Ballet star sets sights on the UK

Emily Fortuin, 14, far left, and Faahkir Bestman, 16, far right, both members of the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts, have submitted their audition videos for the Royal Ballet School in England. With them are, the Eoan Groups Abeedah Medell, and internationally acclaimed former Scottish principal dancer, Vincent Hantam. Mr Hantam trained Faahkir to prepare for his audition.

Hanover Park’s ballet sensation, Faahkir Bestman, 16, is so close to fulfilling his lifelong dream of joining the Royal Ballet School in England – all he needs to do is submit a video for his audition.

To help prepare for his audition, internationally acclaimed ballet dancer, Vincent Hantam, 63, who has a similar background to the teen, came to assist.

Mr Hantam, who grew up in Ocean View and now lives in Scotland, offered up part of his Cape Town holiday to train Faahkir for his video audition, which is due today, Wednesday January 8. Today also happens to be Faahkir’s birthday.

Faahkir joined the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts as a nine-year-old and has been claiming accolades since then (“Teen ballet dancer does a jeté to the top”, Athlone News, May 3 2017).

Five years ago, Faahkir was part of the Royal Ballet Summer School, and he also performed in New York as part of the American Academy of Ballet Summer School.

He is currently a pupil at the National School of Arts in Johannesburg, having received a bursary.

Just like Mr Hantam, Faahkir was raised by his grandmother.

The former Scottish principal dancer, Mr Hantam was born in Ceres, then his family moved to his grandmother in Simon’s Town, before being forcibly moved by the apartheid government to Ocean View.

He said everybody knew each other in Simon’s Town, and most were involved in some form of dancing, including his aunts and cousins. It was when he heard that a “white woman” was teaching his relatives, that he became interested in dance. He then trained under Ivy May McDonald for five years, until she secured him a scholarship at the Royal Ballet School. Mr Hantam was 16 years old when he left South Africa on the Pendennis Castle ship in 1973.

At the age of 63, Mr Hantam is a coach, teacher and trainer and still performs occasionally.

“My time with Ivy May McDonald was such an adventure for me. I had everything except a jock strap. What I get from Faahkir is what I got from my teacher – the same excitement. I know he will go far, and I am eternally grateful to be part of his journey. It’s got me all teary. I feel better to give. People have always given to me. It is wonderful that South Africa is overpopulated with talent in different genres, but most are screaming for help. A country without arts is lost,” Mr Hantam said.

The Eoan Group’s director, Abeedah Medell, explained that the connection between Mr Hantam, her organisation and Faahkir, started when Sharon Paulsen, a former Cape Town City Ballet dancer, mentioned to her that she had a friend who could help Faahkir prepare for his audition.

“I am very grateful that Vincent is spending time with Faahkir. I am humbled by his presence. Having positive role models is very important. The rapport and energy they have as teacher and student is so amazing. We have to dream bigger for our students. We have to hand over the baton in order for their talent to grow,” Ms Medell said.

Faahkir said his dream is to study at the Royal Ballet School, to travel, and to perform for Queen Elizabeth.

“I started dancing after I used to watch other children dance in the street. I danced for my sister, who is wheelchair-bound, and she enjoyed it. It was only after I joined the Eoan Group that I realised I could make a career of dance. I have such a connection with ballet – more than any other dance form – it opens my mind,” Faahkir said.

Another Eoan Group dancer, Emily Fortuin, 14, from Plumstead, also has an audition with the Royal Ballet School. She has been with the Eoan Group since the age of seven.

“I am so nervous about the audition. I dream about travelling the world and I believe dance can open that opportunity up for me. I just have this feeling that I can’t really describe when I dance,” Emily said.

Ms Medell said dance students like Emily and Faahkir are encouraged to volunteer at the Eoan Group, either as teachers or choreographers. This is their way of giving back.

The video audition for the Royal Ballet School in England must include barre work (five minutes maximum), showing a full range of movements; centre practice (five minutes maximum); allegro (five minutes maximum), which includes one enchaînment of grand allegro (including tours en * ’air for male applicants). Allegro is the term used to describe all movement combinations that are done at a fast tempo and require agility and precision from the dancer. In ballet, it is normally associated with jumping combinations, in which the feet and legs must move very fast, but the arms and torso must show tranquillity and grace.

Faahkir will know later this month whether his application was successful.