(Photos) The Rise of Young Ballerinas in Nairobi

From Brazil to South Africa to Nairobi, ballet can be an empowering art form for young children.

In this remarkable set of photographs, Swedish photojournalist Fredrik Lerneryd, captures ballet dancers in one of Africa’s biggest slum, Kibera, perfecting their art despite limited resources.

Aview over Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa,
Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa

Every Wednesday at Spurgeons Academy in Kibera, classical music plays out of a small portable speaker and the class is turned into a ballet bar as youngsters most of whom are girls are taught ballet.

“Ever since I was a kid and watched ballet on our TV, I wanted to dance and one day become a ballerina,” said Pamela, one of the young ballerinas who signed up for the ballet class.

Some of the girls practise a dance routine

Mike Wamaya, a Kenyan native who’s previously worked as a dancer in various European countries, leads these ballet classes. The classes also focus on health, wellness, and self-esteem. Apart from ballet, the children can choose dance, music, creative writing and film.

“Classical ballet is one of the art forms that most transforms a person,” says Wamaya. “Once you are here, you have rules, you have discipline, you have challenges – all are things that you are going to find in your life. Most of these young girls have an educated mind & are looking for a better future, where they know they have options. The majority think: I’m going to get a job near my home, then I’ll be a mother. They don’t leave the walls of the community. I want to show them that the world is large and that there’s a chance for everybody.”

The Ballet Class is part of a program run by UK-based charity, Anno’s Africa and One Fine Days charity activities in slum areas around Kenya.

Young ballerina, Cynthia, who’s part of the creative program believes ballet is like dreaming on her feet…

Mr. Lerneryd, who first discovered these young ballerinas while working on another assignment, has been photographing them as part of an ongoing project.

Follow Fredrik Lerneryd on Instagram and at http://www.fredriklerneryd.com/ 

Pamela practicing ballet outside her family’s house in Kibera.
Mike Wamaya is a former professional dancer. The ballet class was put together by Annos Africa -a charity that helps organize art classes in the slums mostly within Nairobi & Africa on a continental scale.


Halfway into session, they can move freely and freely practice their skills and dance moves.
The mix of classical music, Mike’s voice going, “One, Two, Three, Four!” and the colorful dresses turns the gray, cold room into a real ballet studio.
Cynthia & two boys from the group hand out donated ballet shoes to the rest of the group.

Photography: Fredrik Lerneryd © 2017




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