Michelle is a vibrant, energetic, single mother of four who spent her years growing up in the Coloured community of Eldorado Park, South Africa. She remembers her love for dancing ever since she was a little girl and is an ex-professional Ballroom/Latin dancer and teacher. She embarked on her first years of dancing at her aunt, Priscilla Myburg’s dance club “FJT Ballroom School” in Eldorado Park over thirty-five years ago.
Her aunt Priscilla Myburg, better known to us all as “Juffrou Myburg”, was an astute business woman who owned a dry-cleaners, she was in the paint selling business and also sold coats in winter. Besides that, she was a dedicated primary-school teacher and a ballroom dance teacher who started a dance school with kids practising in community halls in the outskirts of Orlando Soweto, with only one band playing in the back-ground. Her school grew over the years and produced professional dancers such as “Tyron Watkins,” our famous judge on the reality TV show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” He basically grew up in “Madam Myburg’s” house where he started off as a ballroom dancer when he was very young.
Priscilla Myburg came from a very poor back-ground but that did not hinder her progress in life nor did it stop her from pursuing her dreams. She was nominated back in her youth in the 1940’s as a South African Ballroom champion for two consecutive years and this led to inspire her to start her own dance school and by so doing, she kept many kids off the streets and occupied, training hard to be committed dancers, including her niece Michelle who lived with her all those years. Madam Myburg was also a political figure for the NP Party and was actively involved in our community as Councillor but later joined the ANC.
During FJT Ballroom Schools reign, and during our segregated times, children in our community were able to participate in dance competitions in Boksburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban due to Madam Myburg’s tenacious attitude of not giving up on her students and believing that they all deserved a fair opportunity to explore their talents as dancers, inconsiderate of the colour of their skin. Michelle clearly recalls all the wonderful dance competitions they were given the opportunity to grace the dance floors with. They were also afforded the honour of being invited to dance for the king of Lesotho back in the eighties and also partook in dance competitions at Sun City’s Super Bowl.
Both myself (Ray) and Michelle lived a house away from each other before I moved away over twenty-two years ago. She was a good family friend and we both had positive women role models in our lives. Michelle’s aunt inspired her being a strong and independent woman, not letting poverty stricken circumstances or apartheid hold her back to achieve her dreams and desires and even though she did not have kids of her own, she was a mother to the hundreds of children she tutored in dance and education over the years and she will always be remembered by those who knew her, including myself. I was inspired by my grandmother who as a single mother, raised five children of her own, worked two jobs and still managed to put a roof over orphan’s heads, giving them an opportunity in life. We both share the same burning desire we inherited from the strong women in our family to make a difference in the lives of others and to not let our circumstances define who we are.
Michelle has extensive experience as a dancer and teacher over the years and with her aunt’s guidance and influence she had during the course of her life, she is now able to teach other children with the same love and devotion her aunt taught her and all the other children who attended the ballroom school. She is committed to keeping the memory of her aunt alive and bringing dance back into our community that has now become infested with drug and alcohol abuse amongst our youths.
We’ll be conducting dance lessons for children between the age groups of 4-18yrs. We are trying to secure financial assistance so we could start our own dance studio and supply our students with the necessary dance gear and equipment needed. At the moment we are trying to get permission to use our Community Hall but it’s not always possible as most functions and events takes place over weekends and for now Michelle is only able to teach over weekends at her house, and she has a full-time job elsewhere. We remain hopeful that in future we’ll get the proper financial assistance we need in order to build up our Arts & Culture School and to allow Michelle the opportunity to focus on her passion of becoming a full-time dance teacher in our community.
As a dancer, Michelle’s motto has always been, “Ballroom makes out of a man, a gentleman, and out of a woman, a lady!”
Michelle was kind enough to donate all her and her aunt’s trophies from FJT Ballroom School for our dance competitions. Below is a trophy donated back in 1993. I’ve included a few more pics of some of the trophies that will be used. We have very minimal dance gear and we’re hoping that very soon we will have our own dance studio to enable us to work with more women and children in our community.
If you look carelly, you can see the trophy marked with the name “FJT” the ballroom school Michelle attended and eventually taught at.
We also have a collection of the very first trophies, “The ancient trophies” that were used back in the days when our grandparents and their parents were hitting the dance floors.
These are of the modern and flashier looking trophies below.