Industry professionals lend expertise to ACT Scholarships Awards

Six finalists have been selected to showcase their performing arts talent in the final round of the annual ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Scholarships.

The event, which will be hosted by UJ Arts & Culture at the University of Johannesburg, will see the finalists showcasing their acting, dancing and singing abilities to a live audience and an independent panel of judges.

The panel comprises esteemed professionals Bianca la Grange, Nolo Phiri, Gregory Maqoma, Jennis Williamson and Trish Downing. Judges will select winners of three Scholarships to the value of R150,000, R105,000 and R60,000. Recipients will be at liberty to study any performing arts course at an accredited South African tertiary institution of their choice.

Sasolburg-based Palesa Malebo has been selected to MC this year’s Scholarships Final. Pieter Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer of the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) says, “Over the past few years the Scholarships event has also been utilised to debut emerging presenters. We take delight in a number of them appearing as presenters of corporate and other events as a result of participating in the Scholarships Programme.”

Well-known actor, theatre-maker and director, Jacques Bessenger, returns as Artistic Director, with Franco Prinsloo bringing his skills to the team as Musical Director, as they prepare the finalists to face the judges. Best known for the third season of So You Think You Can Dance on SABC 1, Charlie van Rooyen, will assist finalists with their choreography and dance performances.

The Final of the 2014 ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Performing Arts Scholarships will be held at the UJ Arts Centre in Auckland Park on 13 October 2014. Needing to prove their ‘triple-threat’ skills, the six finalists will each prepare singing, dancing and acting solos, and two group numbers; under the guidance of the creative team; for performance in front of a live audience and judging panel.

“Working with young talent is a very fragile process and we are confident both that we have chosen the best of raw talent from around the country, and that the creative team will help them bring out their best for the finals and in their careers moving forward,” says Jacobs.

For more information on the Scholarships programme, please visit



Palesa Malebo 

Palesa is a passionate 22-year-old girl from Sasolburg, Zamdela. Growing up, her dream was to be a television and radio presenter and emcee for live events. After matriculating Palesa made her radio debut on the local station, Karabo FM, before moving on to VUT FM as a Content producer and presenter. Palesa’s radio show, Midnight Explosion, is live on VUT FM every Sunday.


Trish Downing

With significant corporate experience sitting alongside an extensive performing career, Trish Downing’s knowledge straddles the arts and business sectors. Downing now runs her own marketing and communications consultancy. She recently completed a 3-year term as a Council Member of the National Film & Video Foundation (an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture) where she chaired the Marketing, Distribution and Festivals Advisory Panel. She is also a Trustee of the Arts & Culture Trust.

Bianca le Grange

Bianca Le Grange is a singer, pianist, violinist and actress. She is an accomplished musician who completed her schooling at The National School of the Arts, where she studied both classical and contemporary music. As a young girl, Bianca did ballet, modern and Spanish dancing. Bianca’s music career was formed around a lifelong focus on entertainment, including long-term and dedicated training. She is perhaps best known for competing in Idols (SA). She now runs her own business, has her own entertainment company, appears frequently in popular musical theatre, guest presents on television and actively supports young talent with her social responsibility projects.

Nolo Phiri

After focusing on Fine Arts in high school, Nolo Phiri went on to earn an Honours degree in Dramatic Arts from Wits, and has earned her stripes in the television industry as an actress, director and producer, ultimately building her own production companies. She can currently be seen on local screens as Nikki on eTV’s popular Rhythm City.

Gregory Vuyani Maqoma

Gregory Vuyani Maqoma became interested in dance in the late 1980’s as a means to escape the political tensions growing in his place of birth. He started his formal dance training at Moving Into Dance where he eventually became the Associate Artistic Director. He founded Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT), and several works in his VDT repertoire have won him accolades and international acclaim; establishing him as an internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, teacher, director and scriptwriter. He is the recipient of the 2012 Tunkie Award for Leadership in Dance, which is presented annually to a South African who has elevated the standard and visibility of dance in South Africa.

Jennis Williamson

Manager of Talent Etc™, Jennis Williamson, is thoroughly acquainted with the South African entertainment industry and brings valuable expertise, knowledge and specialist management skills to the table, both in this capacity, and from his experience as an actor, dancer, choreographer as well as producer of  short films Drukkersbloed, Prinses and Stom for the kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival.


Jacques Bessenger 

Well-known in the South African performing arts industry, Jacques Bessenger works as an actor, theatre-maker and director. He has been the Artistic Director for the ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Scholarship Finals since 2010. Bessenger is best known for his role as Renier in the popular television drama series, Erfsondes, which earned him a 2013 SAFTA nomination and the ATKV Media Veertjie Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series. He received a NuMetro KykNET Silwerskerm Award in 2012 for his portrayal of the courageous Robert McLachlan in the critically acclaimed movie, Verraaiers; and a Tempo Award nomination in 2013 as Actor of the Year for his work in Erfsondes and Verraaiers. Despite his roles in numerous film, theatre and radio productions, and as a passionate teacher, Bessenger is likely to be most familiar to South African audiences through his appearances in several popular South African soaps. He has appeared in 7de Laan, Villa Rosa, Binnelanders and Isidingo, and can currently be seen on screens in KykNET’s new drama series, Donkerland, written by Deon Opperman.

Franco Prinsloo

Composer Franco Prinsloo grew up in the town of Middelburg, in Mpumalanga, South Africa. He studied music at Potchefstroom University and sang in the PUK-choir under direction of Awie van Wyk where he developed his love for composition and choral music. Franco composes in a great variety of styles including choral, classical contemporary or new music, cabaret and theatre as well as pop music and electronica. He has composed and directed extensively for the stage including productions Maanmond in 2009; Boegoe Vannie Liefde in 2010; Pygmalion in 2011; A Doll’s House in 2012; Skroothonde in 2013; A Clockwork Orange and Marat/Sade in 2014 to name but a few highlights. He is an active composer in the consort for new music, The Paz Consort in Pretoria and also writes commissions for choirs, soloists and ensembles in South Africa. As a solo cabaret performer he has toured the country’s arts festivals for numerous years and also recently started composing for film. “Prinsloo assimilates and unites disparate traditions within his own idiom” writes Paul Boekkooi, from Beeld Newspaper.

Charlie van Rooyen

Professional dancer, choreographer, teacher and model Charlie van Rooyen, was born in Cape Town and was the runner- up on the third season of the television program So You Think You Can Dance. He has performed with international artists such as Trey Songz, John Legend, Miguel, French Montana, Brandy, Marlon Wayans, and Davido; as well as many local artists. He has performed internationally, throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and throughout South Africa; performances include the MTV African Awards, the Kora Awards, the Channel O Awards, the South African Film and Theatre Awards (SAFTA), Miss South Africa, the South African Music Awards (SAMA), Idols South Africa, and Big Brother Africa, to name a few. Charlie is currently a choreographer on the South African television series Strictly Come Dancing.

Author: PR Officer

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