Winner – congratulations Cooper!
Cooper Rust is a former professional ballet dancer from the USA who has taken her love of ballet to East Africa where she inspires students through her love of the arts.
Ms. Rust co-founded Dance Centre Kenya in Nairobi in 2015. DCK provides top-level dance training to interested students, regardless of their economic background. The scholarships provided to students unable to pay tuition includes the fee required for the annual RAD examinations.
Recognising that many students would be unable to access studio training even with assistance, Ms. Rust founded and serves as executive director of the US charity Artists For Africa which provides funding for free arts classes, including ballet, drama, music and creative writing, to the children in Kenya. With an enrolment of 600 students at DCK and 1200 students in the A4A program, Ms. Rust is living her personal dream to touch as many lives as possible through dance.
Irma founded and ran her own school and special needs group for 19 years in Mexico, where she is originally from. Some of her special needs alumni achieved RAD Children Examination. Irma is currently working on launching the Inclusive Ballet Project to promote inclusive culture.
After a move to Miami in 2017, she was invited to join Area Stage Company founded by Maria Banda Rodaz as Inclusion Theatre Project Coordinator (ITP), dance instructor and choreographer for the program. ITP is a non-profit organisation that offers musical theatre training for students with disabilities.
The program serves 250 students across South Florida, with coaches travelling to local partner schools to provide lessons to individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore and develop their abilities through the arts. ITP currently serves and ASC after-school program for students free of charge. Students present multiple performances and many community events each year.
Abeedah Medell is the principal and ballet teacher at the Eoan Group, the oldest community arts organization in South Africa (est.1933) in Athlone, Cape Town.
She holds a Diploma in Ballet from the University of Cape Town and the RAD Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies.
The EOAN motto “We live to serve” has been the foundation of her work within the community schools needing choreographic, costume and technical support. The organization became more accessible to the surrounding communities by hosting annual charitable programs and performances. These continuous community connections increased the annual membership to over 500 students with the ballet department in the majority.
Scholarships and Trainee Programs were available to students who displayed leadership in community service and their commitment to the arts. In 2011, she launched the Theatre Company for professional dancers and the Academic Centre in January 2020. Abeedah is a recipient of the Western Cape Cultural Affairs and Sport Award for the best contribution to performing arts in Dance 2014/2015.
For Victoria, there is nothing more moving than young dancers achieving their dreams. As a ballet teacher in Mexico City, she confronts many severe challenges: scarce funding, government institutions threatening to close schools, social and family pressures, street crime, violence and abundant poverty. Yet the vision of succeeding keeps her going and she finds the immense trust, passion and conviction of the children and young people that arrive at the ballet studio deeply moving; they arrive with nothing but hope.
Her response to these challenges was to create Ballet Joven CDMX in 2014; a charity that embraces young dancers and supports financial and educational opportunities. Victoria could not be prouder of the resulting wave of successful benefits and future prospects for her young dancers and strongly believes that Mexico needs to look after young dancers as they create dreams.