Meet the Manenberg girl whose love for dance is bigger than her fear of gang bullets.
For 11-year-old Mishquah Petersen, dancing has become a safe distraction from all the bloodshed in the violence-torn suburb.
And the little girl is a natural – she started dancing just over a year ago, and has already bagged a whopping 51 trophies.
The shy meisie attends Downville Primary School and hopes to become a ballroom and Latin dancing champion.
Since the beginning of April, 16 people have already lost their lives due to gang violence in Manenberg.
While residents live in constant fear, they are bravely trying to maintain some sense of normalcy for the sake of their kids.
Young Mishquah, her cousin Anushqcha Petersen, 12, and their dance partner Tristan Viegeland, 12, are no different.
Between them they have already brought home more than 140 trophies from various dance competitions.
Mishquah’s grandmother Linda Petersen, 60, says it’s a financial struggle raising funds so she can compete, but it’s all worth it.
“A teacher at school started the dancing class and she decided to join the ballroom dancing,” the ouma says.
“She started dancing in December 2014 and entered her first competition soon after and came back with nothing.”
But this didn’t put off the girl.
“With every competition she entered after that she came back with a trophy or a medal,” says the proud granny.
Linda says she has seen a “positive change” in her granddaughter.
“She became a better person, she’s also doing very well in school and I am happy about that.
“I’m a pensioner and her mother gets a social grant so we don’t always have the money but we do what we can,” she adds.
On Sunday the family dining table groaned under the weight of Mishquah’s 51 trophies, medals, and diplomas.
“I had no professional dance experience before I took up ballroom at school,” the meisie says shyly.
“When I didn’t win anything at my first competition, I didn’t feel discouraged to go back. It was my love [for dance] that made me go on.”
“But we are doing this for our children so they can stay off the streets and do something constructive.”
The trio hope to come out tops at their next competition in Johannesburg next month.