WATCH | 'When I dance I feel at peace': Talented SA dancer pleads for funding to attend US college
Ayabonga Mani has been accepted to Circle in the Square Theatre in New York
The phenomenal talent of Ayabonga Mani, 19, the son of a domestic worker in Somerset West, has seen him accepted to a top classical dance programme in the US. However, it doesn’t come cheap: it costs an estimated $40,000 (about R670,000), according to Mani.
The dancer is appealing for financial support to make his dream a reality.
“I had to be honest as a black man who comes from nothing. I am not going to get anywhere without the opportunity, so I need the biggest opportunity possible,” said Mani.
TimesLIVE Video met Mani in Cape Town and he showed us some of his skills.
Mani has been accepted into two prestigious colleges: the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London and the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York, which Mani has chosen to broaden his acting skill set. The highly selective US college has a small student body of about 75 and Mani is one of 12 people selected for the two-year conservatory programme in professional theatre. The institution boosts alumni such as Viola Davis, Lady Gaga and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Despite a partial scholarship and fundraising attempts, without financial assistance Mani doesn’t have enough funds to cover the costs.
“That’s what I’m working on now because that’s the biggest barrier stopping me from going at this point,” he said.
Mani’s passion for the arts began aged 11 when he joined Stagecoach, a performing arts outreach programme for children in Somerset West. Shortly after that, he received the opportunity to travel to London to participate in an amateur production of Seussical: The Musical.
“That was the first time I was surrounded by people who took the arts seriously and I could see it was respected. After that it was cemented in me that I wanted to do this as a career path,” said Mani.
He has been training at the Jacqui Pells School of Ballet since 2020, participating in daily dance classes and Pilates in addition to rehearsals for performances.
Well-known ballet dancer Tracy Li said over the past three years Mani has grown into a soulful dancer and also has the ability to be a great actor.
“Ayabonga is going to be a very rounded performer and you need that in the performance arts,” she said.
Even with limited time remaining, Mani remains positive that he will soon be jetting off to New York. “I'm very hopeful that someone is going to be generous enough to help sponsor me so I can make this a lifelong dream,” he said.
Should you would like to support Mani, contact him at email@example.com.
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