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SPOTLIGHT: Brigitte Reeve-Taylor talks dance with heart as DANCERS LOVE DOGS take to Baxter stages

Barbara Loots

 

DANCERS LOVE DOGS are back! This time they are bringing the love for our furry friends to the Baxter Theatre. With this showcase dancers collaborate to raise funds for the mass sterilisation of animals in need. This time around they are upping the entertainment value, with not only the gala shows (21 and 22 July), but studio performances (20 and 22 July) too.

DANCERS LOVE DOGS is thrilled to announce its much-anticipated return to the stage after a 3-year hiatus brought about by the pandemic. The highly popular annual fundraiser, taking place from 20 to 22 July at the Baxter Theatre and amplified by the emcee antics of Alan Committie, is presented in aid of the mass sterilisation of homeless hounds and other animals in need including cats, pigs, rabbits, and donkeys. You can expect a spectacular comeback featuring two programs across four performances, with all involved (from dancers to choreographers) giving generously of their time and talent in support of an incredible, worthwhile cause.

The NPO behind the event, also called Dancers Love Dogs, has been raising funds for the sterilisation of dogs and other animals in need since it launched. To date, the dynamic fundraiser has raised over R4 million for the cause and sterilised close to 20,000 animals, and the non-profit continues to strive towards their ultimate goal which is to establish sustainable spay-and-neuter programs in as many areas as possible, to combat the overpopulation of canines and felines which often leads to abandonment and neglect.

Dancers Love Dogs founder, dancer and choreographer Brigitte Reeve-Taylor (BRT), shares some of her passion for this NGO initiative and excitement for the way the theatre community is coming together once again to support it in this latest Spotlight Q&A:


TSCT: Where did the Dancers Love Dogs dream start?


BRT: In 2012 I was driving in rush hour traffic past the airport when I noticed a tiny dog hobbling along the side of the highway, so sick he could hardly keep on his feet. I stopped and with the help of a wonderful man named Manie and two kind gents from the township, we chased him for almost 90 minutes and eventually had him! While driving to the vet (thanks to the kind Dr Siegfried of the Hillside Veterinary Clinic for helping that day), with the mange-ridden dog on my lap I decided I had to make a difference. We called him Miles, the dog who made Dancers LOVE Dogs become a reality. As a dance trainer and choreographer with 43 years in the industry, putting together a dance show seemed the route to go. I have put on so many productions and am comfortable with this as a fund-raising platform. I then called on all of my friends in the dance world and asked them to donate a beautiful piece of choreography and they rallied- from ballerinas, to hip-hop, contemporary, jazz, funk and you-name-it - the industry got behind me and the cause so incredibly.


TSCT: What has been your favourite memory of the show over the years?


BTR: Just knowing the impact of the show is going to assist so many animals in crisis is always a huge highlight for me. I must say Alan Committie, one of my most favourite people, has been so supportive and as Emcee he brings such joy and hilarity to our shows. I love having the SA Guide Dogs (parade) and rescue dogs (hide and seek) as part of the show and it is fantastic to see dogs all around the theatre and foyer at the performance. It creates a different kind of theatre magic, very unusual and makes the reason for the show a reality.

TSCT: What can audiences look forward to at this year’s showcase?


BRT: This year is really different as it is firstly at the Baxter and we decided to make full use of the week given to us to include The Studio Show – where all Dance Academy’s now have the opportunity to perform. Many of the dance studios would never be able to afford the high cost of theatres and this way we provide an opportunity for them to perform on a professional stage. We also have our Gala show which features the professional dance companies – this is our normal annual show. There is a matinee for anyone not wanting to go out in the evening. We have a fabulous variety of dance – ballet, modern, contemporary, Jazz, hip hop, tap, acrobatics and an aerial act. We have a guest singer, Amy Campbell and of course our awesome MC Alan Committie. There are over 500 dancers in both shows and 48 teachers/ choreographers. The SA Guide Dogs will be joining us and James is bringing Jedi who is a very smart search and rescue dog. There will be 20 dogs involved in the production.

TSCT: It's been three years since the last Dancers Love Dogs show. Much like the dedication required to stay committed to the arts throughout the Covid years, it could not have been easy keeping an NGO up and running. What motivated you to keep the dream alive?


BRT: If People trust your work, there is no limit to the support you will receive. During the pandemic we partnered with the National Sterilisation Project (NSP), which has been an unbelievable in helping animals across the country. NSP have raised over a million rand and assisted in over 3000 Sterilisations- they are an invaluable team doing consistently amazing work in communities. NSP’s mission is to target one small geographical area at a time. There is an initial sterilisation project in the designated area, and then a follow-up project within 6 months (within the animals’ breeding cycle) to ensure that a minimum of 70% of the targeted pet population is sterilised in the particular community. Thereafter only maintenance of the area is required. One area at a time, otherwise funding goes into a ‘big hole’ with no significant impact in a larger area. We have been blessed with so many kind people donating which has mostly been used on rural projects for mass sterilisation campaigns. Obtaining our PBO status with a Section 18A was an enormous gift in 2021 as donations become tax deductible. Our greatest wish is to have corporates invest in Dancers Love Dogs in the future. We could not do without the support of our MySchool/MyPlanet/MyVillage supporters. Since we were accepted as beneficiary of the programme, we have raised over R200 000.00. Our supporters have been enormously kind during these 3 years and we have managed to help so many animals through their participation.


TSCT: Why do you think a love for dance and animals make such a perfect pairing to inspire people to support your amazing cause?


BRT: We have all been designed for something greater than ourselves and for us it is animals in need - we love being able to make a difference. I think our success lies in the fact that anyone coming on board to assist is aware there is no payment – this is all done for the love of animals. 100% of the funding goes directly to our vets performing the sterilisations, which makes everyone secure in the knowledge that all of funding is going directly where it is meant to go: for sterilisations and the costs around that. What our audiences love is that they are getting a fabulous evening’s entertainment - incredible dance and with the best Emcee in Alan Committie - and at the same time each one of them is sterilising an animal in need at the cost of a ticket equals the cost of one sterilisation. The dancers get to perform before an enthusiastic, lively audience and to work in a professional theatre which is often a first-time experience for younger dancers in the show. We will also have the SA Guide Dog Association at a stand in the foyer and two search-and-rescue dogs roaming around saying hello to people; a wonderful presence by those who are making a massive difference in the lives of people in need. Every dancer in our show, now running over comes with such a good heart and excitement knowing they are making a difference and our photographers give all their stunning photographs to the dancers as a gift. Everyone in the show is kind and helpful and wonderful to work with. We just seem to have the perfect recipe.

With the upcoming event, audiences can once again expect an astounding variety of dance talent and styles, ranging from hip hop to ballet, tap, jazz, musical theatre, and contemporary. The Gala events (21 & 22 July) will showcase performances by stunning artists from dance schools and companies such as LAMTA, Cape Town City Ballet, Zama Dance School, Figure of 8, Waterfront Theatre School, Jacqui Pells School of Ballet and Gadi Schor Dance Energy. Four legged guests making an appearance will be search-and-rescue dog Jedi, the SA Guide Dogs Association, and Mr. Miyagee in his ‘furcedes'. Participants in the studio show (20 and 22 July) will be the Dance for a Change, the Debbie Lindup School of Ballet, Cape Junior Ballet and the Juanita Yazbek Dance Studio, and Beryl Cohen, Sea Point's most famous and campest kugel, will make a guest appearance.


The two DANCERS LOVE DOGS Gala events will take place on 21 and 22 July 2023 at 7:30pm, while the dance academies will perform the Studio shows on 20 July at 7:30 pm and at the matinee on 22 July at 2:30 pm. All the shows will be staged at the Baxter Theatre. Tickets, priced at R350 (the cost of one sterilisation), can be purchased through Webtickets. Excitingly, DANCERS LOVE DOGS will also be hosted in Durban in October, and thereafter in Johannesburg - more news about these additional events to follow. For the latest updates and information, follow @dancerslovedogs on Instagram and Dancers Love Dogs on Facebook. Can't make the show but want to share the love? Why not make a donation

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