Celebrating on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro |  <i>Georgia Canning</i>

What it's Like to Climb Kilimanjaro for Charity


In June 2017, Georgia Canning (aka. The Balanced Ballerina) from Queensland set off on a challenging yet life-changing adventure to climb Kilimanjaro on the Huma Kilimanjaro Open Challenge for a cause very close to her heart. Georgia is a full-time ballet advocate, teacher and studio owner, whose mission is to “breakdown the elitist barriers often associated with ballet so that everyone can enjoy the grace it can bring to everyday life”.

So, when Georgia decided to climb Kilimanjaro it made sense to combine it with teaching ballet and fundraising for Anno’s Africa - a Creative Arts organisation that runs ballet classes within the Kibera slums of Nairobi. Part of her fundraising was done through her Peace and Plies ballet classes at her studio.

We asked Georgia to tell us more about her incredible adventure, something she describes as one of the hardest and most amazing things she’s ever done.


“The overall highlight for me was teaching the ballet students in Kibera slums before the climb, but if we’re talking about climbing Kili… is it weird if I say the highlight was actually finishing a book for once?! I guess I didn’t realise how relaxing and soul searching the trip would be. I had so much time to think, absorb my surroundings and thoughts and just be happy in my own company (despite having my uncle and guides always close by).” - Georgia Canning

What made you decide to climb Kilimanjaro? Was it is always a goal of yours?

To be honest, no! I felt like a little adventure so I started browsing the World Expeditions site, when I came across the Huma Charity Challenge Kilimanjaro Open Challenge which aligned exactly within my school-holiday period. As a teacher you always have to plan around school holidays! Then I googled ‘Ballet in East Africa’ and came across Anno’s Africa who run ballet classes in the Kibera slums, so it all just came together.

How much trekking have you done before?

Absolutely zero. My Dad had done Everest Base Camp, so I already had most of the necessary equipment. Then I just hit the trails, training every weekend for about eight months.
What charity did you fundraise for and why?

I fundraised for Anno’s Africa, who run Creative Arts programs within Kibera slums (Nairobi). One part of the program involves ballet, so I thought raising money and offering my teaching services before I attempted Kilimanjaro would be an awesome fit. 

How much training did you do leading up to the climbing Kilimanjaro?

I’m already very physical in my day-to-day routine - ballet classes! So I’m sure that helped. However, I added some extra Pilates (for a strong core) to my Crossfit classes (for general fitness). I’m also really lucky to have beautiful trails within 20 minutes from me on the Gold Coast. So Sundays were spent hitting them for 4-6 hours at a time every Sunday.

You are very passionate about ballet, and are the founder of GC Dance and Tutu Times ballet studio where you teach all ages from three years old up to 80+. Tell us about your journey with ballet?

My love affair with ballet started at the age of three. When I was on the cusp of a professional career with The Australian Ballet I decided that being a ‘ballerina’ wasn’t for me because I really wanted to go to university and had dreams of owning my own business one day… it’s funny how life works out. Now I get to fulfil my passion for business and ballet!

It’s your mission to “bring grace to people lives and break down the elitist barriers often associated with ballet”. Can you tell us about that?

This mission was a result of finding a niche within my business. After a few people requested an ‘adult ballet’ class I decided to put one on. And so ‘Tutu Times’ was born, a place for adults to rekindle their love of ballet or live that dream of learning ballet that they weren’t afforded as a child. 

It’s also no secret that the ballet world favours ‘white’ and ‘skinny’ females… whereas I believe everyone should be able to practice ballet. Not every ballet dancer will turn their love into a career - nor can they! However, they’ll all take lessons they’ve learned from ballet to improve how they live their life. That’s the beauty of ballet.
Now how do you want to take this mission to Africa through Anno’s Africa and Dance Centre Kenya?

Our initial dollar donation was funded by Peace & Pliés classes that I run at the studio. These are non-profit classes that continue on a weekly basis, so we will continue to support Anno’s Africa’s programs and sponsor our Dance Centre Kenya  sponsor students - Wendy and Iddah.

How difficult did you find the trek?  What kept you going when times became tough?

I was absolutely fine the entire trek - except summit night! The entire trek I was barely affected by the altitude and had such a lovely time reading and relaxing at camp while others suffered from altitude sickness. However on summit night my slight runny nose froze and I found it difficult to breathe. To be honest I don’t remember much from summit night, except sitting in a cave crying because I was panicking about not being able to breathe! I’m strong, but can be such a baby at times.
What tips and advice would you give to someone who wants to climb Kili?

Make sure you’re strong. Not just physically, but mentally. 
What’s next on your bucket list?

I don’t really have a bucket list. I believe in taking opportunities as they become available… like climbing Kilimanjaro did! So, I’m not sure. Maybe I should tick off Mount Kosciuszko!

Check out Georgia's blog The Balanced Ballerina for ballet tips and advice and to see more of her adventures.

Climb Kilimanjaro for a Cause

Embark on a life-changing adventure like Georgia’s and challenge yourself on a Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge 2018. You can choose your favourite charity and make a difference for a cause you are passionate about. 

Departure dates include 24 June 2019 or 4 October 2019. Find Out More