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Joburg goes into ballet business

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With an R8 million grant, the City of Joburg is adding a ballet company to its world-class African city portfolio.

This announcement was made on Friday at the SA Mzansi Ballet’s Joburg Theatre studios in Braamfontein on behalf of mayor Parks Tau by city councillor Chris Vondo, who is responsible for community development as well as the triumvirate of city theatres: Joburg Theatre, Soweto Theatre and Roodepoort Theatre.

The implications of this funding, which runs for a year from July 1, is that this company gains some salaried sustainability as well as another name change a year after the SA Ballet Theatre and Mzansi Productions merged to become the SAMB.

If the proposed title of Joburg City Ballet wins over other contender Joburg Ballet, this would be doubly historic because Johannesburg City Ballet (founded by Faith de Villiers and Yvonne Mounsey) led to Pact Ballet in 1963, then the State Theatre Ballet, which gave birth to SA Ballet Theatre.

The new name will be revealed at the premiere of SA Mzansi Ballet’s Cinderella in September.

At the announcement, which included performances of the SA Mzansi Ballet’s professional, training and development activities as well as moving testimonies from dancer-choreographer Kitty Phetla and Sharpeville dancer/ publicist-in-training Keke Chele, Joburg Theatre chief executive Bernard Jay remarked that this grant was an indicator, “not a one-off event”.

Vondo said this move was linked to the executive mayor’s institutional review of 2011 and a five-year strategy linked to human and youth development, liveability and social cohesion. These qualities were represented by ballet.

SA Mzansi Ballet chief executive Dirk Badenhorst said this grant was a stamp of approval which would assist in attracting other funders, while artistic director Iain MacDonald commented: “We can use the language of dance to break down barriers. It is a huge revelation that the city has recognised this.”

Next year, said Badenhorst, the company has been invited to Washington and New York for 20 years of democracy celebrations. Touring to other African countries was also planned as well as performing in other city theatres and elsewhere locally.

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