Janka Kliment had a beautiful soul that shone through in her dancing. Her choreographies had a air of sophistication and power, whilst also showing a femininity and grace.
Janka moved from Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, to Port Elizabeth in 2005 and in 2006 she opened Janka’s Oriental Dance Studio. Her dream was to create a community of women through belly dance, that would aid in the upliftment of women, as well as have fun dancing. Later that year she married Michael Kliment back home in Slovakia. They were blessed with a daughter, Mija, in 2007.
In 2009 she was invited to dance at the International Oriental Dance Festival in Cape Town. She started in the event with “What Lola Wants” stunning the audience with her presence.
She became ill in 2010 and underwent surgery to remove a haemangioma in her brain. The surgeon was only able to partially remove it, leaving her with several complications. However, her spirit never wavered and she continued to inspire and motivate her students. Her troupe, Evolution, was invited to dance at the 2010 IODF gala.
She started the Eastern Cape World Belly Dance Day Festival in 2011, bringing studios from East London (Desert Divas) and Port Alfred (Fella’s Dance School), as well as Palace of the Winds (Cape Town) and Ava “Akasha” Van Aarde (Johannesburg) to perform at the Boardwalk amphitheatre. She also organised for Marina “Ajsa Samia” Rehbein and Ava to give workshops over the WBDD weekend. This tradition has been kept alive by her students who still have a show with various studios and performers every year on WBDD. She was invited to Syncopate in 2011, to perform and give workshops at the festival.
Towards the end of 2012, Janka returned home to get a second opinion on her haemangioma. The prognosis was that the rest of the tumour could be removed through a series of operations and therapies.
In 2013 Janka and Michael got divorced and Janka announced she would not be returning to South Africa like she had originally planned. She changed her studios name to Zahra’s Oriental Dance Studio and handed it over to Melanie Wallis and Jessica Perelson who to this day keep alive her dream of community and upliftment.
Janka returned to her childhood passion of latin ballroom dancing, teaching under her childhood mentor, while she was undergoing surgeries and therapy but did keep in touch with the friends she made in the South African belly dance community.
In April 2016, we were given the sad news of Janka’s passing. While we do not know the details, we believe that she died from post-surgery complications.
A week later Melanie and Jessica hosted a remembrance for Janka’s students. Amongst the mourners were students from the very first class she gave in 2006 and many students she had touched throughout the years.
As Janka grew in her journey in belly dance, she shared her knowledge, love and passion with her students, friends and mentors. She formed special bonds with dancers from all over South Africa and the world. She had a very special friendship with Marina “Ajsa Samia” Rehbein that went beyond the realm of dance.
Although she is gone, her presence and influence is still felt in Port Elizabeth and across South Africa. Everyone who met her was touched by her internal beauty, quiet wisdom and love for all.
She is sorely missed by the people she left behind but her spirit remains a positive force and influence in our lives.