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As the Waterfront Theatre College announces national auditions, Delia Sainsbury gives insight into the college and how it all began.
FROM THE BEGINNING by DELIA SAINSBURY
MD, Founder and Director of the Waterfront Theatre College
‘Keith and I came to South Africa in 1978 with a touring production of West Side Story. We fell in love with South Africa and decided to stay and call it home. People thought we were crazy. We had been working in the West End for many years and moving to South Africa seemed to some like professional suicide, but we believed strongly it was the place for us. The rest, as they say, is history’.
‘The irony is I had no intentions of ever teaching but South Africa Immigration would only give us work visas if we agreed to teach. Reluctantly we agreed and started The Dance Workshop in Johannesburg. We provided the odd class to professionals wanting to brush up their skills but very soon our classes were in demand and we expanded The Dance Workshop to create The Waybury ArtsCentre, a full-time educational programme in the performing arts. We ran The Waybury ArtsCentre until relocating to Cape Town in 1992, at the invitation of the newly developed V&A Waterfront, to set up a school for the Performing Arts in Cape Town. We have been here ever since!’
Keith passed away 8 years ago, but Delia remains at the head of The Waterfront Theatre College to this day. ‘Today I enjoy the title of MD and my partner Paul Griffiths and daughter Genna Galloway take care of the day to day details. I have the freedom of playing golf if I want to’ laughs Delia. ‘Not that I ever would! My life is in the college. The students are my kids!’
For many it is a surprise that Delia runs a Performing Arts college, remembering her as a permanent fixture on South African TV screens. ‘I’m an avid-multi tasker’ quips Delia, adding ‘unless I have 100 things going on at once, I’m bored’.
‘The Performing Arts World is a vibrant and busy Industry. Survival in ‘the game’ requires an individual to juggle a range of projects at one time. As a vocational training institution, it is our responsibility to present a schedule which closely mirrors the demands of the industry. When students graduate from our programme they are equipped: they have a versatile toolbox of skills that can be applied to any number of performance opportunities. It is why our graduates do very well. We enable them to transition smoothly into the Industry with a firm foundation of technical ability and enough work experience to ensure they know how to do the job in a wide range of contexts.
Most of our extramural activities take place in professional venues and we provide an internal casting agency that helps to give students external work opportunities whilst studying without interrupting the routine of study. These work opportunities include parts in Film, TV, Corporates and other events. Graduates are helped to transition into the industry through the established network of contacts that we have ensuring that most Graduates are able to leave with a clear sense of where they are going and how they are going to get there. We help to guide students into making sustainable career choices across a range of platforms including Dance Companies, Musicals, Plays, Film, TV, Cruise Lines, Recording Contracts and the list goes on’.
The performing arts industry is often perceived as an industry with limited opportunity. ‘This is nonsense’ argues Delia. ‘The industry presents a number of opportunities to those who possess the skill set to do the job. Our industry is more robust than it has been in years with South African artists able to enjoy employment opportunities both locally and abroad. The key is versatility and level of excellence’. Two things Delia is passionate about. ‘There are various options to learn one’s skills in this country, but prospective learners must be vigilant in ensuring the course of study pursues excellence and offers you a wide range of skills. Don’t put your eggs into ‘one performance style’ basket’ Delia warns.
The Waterfront Theatre College is one of the few remaining institutes in South Africa where one can study more than one aspect of the performing arts under one roof. ‘Our specifically designed curriculum balances training in Dance, Drama and Singing ensuring that our students are viable in a wide range of performance genres’. ‘Our students can also study teaching in Dance, Drama and Singing at the same time. This furthers their professional viability as they can attain qualifications in both performance and teaching’. ‘We have a number of students who step into teaching and enjoy International Teaching careers thanks to our International Accreditation’.
‘The Waterfront Theatre College motto ‘Higher’ is what inspires us’ concludes Delia. ‘The Performing Arts offers wonderful opportunities for those determined to push themselves to be the best they can be. We are confident our programme provides the skill set to achieve one’s potential in a learning environment that is as close an experience to the real world as possible’.