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​​​City takes ballet to Soweto and Orange Farm​


Joburg Ballet, well-known for its development work among aspirant ballet dancers, particularly in previously disadvantaged areas, will mark Mandela Day on Saturday 18 July, with visits to Soweto and Orange Farm to entertain residents and create the awareness of one of the world’s most popular art forms.

During their visits to Uncle Tom’s Hall in Orlando West, Soweto, and the Old Multipurpose Hall in Orange Farm, members of the dance company will not only perform some of their best pieces but they will also teach the youth about ballet and expose them to career opportunities that come with it.

Joburg Ballet spokesman Bruce Dennill says the City of Johannesburg’s dance company could not think of a better way to celebrate the former president’s legacy. The late statesman’s birthday on July 18 was declared International Mandela Day by the United Nations in honour of the 67 years he spent fighting for justice and democracy.

In Soweto on Saturday, Joburg Ballet’s dancers will teach the youth about ballet and perform Fearless, set to the music of Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn’s Finding Wonderland. Too Much Love Will Kill You will be performed by senior soloist Kitty Phetla, while the Don Quixote Coda will be danced by Juan Carlos Osma and Claudia Monja.

In Orange Farm, Thabang Mabaso will perform the Gauteng solo, while Chase Bosch and Keke Chele will teach youngsters about ballet and lead the audience in the Joburg Ballet Pirouette Challenge.
The performances will be filmed and distributed online. Through its development programme, Johannesburg Ballet has a long history of nurturing the talents of aspirant dancers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

For years it has provided a safe and structured environment for children to grow socially by introducing them to the joys and benefits of classical ballet, while exposing them to a potential career in the performing arts. There are about 500 children aged between five and 16 in the programme receiving free lessons.

Once they leave the Joburg Ballet Development School they are encouraged to audition for the Joburg Ballet Academy and thereafter the Joburg Ballet Graduate Programme. Phetla and promising performer Mahlatse Sachane are both originally from Alexandra and were nurtured through the programme.

Joburg Ballet also sponsors a number of dancers to its annual winter school. “Another primary focus is to teach children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds valuable etiquette and leadership skills through the art of dance as well as exposure to role models,” says Dennill.

“Joburg Ballet aims to give these children solid classical ballet training should they wish to pursue a career in professional dance and offer them exposure to other careers, such as lighting design, arts management and costume design.”

The development school enrols selected children into the South African Cuban Ballet School. In 2012, five children from the school successfully auditioned to study at Cuba’s National School of the Arts, with the number increasing to nine in 2013.

Last year, to mark 20 years of democracy, Joburg Ballet held auditions for six to 11-year-olds for a place in this prestigious institution.