From running with chickens to flying with legends: The makings of a dance icon

 
 
 

Glenda Jones twirled across the expanse of dust and grass. Her stage: the playgrounds in the Cape Flats. “I danced with the trees and I would run with the chickens,” she says. It was an attempt to break away from the chains of oppression that bound her community. On Sundays, Jones would turn her garden into a make-shift theatre, charging the neighbours five cents to view her home-based productions. Watching her grow in stature and skill inspired others to join in. “I could see that what they were going through was transforming them,” Jones says. “It took them out of their poverty cycle while they were dancing.”

In 1999, Jones founded the Afrika Ablaze Dance Company out of the same backyard. To this day, all she requires for admission is an unshakeable love for dance. Each student that takes the stage receives special attention to cultivate their natural style of dance, singing, and acting. Jones’ devotion to dance has unfurled into performances across the country. Productions such as When Cranes Cry question humanity and where it’s going. Her vision is to create work that counters unreachable standards of beauty.

From humble backyard beginnings, Jones progressed to dancing before former president, Nelson Mandela. Continuing his legacy of radical inclusivity, every member of her troupe gets to perform irrespective of their differences. “If you do become some sort of reject because you don’t fit in with humanity’s idea of perfection, I think you are probably in the healthiest place on earth,” Jones says. “Because now you can fly, you can jump, you can land.” Her work is an authentic representation of South Africa on every stage.