NAIROBI VISIT BY LEONORE Baulac - “What Dance Can Do”




We were blessed this year in Kibera by the visit of Leonore Baulac an “etoile” and principal dancer with the Paris Opera ballet company. This visit was made possible by a partnership between Anno’s Africa and “What Dance Can Do” a Zurich based organization who promote access to dance for under privileged children and young adults in various parts of the world.    Leonore came for 8 days with Aurelia Sellier, the founder of What Dance Can Do and spent time both with the children in their programme and with our Kenyan dance teachers.

Leonore taught ballet to the children from the KAG and Spurgeons School every day for 3 hourly sessions, helping them with the RAD Grade work as well as choreographing some creative dances especially designed for the children to perform at the next gala.  

 It was very moving to watch Leonore working in the slums with these children of varying abilities and experience – and witnessing the gentle and loving encouragement she gave to all of them.

  There were two teenage boys in the class and around 30 girls ranging from age 10 to 16.  Mary, who has passed Grade 5 in the RAD exam was given time off from her secondary school in Nakuru to assist in the classes and Leonore took a special interest in her, hoping to help her attend a   European dance school when she finishes her secondary education in two years’ time, so that she can train as a teacher in both ballet and contemporary dance. Leonore is also very keen to help two remarkably talented young eleven year olds to go to a summer school in Paris and is working on finding a way to achieve this.

Watch the video by Andrew Birkin here

We will be posting some film footage of Leonore teaching on youtube very soon. Watch this space for the link…



Hayley Mills who has been a Trustee for Anno’s Africa since its inception, went to Nairobi in January with Bee Gilbert to observe the Anno’s Africa programme in action and to teach the drama group in Kibera.  Andrew Birkin also joined them for a week to film Hayley’s visit which started with a screening of her first film, “Tiger Bay “at the Alliance Française cinema.  The performance was attended by around 40 children from the drama and creative writing groups as well as some of their teachers and a few Kenyan friends of the charity.

Hayley then worked with Godi and Babu – two of our drama teachers and also with Vivian Mtinde – one of the students from Anno’s Africa who has just finished secondary school and has joined the team as a trainee teacher.

Hayley had been expecting around 20 children but ended up with double that number as every child in the drama class was desperate to be involved. The group worked in the garden of the new art centre space and had a wonderful and inspiring time, ending the course with the children themselves enacting a scene from Tiger Bay.  Hayley was very moved by the experience of spending time with these talented and affectionate children. When she left they all felt very bereft and begged her to come back again – which I am sure she will do!

We will be posting some footage of Hayley’s vist on youtube very soon - so watch this space for the link.


Dor Mamalia, also an ambassador from What Dance Can Do, is  a contemporary/modern dancer and  choreographer who has performed and taught all over the world. He  came to Kibera for 6 days to work with the traditional African dance class – experimenting with various forms of creative movement. The children absolutely loved him and teachers Consolata and her young trainee teacher were extremely excited by Dor’s input and will be using the dance skills he taught in their classes from now on – especially with regard to the choreography for the new musical they are preparing.  The children went wild for this experience and have been asking when Dor will be returning! We all hope it will be some  time  in the near future.



Aurelia Sellier, the founder of “What Dance Can Do” also worked with a small group of teenagers, assisted by Kades our creative writing teacher, on a programme promoting confidence, self-awareness, leadership and general well- being.  This is the basis of Aurelia’s own work with adults but her first time working with such young people.  We are sure that her sessions will really benefit the kids in her small group who are mostly in their last year at primary school and about to move on from our Arts programme into secondary education where these life skills will make a huge difference to them attaining their goals.


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On 7th July 2019 we held a ballet Gala at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi with seven visiting international dancers coming to perform on behalf of the charity.  They had generously crowd funded their own trip in order to raise funds for our new Arts Centre in Kibera.  This event was organized by Nick Jones who had come out in January with his girlfriend Julia Begua and taught our children alongside our head of dance, Anna Nygh. 

 The Alliance Francaise  kindly gave  us the  outdoor space for free and also organized a photographic exhibition of some of  the famous iconic pictures of our ballet children  taken by Fredrik Lerneryd  in the foyer –  with all sales  profits to go to Anno’s One Fine Day,  the new CBO we have formed to run the programmes in Kenya,   

With the clothes we had taken out with us to Nairobi we were able to put together beautiful costumes for all of the children who were to participate in a curtain raiser before the main event. The traditional music and dance children performed   also and the evening was MC’s by Larry Asego – a well-known Actor /stand up from Nairobi.

It was decided that any money we made at the Gala would not come to Anno’s Africa but go straight to the Arts centre and in addition to making money on the tickets for the show we also created a mock up “wall” so people could buy a brick on which we wrote their name and they will be similarly acknowledged on the wall of the building itself when it is complete

During the week’s run up to the performance the dancers worked with the kids every day as well as practicing for their own show.   The kids learning experience was made extra special for a group of 10 of the advanced children who were invited to spend a day at the Alliance studio for some  one-to- one sessions  with the professionals.  We also held extensive daily rehearsals with Anna, so that by the time the children performed on the 7th they were really confident.  Anna was really delighted with the poise and accuracy of their performance and said they did her especially proud with their beautiful feet – as well as all being so perfectly in time.  


We also held extensive daily rehearsals with Anna, so that by the time the children performed on the 7th they were really confident.  Anna was really delighted with the poise and accuracy of their performance and said they did her especially proud with their beautiful feet – as well as all being so perfectly in time.

The show began at 5.00pm as night was falling, starting with the children’s performances - music, followed by traditional dance and then, after  a short interval,  our seven visiting dancers, in their amazing costumes, performed extracts from well-known ballets, either as pas de deux or solos, ending with some modern choreography of their own.  The children were enthralled and at the end of the performance Nick invited the ballet children back onto the stage and they all performed the “Reverance” together and curtseyed and bowed to rapturous applause from the audience.  

This sight of the professional dancers with their arms around our children, who had worked so hard and performed so beautifully, was incredibly moving.    This kind of liaison sets a really exciting precedent for the future with all seven dancers longing to come back - and Nick, Julia and Kiara talking about returning in January 2019 when they have their break from their stint with Les Grands Ballet Canadiens in Montreal.   

As a result of the Gala we are now more than ever determined to give our Kenyan children all the support they need to advance their ballet schooling.  To this end we have been discussing with the dancers and some of our ballet school contacts in London, the possibility of organizing some summer school visits to Europe for the older children and for qualified teachers to come out during the year to hold particular classes in classical and contemporary ballet for all of the kids in the programme.    We are also hoping that the older dancers in the group can continue their advanced classes at the Dance Centre Kenya where  a number of them they have been lucky enough to have been sponsored to go twice a week  and to take their RAD examinations  thanks to Cooper Rust’s charity Artists 4 Africa. 


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bee's Report & newsletter re Nairobi visit, January 2018

Ballet teacher Mike Wamaya has now left Anno’s Africa to pursue his own career and has been replaced by Mischael Victor Okumo – known as Mish, who trained and taught with Cooper Rust at the Dance Centre Kenya.

Our head of ballet, Anna Nygh, has just spent three weeks in Nairobi, training Mish and also two new trainee ballet teachers, Joseph and Atullo in the RAD grades and general teaching skills. So we now have a wonderful team of three trainers for the ballet which is very exciting, with Mish teaching advanced and Joseph and Atullo  pre-primary,  primary and Grade one. Their involvement will prove invaluable as the numbers of new students wanting to take part in the ballet programme has quadrupled over the last two years.    

Anna was delighted  to be joined  for one week in Kenya by two wonderful professional ballet dancers, Nick Jones  and Julia Bergua, from the Ballet de Rhin in Strasbourg France, who helped  her to train  and also introduced  the three Kenyan teachers  to various personal training techniques  as well as teaching them basic “ Pas de deux”…

 Julia and Nick are currently fundraising to bring a charitable European/ African dance gala to Nairobi and the children we work with. You can read more about and support their exciting proposal here.

We have around 40 children at KAG who have been attending classes with us for 2/3 years (the older children having moved to secondary school) and around 27 in the new class - with 30 more waiting to join.  At Spurgeons we have around  35 experienced  children – with 10 of these  going to advanced classes at DCK and taking their RAD  examinations  up to Grade 4/5,  plus we have 35 children at Valley View in Mathare  who have been with us for several years – along with   further 25 new students  in that school also . We also have around 40 kids studying ballet in Nakuru as well, so all in all there are approximately 190 kids in all who are experiencing the joy of ballet training.

We are all extremely happy with the progress of this new ballet programme – and of course the amazing publicity we received this last year through UNICEF and the various media clips on Al Jazeera, CNN and The Guardian Face book clip (over 17 million views) means that we now have enough ballet clothes and shoes to make sure every single dancers is equipped with the essential dance wear – with lots to spare.    

And whilst in Nairobi Bee also made sure all the disciplines had any new materials and equipment they needed so they can continue their classes well supplied. All these other classes are going very well and the participating kids will be rehearsing the new Musical that the performing arts and circus team have created, after the Easter holidays.  This will then be ready to perform at the opening of the new Anno’s Africa/One Fine Day Children’s Arts Centre which we hope to have up and running by the autumn.

We have also re-commenced the Nakuru programme at Rain Edge Primary School which is funded by Cooper Rust's American based foundation, Artists for Africa. We have also had seven  girls and one boy at their new secondary school, all being sponsored by friends of Anno’s Africa.

Finally, Anna Nygh was so inspired by our “Let’s Make a ballet in a Day” – where  she choreographed a short ballet for 85 children, that she  is now in the process of  creating a full length children’s ballet for our Christmas fund raising show in Nairobi.     

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Visit our gallery page to view our full collection of Malawi 2017 images

In September 2017 ANNO’S AFRICA – in association with CIMERA CONTEMPORARY CIRCUS AND ARTS from North Wales, completed an educational performing arts programme with two state schools in Nkhata Bay Northern Malawi; Kalambwe CP and Mkondezi CP.  The programme consisted of a week of adult training and development work (with local arts professionals who had been selected from last year’s pilot project in Mzuzu and Usisiya)   followed by two weeks working with the kids in the schools and a final performance from both setsof children. The last week was spent in Mzuzu setting up a sustainable curriculum for the Malawian team to follow over the next year.

Prior to commencing the training the Malawian artists, led by James (drama) Emmanuel (music and dance) Hassan (circus skills) and Bilton (art) had identified 4 local trainees and 8 teachers from the two schools who also participated in the adult training. 

The dedicated workshops began on September 23rd and were organized by a team from the UK led by Bee, with Jarek teaching drama and directing the shows, Kate, imaginative circus, creative writing and theatre design, Iago and Alex, circus skills and Poppy and Lia, visual art. This group then supported their Malawian counterparts over the next two weeks with day long classes in the various disciplines which revolved around the creation of a theatrical/musical/circus piece exploring the themes of migration and identity through the tale of a Cuckoo’s return home to Malawi from North Wales.

250 children participated with ages ranging from whose 7 to 17 years old. They were all given a midday meal of rice, beans, vegetables and soft drinks which they really appreciated since it was the school holidays so no world food programme was operating for them at that time. 

Over the final weekend we held public performances at both schools where parents, guardians, education officers and members of the community turned out in large numbers and really enjoyed the show - and the Malawian artists experienced the exciting process of creating and producing a piece of integrated theatre from start to finish.

Through talking to the Malawian team it is our understanding that Northern Malawian artists lack the opportunity to participate in professional theatre but it is clear that the desire to develop a style of theatre that combines with existing Malawian performance culture is undoubtedly there. Anno’s Africa has therefore decided to support a home grown organisation that is committed to developing both visual and performing arts in the region. This organisation will be called Anno’s Africa Malawi and the team will conduct outreach arts programmes in and around Mzuzu and Nkhata Bay. They have been supplied with all the equipment and materials that they will need by Anno’s Africa for twice monthly workshops.

The group are developing their own vision under the umbrella of Anno’s Africa and looking at ways in which they can generate their own sources of income through public performances and official support from the education authorities. Bee has been and will continue to work closely with James on the administration and structure of future programmes, and the other European professionals will continue to support the Malawian team as and when needed. 

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Report for Anno’s Africa pilot programme in Malawi, 2016

Overall, our pilot project in Northern Malawi went very well.  We partnered up withthe Bristol based NGO, Temwa, who run many varied projects in Northern Malawi, amongst which are some youth and health education programmes where they felt our charity remits could allow us to combine forces.

For this pilot project they set us up with four schools, where we engaged with a total of 450 children who took part in two fortnight long programmes in Art, Drama, Music, Dance and Acrobatics/Circus skills.  These classes were held in the afternoons on weekdays, from around 1.30 Pm until 5.00 pm and all day on Saturdays.  The children were fed a midday meal each day and fruit squash at the end of the classes.

The programme ran from June 11th until July 10th.  Our teaching team from Kenya arrived safely by road from Nairobi, although they were a few hours late after being held for 4 hours at the border with Tanzania by officials wanting bribes. We too were also a day late as our bags didn't make it through from London to Lilongwe, via Nairobi and didn’t arrive in Malawi until the next day. This meant we had to stay overnight in Lilongwe and were therefore half a day late starting the classes.  But due to the efficient prior organization from Fishani Msafiri for Temwa, we were able to make up the time and plunge straight in without too much preamble.


Usisya on the lake shore

Usisya on the lake shore

We all met up in Mzuzu, spent one night there and then headed to the village of Usisya on the lake shore. It was a fairly rough drive over deeply rutted roads and along a final rather treacherous cliff path - but we made it in three and a half hours, in two vehicles, heavily loaded, one with 50 live chickens strapped on top of the bags on the roof, for the children's food. (The live goats came later and were bought locally!) We had hired a seven seater four wheel drive Pajero from Lilongwe for transport for the Anno’s Africa team – rather expensive but not by Malawian standards apparently - but we would not have managed the roads without it.  Temwa helped out by loaning their land-rover and driver to deliver (and later collect) the extra luggage and the Malawian trainers to and from the Usisya valley.

For the workshops we had asked all of the schools to arrange for 20 to 25 children in each class (Art, Circus and Drama) with 50 in the combined music and dance group. Of course other children asked to join in so we had a few more than planned in some groups and there was very little drop off which surprised us. The children at the Lake Shore spoke virtually no English in spite of the fact we had been assured that they did all their schooling and exams in English! But it seems they generally copy from the blackboard and learn things parrot fashion with no real understanding of the grammar and practical use of the language. This lack of language posed a few problems as it meant we all had to use our Temwa teachers and the two peer educators who had been allocated per class by Temwa as translators, which was okay but not ideal as everything took twice as long to communicate. But everyone rose to the challenge – although for Jarek (our drama teacher from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama) it was certainly a baptism of fire. After a somewhat difficult first day he had to re-think his planned programme but he managed to overcome the hurdles and he and Kades – and Malawian actor/trainer James who was working with them - held some brilliant classes and taught the children so much about drama and how to use humour and make it all fun. Before getting involved with Anno's Africa the children had predominately seen or participated in drama sessions based on health education, particularly with regard to HIV and how to avoid infection. So our drama course became something rather different for them, with the emphasis on improvisation, trust games and non- verbal theatre. This made it a really creative and enjoyable experience and the children loved the classes. It was a huge pleasure for us at the end of workshop when they performed their very funny and original sketches for the show-case day and had all the children (and adults) in the audience convulsed with laughter.

Music and Dance, led by Abdulla (Lulu) and Consolata, from Kenya, proved to be a great favourite (as always) and Emmanuel, the Malawian musician whom Temwa had found for us, was a great asset.  Here again the peer educators were a valuable addition to the classes and joined in enthusiastically.  The music and dance kids' performance at the open day finale combined contemporary dance with traditional Kenyan and Malawian steps. The choir learnt songs composed by out Kenyan musicians as well as some Malawian favourites and the Kenyan classic welcome song, “Jambo Bwana” which everyone loved and all joined in singing... 

Consulata and Lulu have been teaching with us for 10 years now and know just how to excite and engage these children so it was a joy to sit in on their classes and see these extremely talented children learning so fast and having such fun in the process.

The circus children too achieved so much in the two week programme, thanks to Irush, our Anno’s Africa teacher from Kenya and his Malawian co-trainer, Hassan. These kids always drew an excited crowd when practising the acrobatics, aerial silks and tightrope and hugely impressed the other children and the community when they performed at the open day events.

Joni, our experienced art teacher from the UK, did a spectacular job with her group, following the foundation art course that she had devised in Nairobi. The kids started with colour mixing, as they had never used paints before in the Lake Shore schools (and in the Uplands schools too, only a handful had ever had access to colours and brushes). After making colour wheels and learning how to create more colours from the basic primaries, they then progressed to painting, pastels and mono-printing as well as marbling which they used to make beautiful covers for their sketchbooks that they adapted from old cardboard boxes and which they were so proud to display at the final showcase.

The fact that it gets dark every night at 6 pm (and light at 6am) all year round  at the Lake where there was no electricity,  made it hard to do much preparation in the evenings so we tended to rise early - with the dawn in fact - in order to keep on top of things and plan the lessons .

We were rather disappointed in the general lack of involvement from the teachers from the schools in Usisya as we had hoped they might be inspired to join in and become a part of the programme - but it was not to be.  However, thanks to the beautiful location, and the great advantage of Temwa having a base there and allowing us to use the community hall they had built in the village, it was a very enjoyable and productive couple of weeks. And the children were lovely and desperate for us to come back, of course…


mgzola school in the uplands

mgzola school in the uplands

Two weeks at the Uplands schools followed the Lake Shore programme and for this we based in Mzuzu which is - at 4,000 feet above sea level, quite a different climate – (it is renowned for being the wettest part of Malawi!) It was pretty cold at night in our tents and cloudy and cool during the day. But fortunately the heavy rains held off so the roads to the villages were not too treacherous, although we still had hour long drives there and back each day.

We felt extremely welcome in the uplands and found the kids to be more confident and inventive than those at the lake – especially at Chikwina School. But the big difference was that in both Uplands schools we had huge support from the headmasters, the teachers and the community in general so it was a very different atmosphere to Usisya, with teachers actively participating in classes and wanting to learn so that they could carry on the programme. Here the kids were a little more sophisticated than their peers by the lake and did better in exams and Chikwina and Mgzola, although still pretty isolated, had notably higher teaching standards and some kids here did speak English - especially those whose parents were fluent and taught them the language at home.

The schools in both upland areas are all brick built but very dark inside the classrooms so in the Drama classes took place outside under the trees and Circus also had perfect outdoor situations for Ariel silks and for the tightrope, so conditions were pleasant and the noisier classes didn't disrupt the quieter ones. 

The workshops followed the same pattern as in Usisya but we could only do a performance in one of the schools as they were too far apart to link for the Saturdays as we had done by the lake. So we chose Chikwina for the main final performance as it is also the best “sustainability” pilot school for the future classes to be run by Temwa.  However at Mgzola School we did still manage to have a smaller open day at the end of the run where the kids performed for their friends in the other classes as well the school teachers too - so they too got a chance to show what they had achieved.   

At the end of the workshops we gave all the participating children certificates confirming they had attended the classes and reached the standard expected of them. We also gave similar certificates to the Malawian artist/teachers and peer educators, confirming their training and support during the Anno’s Africa programme. We have found these documents to be very important acknowledgements in the other regions in Africa where we work and are regarded highly by children and adults alike as they really can make a difference to work and further education applications. 


We would like to return to Malawi next year for a further set of workshops, but if this is to be viable it is vital that Temwa organizes a sustainability programme in the interim. This should take the form of classes once a week in one of the schools in the uplands as well as some kind of weekly arts/creativity youth club at the lake shore so that all the children  who participated will stay engaged until we can return.  Anno’s Africa and Temwa will be getting together to discuss this in September but meanwhile we have left a plentiful supply of art materials,  circus equipment and safety crash mats, plus a set of drums for music and dance so the schools have all that they need practically for the classes to continue until we go back.

We very much appreciated the support from our partners, One Fine Day on this project as they not only helped with some of the funding for the programme but also released the Kenyan trainers from their Nairobi teaching commitments for over four weeks.

We would also like to offer our sincere thanks to Claudie Pierlot for their generous donations to Anno's Africa.  The Malawi programme was funded mainly from their contribution and we - and the children who participated, are extremely grateful to them.