One of the oldest dance forms in South Africa is making a comeback. And one of the people driving the renaissance is troupe manager and dance coach Floris Smith.
‘Our Riel project started with 24 dancers but is now 70 dancers strong,’ says Smith, who works as executive chef and deputy general manager at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg. ‘It is only a handful, but these 70 dancers are part of something that keeps them busy after school, over weekends, and school holidays.’
More than that, the project keeps the youngsters inspired, motivated and away from negative influences that could be harmful. Because there is not much for children to look forward to after school or over weekends, it has also brought the community closer and instilled a sense of pride among its members.
‘The project also goes hand in hand with a lot of emphasis on academics for those still in school,’ Smith says. ‘Discipline, rules and regulations are also in place. We set out to motivate the children to work hard, and train hard.’
Die Nuwe GrasKoue Trappers, one of Smith’s groups, made it into the top five (out of 86) in the ATKV Annual Riel Dance Championships in 2012, winning the Junior Championship prize in 2013. And now that they have won gold in the Ethnic Folk Category at 2014’s SA Championships of Performing Arts, they’ll be representing the country at the World Championships of Performing Arts in California later this month (made possible by their major sponsor Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat).
‘Coming from the rural community of Wupperthal, we are so proud,’ Smith says. ‘For me and for everyone that has supported us along the way, it is just the most amazing feeling; a proud feeling of making a difference.’