Ballet legend honoured at District Six Museum

Legendary classical ballet teacher Cecil Jacobs, from Strandfontein, and his wife Brenda, at the unfurling of his portrait at the District Six Museum, in the Cape Town city centre, last week.

Legendary ballet teacher Cecil Jacobs was honoured with the unfurling of his portrait at the District Six Museum, in the Cape Town city centre, last week.

Mr Jacobs, 83, has been teaching ballet for almost 60 years.

He and his wife Brenda will take on new students, in their Strandfontein living room, in the new year.

Mr Jacobs and Doreen Martin-Jacobs, nee Akkers, from George, who died at age 101 on June 22, 2022, one of the first non-white city managers in South Africa and a hockey legend, had their banners unfurled on Tuesday December 5.

Museum project manager for oral history, Matthew Nissen said the unfurling was a special occasion in paying tribute to those who came from District Six, who contributed to the area and to its communities.

“District Six is gone but the people are still here. It is our goal to continue to tell their story and make sure their stories are told through the unfurling of banners,” he said.

Mr Jacobs was born at 56 Rutger Street in Cape Town in 1940 and married in 1988 at the alter in the museum, part of which is housed in an old Methodist church.

He has been teaching for 45 year and received was registered with the Royal Ballet at age 20.

Mr Jacobs started teaching at the age of 14 in his family’s dining room, in Bridgetown, where they moved to after being removed from District Six by their apartheid government.

Bridgetown community centre and centres across the municipality were only opened years later.

“The world has changed, children have changed, schools have changed and I’m sorry to say the standard of work has dropped. Languages are in a shocking state,” he said.

He said pupils in matric that he tutors cannot spell the word difficult.

“You can’t sit still and do nothing you become monotonous,” said Mr Jacobs.

He teaches ballet together with his protégé Chanelle Appollis, who excelled in her Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) examination, as part of the Cecil Jacobs Dance Project.

Ms Martin-Jacobs was born in Oxford Street, District 6, near Zonnebloem College, on November 9,1920.

According to the George Herald, she was the first coloured woman in the Cape Town City Housing Council; the first of four females of colour to write and pass their exams as Housing Managers in SA; and worked for the council for 27 years, where she was instrumental in arranging houses for the coloured community.

Ms Martin-Jacobs was also in charge of the Mitchell’s Plain housing development when it came into being.

She helped her niece Cheryl Marks and her family move into their home in Lentegeur, where she still lives today.

Ms Marks said her paternal aunt lived every moment and never thought of being old.

Ms Martin-Jacobs lived in Canada for about two years, before moving to George, where she died and was cared for by Glynis Kuscus.

Ms Kuscus said Ms Martin-Jacobs had written her life experience in District Six by hand in pencil, which she hopes they will transcribe.

  • The Cecil Jacobs Dance Project will resume on Saturday January 27 in Strandfontein and a studio in Schaapkraal. For more information call Ms Jacobs on 082 497 8887.