The ballet stars of Simon’s Town

Simon’s Town has produced three exceptional ballet dancers: Christopher Kindo, Vincent Hantam, and Jack Wyngaard. Despite the challenges of apartheid, they carved their paths in the world of dance. Pictured here is Christopher Kindo. Picture: Simon’s Town Museum.

Three Simon’s Town ballet dancers, Christopher Kindo, Vincent Hantam, and Jack Wyngaard, overcame the injustice of apartheid to leave a lasting impact on the world of dance.

According to the Simon’s Town Museum, Christopher Kindo, who was born on September 12 1955, discovered his love of dance at a young age, growing up in Simon’s Town, dancing with friends on the streets and beaches. This early passion led him to a local youth centre, where a ballet teacher’s support ignited his dream of becoming a professional dancer.

Apartheid prevented people of colour from performing with their white counterparts, and despite graduating as the top student in his class at the UCT Ballet School, Kindo was denied entry into the Cape Performing Arts Board (Capab) due to racial prejudice.

Frustrated but undeterred, Kindo travelled to America, where he joined the Boston Ballet Company. However, his longing for home and a desire to contribute to the fight against apartheid drew him back to South Africa in 1980.

Once back, he co-founded Jazzart, South Africa’s first contemporary dance company.

He joined Capab in 1982 and performed iconic roles, such as Romeo in Veronica Paeper’s Romeo and Juliet.

He was the first person of colour to perform as a principal dancer for Capab.

Kindo’s choreographic piece, Me, which blended classical ballet, contemporary, and jazz, reflected his identity as a South African of diverse origins and earned him the 1991 FNB Vita awards for outstanding male dancer and contemporary choreography.

After a successful career spanning decades, Kindo was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2014. He spent his final days at his brother’s home in Simon’s Town, where he died in 2015 at the age of 59.

Vincent Hantam grew up in the Waterfall Flats in Simon’s Town.

“When I was about 12, I noticed a white woman walking up the road to teach ballet,“ he said, speaking to the Echo from his home in Glasgow, Scotland. ”I was a curious, small kid for my age, so I followed her. She was teaching a ballet class, and they were all girls. I stood outside and watched through the window. Eventually, she beckoned for me to come in, and from that day on, I never stopped dancing.“

In August 1973, Hantam won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London that lasted for three years.

“When I arrived, I was amazed. They were friendly, but they stared at me like I was from another planet because I was the only person with dark skin. And so I was the talking point.“

His talent continued to shine, and in 1975, at the age of 19, he joined the Scottish Ballet, where he stayed until 1991.

“They gave me many opportunities to excel,” he said.

Some of his more legendary roles were as Mercutio and Romeo in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet and the Spirit of The Rose in The Spectre de la Rose.

Spectre de la Rose was a ballet created especially for me by Peter Darrell and Scottish Ballet because they wanted to showcase my abilities. I had to jump and seem as light as air, and I had to land gracefully, like falling petals. It was a glorious experience, and every night was different. You could hear people gasp in awe.

“After that, I performed with prestigious companies like the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company, Hong Kong Ballet Company, London City Ballet, and Northern Ballet in Leeds, England.“

Later he transitioned into teaching and became a sought-after instructor.

“At first, I used to show off in my classes by demonstrating dance moves a lot. But then I realised that I was no longer in this space but a teacher. I still demonstrate, but I emphasise the importance of creating a complete image for the audience.

“It’s not just about looking at yourself in the mirror; it’s about showing the entire picture. The audience can tell if you’re dancing for yourself or for them.”

From 1993 to 1995, Hantam taught at the UCT Ballet School and produced several ballets, including Peter Darrell’s Othello and Garry Trinder’s Pie Jesu. He helped to produce the full three-act ballet, The Sleeping Beauty.

Even at the age of 67, he continues to teach daily in Glasgow and internationally and still loves to perform. His latest show was in August at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Asked why he keeps dancing, he said, “That’s what a ballet dancer does; you dance until you die.”

Born in Simon’s Town, Jack Wyngaard, attended the UCT Ballet School, and a year after leaving, he was accepted into Capab. During five years there, his significant roles included Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty and Franz in Coppélia. He was also Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kay in The Snow Queen and Mercury in Orpheus of the Underworld.

In 1986, he joined the London City Ballet, where he served as a principal dancer for a decade, touring Europe and performing for many audiences.

Wyngaard contracted tuberculosis, but he overcame the illness and made a triumphant return to the world of ballet.

In 1996, he died from a heart attack at the age of 37 at his home in London.

Vincent Hantam, 67, teaches dance lessons daily in Glasgow, Scotland. Picture: Simon’s Town Museum
Christopher Kindo was the first person of colour to perform as a principal dancer for the Cape Performing Arts Board (Capab). Picture: Simon’s Town Museum
Jack Wyngaard was a principal dancer at the London City Ballet for a decade. Picture: Simon’s Town Museum