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Brilliant at ballet – King David pupil wows judges at world championships

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King David Primary School Linksfield pupil Sami Levin is no ordinary ballet dancer. She was named second best 12-year-old ballet dancer at the International Dance Organisation World Championships in Slovenia in November 2022.

“I’m very proud,” says Levin, who has just started Grade 7. “I didn’t expect to place so high. It felt good because you weren’t there just for yourself, but for your country. I felt proud to be South African.”

Levin was awarded Protea Colours for performing arts by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee in October last year. It followed her top-three finish at a South African Body of Dance (SABOD) competition.

She made it into the Protea team and went on to come first in every genre of dance before representing South Africa at the world championships.

In this, her first international competition, Levin progressed from the first round, which had 19 participants. She was the lone South African in a group that included dancers from Poland, Italy, Finland, Turkey, Canada, and Croatia.

She came second to Poland’s Michalina Ostachowska in the final, bagging a silver medal and becoming vice-world champion in her age group.

“Not all the participants did the same dance routine,” Levin’s mom, Aurrit, says. “In ballet, you have two sections. One is the ‘open classical’, which is your own choreography. The other is ‘repertoire’, a portion from a famous ballet, for which there are a whole lot of famous classical ballets the dancers can choose from. Sami chose Giselle, which she did in every round, but you could also do Lilac Fairy, for example.”

At least nine international judges, including one South African, Debbie Rakusin, were present. They adjudicated points based on technique, mentality, dance ability, interpretation, presentation, costume, and entertainment.

“A total of 2 500 dancers from 29 countries took part in the championships across all genres,” Aurrit says. “Every country has their own qualifiers, and the top three go to the championships.”

Levin also participated in the American Dance Awards last year, and won an ultimate gold medal.

Although no one in Levin’s family has a dancing background, she started ballet at about the age of three. “Most girls like to dance, so I took her to a very non-directed dancing school where it was all just about fun,” her mom says. “When she started to demonstrate skill, I took her to a more intense class where they do practical exams and learn technique.”

Levin’s participation in other forms of dancing such as modern and jazz began three years ago at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning she had to learn everything online initially.

“I would say ballet is her greatest achievement, but she also does very well in jazz and modern,” Aurrit says.

Levin says she loves dancing because “there are so many different types, and you can be free”.

She does modern and jazz at Shablam Dance Academy in Orange Grove, and ballet at Eborall Melville DeWitt in Orchards. She practices every day for up to two hours.

“It’s hard work, challenging, and keeps you strong,” says her mom. “Ballet is one of the hardest sports in the world because you use your whole body.”

Levin has several coaches and attends a lot of dance classes focused on the practical ballet exam syllabus. “They do these exams through the Royal Academy of Dance, which goes through London, and they get results,” Levin’s mom says.

On top of this, Levin has private lessons, in which she works on technique and choreography.

Levin danced on Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom HaZikaron at school, and would like to perform in more overseas competitions for South Africa.

“The main one is the SABOD competition because that’s where you represent your country as opposed to just some international dance,” Levin’s mom says. “There are no other dance competitions for which you can get awarded Protea Colours.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bernice

    Jan 12, 2023 at 6:45 pm

    Well done Sami. Hope to see you “live” one day

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