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Delia takes 'triple threats' in her stride

Jul 28 2017 16:37
Carin Smith

Cape Town - Delia Sainsbury identified a huge gap in the market to train performers as "triple threats" - singing, dancing and acting.

Today her Waterfront Theatre School (Junior) and Waterfront Theatre College (Senior) have over 350 students, a teaching faculty of 18 plus guest teachers and domestic staff of eight.

Fin24 found out more about her journey as "entertainment entrepreneur".

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I began training at a Theatre School in London where I gained my teaching diplomas in classical ballet, modern dance, national dance and tap, and the Performers Diploma in Drama LAMDA.

I went on to perform in nine West End musicals including Camelot, Funny Girl (with Barbra Streisand), Four Musketeers and Canterbury Tales.

I also did extensive television, movie and cabaret work, performing on BBC, ITV in such shows as Sunday Night at the London Palladium, TV Specials with Tom Jones and many international stars, as well as straight plays at the Bristol Old Vic.

At the end of 1976 I emigrated officially to South Africa after appearing in West Side Story, recruited from London, with my husband Keith Galloway. Keith and I quickly established a training academy, seeing the need to develop the "triple threat" in South Africa.

At the same time, we were both appearing extensively on SABC, Keith writing, directing and as choreographer and myself also choreography and of course as a TV presenter - a career that continued until the late 1990s. People remember such shows as Video 2, Compass, Monday Magazine, Silhouette and Good Morning South Africa.

I continued to head the Waterfront Theatre School and the Waterfront Theatre College. I am head of the Imperial Society of Teachers Of Dancing, London, in SA and the only international member of the Grand Council ISTD, receiving a Life Time Achievement Award for contribution to dance in 2004.

I am regularly involved in overseeing productions, creating corporate events and choreography for companies, and write and direct, particularly plays for "youth". I also train television presenters and collate the international examinations in all genres.

Visiting Russia:

Tell us more about the theatre school:

The Theatre School was originally founded in 1978 under the name of Dance Workshop in Johannesburg at the Carlton Centre. On moving to Rosebank in 1982 it was renamed The Waybury Arts Centre (incorporating the names of Galloway and Sainsbury) as we had then extended to teaching drama and musical theatre.
 
We relocated to the V&A Waterfront in 1992 at the invitation of the fledgling V&A Waterfront management, bringing down ourselves, two young children, Jo and Genna, one mother-in law and two dogs! We began with a staff of 7, 40 full time students and 80 part time children. We have grown somewhat!

The college offers full international teaching and performing qualifications in all performing arts genres, and services the industry with performers, teachers, stage managers, compares and TV Presenters.

Why did you start the college?

There were two reasons.

Firstly, we were forced to by the Government as they would not grant permanent residence unless Keith and I utilised our teaching qualifications.

Secondly, there was a huge gap in the market to train performers as "triple threats" in singing, dancing and acting in order to produce a sustainable career in "show business", which now requires tremendous versatility in the performers.

South Africans were really only training in one genre up to that point, resulting in limited career opportunities.

What were your challenges as entrepreneur?

At that time, the political situation dictated that we could not train African students in the same classes as the "white" students.

Keith and I decided to "feign ignorance" and teach whom we wanted. Also, there was a period of time when the UK would not send out examiners due to the political unrest and we had to get permission to hold internal qualifying examinations until it was resolved.
 
Our present challenges are still the inequality of our social system, resulting in a lack of funds (for some students) before their studies are complete. It becomes very challenging for them to complete their teaching and performing studies, as they often have to work to support their families.

The purchase of ballet shoes and tap shoes is prohibitive and we are constantly fund raising to supplement their expenses.

Also, we are training people with certain disabilities such as Asperger's Syndrome, which presents a challenge, but we are committed to equal opportunities for all students regardless of class, religion, race and financial constraints.

If they have the talent, we'll find the means to train them.
 
Probably my greatest challenge was continuing the Theatre School alone after Keith died in 2010. It was dreadful and I nearly didn't carry on.

We had established everything together and developed it together. I felt like a ship without a rudder. Then Paul Griffiths, whom we had originally trained and had been in London directing for nine years, came on board and completely turned my professional life around with his brilliance and expertise.

The College has shot off in many new and challenging directions and I am very excited and grateful.

What have been the highlights?
 
Receiving an early ARTES Award for Magic Maestro Please, Keith's first TV Special, and myself for Best Presenter for Video 2.
 
Watching graduates from various of our schools on stage such as Ian Von Memerty, Angele Killian in Evita and Sunset Boulevard. Seeing Duane Alexander play the lead in Singing in the Rain, Anne-Marie Clulow as the lead in Chess.

I could go on about the obvious successes, but also seeing a township girl who has a horrendous background, and who came to us full of fear, just play the lead, Dolores, in Sister Act at Artscape.
 
Then, of course, recently my daughter Jo, who has been living in LA for five years, working in film and TV, produced two of Keith's works in Hollywood, and I flew out unexpectedly to see them, and sobbed with pride.

Genna received the Fleur Du Cap for her lead performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. So to see both my daughters being so super successful is reward indeed- apart from the College.

Future plans?
 
I am expanding the dance, drama and musical theatre teaching base in the Emirates, particularly in Dubai, where I have eight teachers now on contract.

Paul and I are looking forward to producing Sister Act in Nigeria early in 2018. This was on the cards for this year, but financially it didn't happen. But it seems to be happening now and we are due to go and audition in November.
 
We have forged a brilliant association with the BRICS countries concerning drama development and hope to be returning to Moscow in August 2018 to present another play. Our plaque for Romeo and Juliet is proudly displayed at College and we really feel we did a lot to further South African-Russian artistic relations. I have the Facebook friends to prove it.
 
Then there is the new production, Cinematic Motion, a compilation of movie themes portrayed in dance. This will be presented at the Masque Theatre from August 23 to September 2.

It's going to be fabulous with 50 dancers and literally hundreds of costumes - which I coordinate. This showcases the work of our young choreographers who worked with me on the international movie of Iris Warriors, due for release late this year.

What governs success in this industry?

Intense training. There are no shortcuts. Passion - and your mind. I see numerous promising students fall by the wayside because their personal problems get in the way.

It is the age of "stress". Everyone seems to be stressed, on medication or going to therapy. The fact is our industry is too tough to have time for it. You leave it at the door and focus.

There is no other profession where you get "notes" at the end of every day and your "performance review" ripped apart. You have to be mentally and physically very robust and understand the difference between personal criticism and critique of your work.

Your health and lifestyle are paramount - you can't indulge as others do. We are athletes. We are never "good enough" and that is why the motto of the Galloway family and the College is "higher".

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