Claire van Niekerk


Claire obtained a degree in Speech and Drama, majoring in movement studies, from the University of KZN and has 30 years of dance, theatre and choreographic experience, ranging from musicals to corporate and industrial theatre. Claire also has a PGCE or Postgraduate Certificate in Education obtained through UNISA.

Trained in classical ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, tap and Zulu traditional dance, she moved into a professional dance career at the age of 17 and this career spanned 18 years.

Claire worked with Jazzart and The North West Arts Council Dance Company and her freelance career took her to more than 15 different countries around the world where she performed in international festivals and on cruise lines as well as locally in various musicals and revues.

Claire choreographed and coached young adults in drama and performance technique at Matric level. She has also choreographed many professional shows and launches for brands for her own promotional Events and Entertainment Company, The Workzone.

Some musical theatre choreography credits include FANGS, for Tim Plewman and Bill Flynn, Laaities and Ladies for Steve Hofmeyr and the Hannah and Miley Show for Showtime Australia. Claire choreographed the 2010 pantomime Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates, and Michael Jackson History - This Is It - at The Joburg Theatre.

Claire has been managing co-curricular ballet, modern and drama at St Mary’s for 10 years and is enjoying nurturing the talent and enthusiasm that the girls have for these art forms.

Willemien Jerling

AIDT Modern Associate, DM Dance Teacher

Willemien obtained a National Diploma in Musical Theatre cum laude from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2013 where she studied Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Drama and Vocal arts. She worked in children’s theatre for Hooked on Books, danced at Gold Reef City and performed at various corporate events and functions.

She then persued a teaching career and has completed her Intermediate Associate training in Modern dance through the A.I.D.T. She has recently become a qualified pole fitness instructor and attended multiple courses on flexibility strength training.

She has been teaching for almost 5 years and has found that there is nothing as rewarding as seeing the development of children and the joy that dance brings them. She is always eager to find new ways to help and encourage and inspire young minds and bodies and never wants to stop learning and growing as an instructor.

Courtney Sanders

RAD Ballet Teacher, Contemporary and DM Dance Teacher

Courtney completed her Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies (CBTS) through the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), DanceCor Associate 1 in Modern and is currently finishing off her Bachelor of Education degree through Unisa.

While completing her RAD and DanceCor teaching courses she represented South Africa at the Dance World Cup where she was placed in the top 5 for Contemporary and Showdance, and first for Ballet. Courtney also competed in Ballroom where her and her partner competed at Championship level.

Courtney has dance experience in many forms of dance including Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz, Showdance, Tap, Latin American and Ballroom.

Her love of dance comes from the many different teachers she has had the privilege of learning from.

Thuto Gaasenwe

Drama Teacher

Thuto is a trained and qualified performer, who has worked on multiple stages such as the Market Theatre and Joburg Theatre. She is also a writer and award winning theatre practitioner.

Thuto believes in using art as a tool for social transformation and healing. She has a passion for storytelling and uses multiple disciplines such as performance, music and visual arts as a way to encourage children to express themselves and share our rich African stories.

Thuto obtained a Bachelor of Arts from AFDA (Africa Film, Drama, Art) and is certified with the Trinity College of London

Chanel Gomes

RAD Ballet Teacher

Chanel left the small town of Klerksdorp for the big city in 2002 to receive teacher training at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). 

Having danced from the age of 5, she wished to share her passion for ballet through the art of teaching.  Whilst at the university – under the tutelage of Gillian Joubert, Debra Gush and Vicki Karras (to name a few), she had the privilege of performing in the annual dance season and being part of the company to tour Cape Town with Australian Natalie Weir’s interpretation of The Rite of Spring and the American piece Dry Each Other’s Tears choreographed by David Rousseve. 

Since graduating cum laude with a degree in dance teaching in 2006, Chanel has dedicated all her time and energy to bettering her knowledge and understanding of teaching and training the young dancer’s body.  She is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), has completed Pilates Course 1 and Body Conditioning Course 2 with Top Condition SA under Debra and Andrew Gush, as well as 2 years of Body Conditioning for Dance with Pat Gush, pioneer of the technique in South Africa. 

She has taught all ages from 3 to 43, at the National School of the Arts (NSA) and Crawford Preparatory in Pretoria and it wasn’t long before she joined her mentors as a Junior Lecturer at the institution that trained her, TUT.  Whilst lecturing, she once again took to the stage as part of the cast to win the Standard Bank Gold Ovation Award at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.  She also contributed choreographically to the Dance Department productions.  She left in 2012 to teach part-time at Oakfield’s College and Southdowns College in Pretoria before the commute from Johannesburg became too much. 

Having dabbled in odd jobs here and there, and giving birth to her daughter in 2016, she decided to return to her first love and signed on as resident RAD ballet teacher for the Johannesburg Academy of Theatre Arts (JATA) from 2018 to 2021.  She is excited to join Claire’s team at 5678 Productions and hopes soon to complete a master’s degree in dance teaching. 

One thing is for sure: she will seek to never stop learning and growing as a teacher and imparting as much of her knowledge and love to her students.

Kea Ciya

Hip hop and Dance Mouse Teacher

Kea studied performing arts at UCT where she majored in Dance. 

Specifically African Dance, Ballet, Contemporary dance, Hip hop, Tap and Spanish Dance.

After graduating Kea started  working under the Western Cape Department of Education as a dance teacher where she taught  at 2 primary schools. During and after her studies, Kea performed in various theatre productions with Cape town City Ballet including:

– Firebird 

– Patrushka

– and Carmen to name a few.

She also worked as a freelance artist performing in various musicals, TV commercials, promotions,  the ICC World Cup opening, 2010 Afcon opening and closing ceremonies. 

Kea was also part of the TV dance show Dance Your Butt Off for season 1 and 2 where she was a runner up.  

Kea feels privileged to have worked with top SA choreographers such as Greg Maqoma, Alfred Hinkel and Somizi Mhlongo.

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