A South African ballet dancer from a poor township outside Cape Town has been given the chance to train in the United States — all because of a documentary film, and an email from a caring viewer. “Ghetto Ballet” is a documentary that chronicles the lives of four young ballet dancers living in one of the poorest towns on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa.

The film shows the dancers vying for two coveted spots in a local dance company that could be their ticket out of poverty. The film’s director, Jeremy Simmons, told CNN he felt compelled to tell their story. “The kids were amazing,” he said. “I knew after that first day that these kids would speak to a broader audience. They had incredible personalities; they were so open and honest and talented. I was blown away.”

One of the four dancers featured in the movie was Sibahle Tshibika. In the film, she is seen failing to make the cut for the dance company — the end of her dream, or so she thought. I was so hurt inside and I thought I would never be able to be a dancer again.–Sibahle Tshibika, ballet dancer

“I was hurt, and I thought that was the end of me,” Tshibika told CNN. “I was so hurt inside and I thought I would never be able to be a dancer again.” But after the film was recently screened on the HBO channel in the United States, viewer Rosemary Ringer was so moved by Tshibika’s plight, she wrote to her local ballet company asking them to take up Tshibika’s cause. “After watching it, I was so overwhelmed by the circumstances of the dancer, Sibahle, and the environment she was raised in,” Ringer told CNN. “She lived in the shanties, the poverty-stricken shanties, but she had a desire far beyond the reach of her environment.


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