Debbie Turner is the founding Artistic Director of Cape Dance Company, and the company’s associated school, the Cape Academy of Performing Arts.
Commencing her dance training in Durban at the age of three with classical ballet, South African-born Turner went on to study and work with world renowned teachers and choreographers across multiple dance forms with a strong focus on ballet and Spanish dance. This varied and rich experience in her early years has largely influenced her teaching methodology, artistic direction and choreographic style. She continues to engage with the international dance sector and strives to maintain an international standard within the organisations she has founded, growing and nurturing the love and appreciation for all dance forms in South Africa.
Latin American dance was added to her dance studies at the age of seventeen under the tutelage of Maureen Shargey and Toni Pinto, and before long was a regular competitor on the dance circuit in South Africa, becoming the Western Province Champion in a short period of time. Turner also enjoyed a professional performance career in Spanish dance for many years under the direction of Dame Mavis Becker. She was privileged to study and work with many world-renowned choreographers and teachers in both the Latin and Spanish dance fields, as well as many South African luminaries of dance.
Turner continues to travel as much as possible, expanding her professional development and international network. She is solidly committed to forging strong relationships and cultural exchange partnerships between South African dance and other international dance communities for the benefit of all. She has won many awards for her choreography including the FNB Vita Award in 1995, and a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival for Cape Dance Company’s Blue in 2014, followed by appearing as the headline dance company on the Main Programme in 2016 to sold out performances. In addition the school received a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival for Bittersweet in 2013, which resulted in the production of Between The Lines in 2014 on the Arena Programme and at the inaugural Cape Town Fringe Festival, both co-directed by Nathalie Vijver, head of Drama at the school.
Turner established the Cape Dance Company in 1995, ten years after the school was born, and through her unwavering drive and determination has seen the company and school grow from strength to strength with annual performance seasons around South Africa, as well as international touring from time to time, drawing new and larger audiences each year. The repertory of the company is neo-classical in style and is the only company of its kind on the African continent. Works by Christopher Huggins (USA); Bradley Shelver (USA:SA); Andi Schermoly (USA:SA); Jose Agudo (UK:Spain); Mthuthuzeli November (SA); and many others.
Turner has become a key figure in the South African dance sector establishing one of the finest dance training institutions in the country, the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA). The school benefits from the best pedagogical knowledge in South Africa, as well as regular visits from international pedagogues all of whom have significant dance knowledge and experiences to share with, and inspire the students.
Graduates of the school have gone on to illustrious dance careers both in pure dance, such as the Nederlandse Dans Teater, Ballet Black - London, Batsheva Dance Company - Israel, Spectrum Dance Theater - USA; as well as many others in the musical theatre arena including The Lion King, Starlight Express, Cats, We Will Rock You, Dirty Dancing, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Evita and many more.
Londiwe Khoza, a graduate with Distinction in 2014, and subsequently was employed by the Cape Dance Company. She was the recipient of the prestigious Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative for the 2016/17 project. Ms Khoza was mentored by the Ohad Naharin, one of the most recognised & highly respected names in global dance. She has now been gainfully employed by the Batsheva Ensemble company that performs globally, of which Mr Naharin is Artistic Director.
Ms Turner holds a Bachelor Degree of Music in Dance from the University of Cape Town.
“The company's trajectory is determined by Artistic Director Debbie Turner - her vision, courage, passion and compassion continues to inspire generations, attracting dancers not only committed to excellence, but also to making their way on the global stage.”
Debbie Hathway, Bizcommunity, 2014.