gumboot dancing helps the pupils express themselves freely.

“The main reason we do gumboots is for learners to have their own space where they feel like they are free. When they are in the gumboots class, it’s their way of showing that ‘I am here’ because it’s a place where they all show themselves.”

The MusicWorks team has been visiting the school for seven years, and school principal Rosdien Desai welcomes the positive effect the programme has had on the pupils. “MusicWorks gives the children another outlet, over and above sports and it also links to the curriculum in life orientation in Grade 3,” Mr Desai said.

“Children love what they are doing, and it takes them away from a formal setting to an informal setting where they engage with music. They’ve got rhythm, they love the music, and they learn.”

MusicWorks instructor Mark Williams said the group’s music therapy programme helped young children in hospital and another programme helped with early childhood development.

“It helps adults to develop young people with music,” he said.

MusicWorks, which started in 2002, also works with children at City Mission Educational Services in Athlone, Nazareth House in the City Bowl, Prince George Primary School in Lavender Hill and the Friends Day Centre in Maitland.