Big City, Big Dreams cast. Picture: Lauge Sorensen

The world premiere of a new original all South African ballet is a rare and momentous occasion indeed. 

Three prolific Johannesburg dance companies – Joburg Ballet, Vuyani Dance Theatre and Moving Into Dance Mophatong – collaborated in making Big City, Big Dreams, one of the most anticipated dance productions of the year.

Big City, Big Dreams tells a passionate love story set against the dynamic energy and pulse of Johannesburg. A young man, who steps confidently on to the first steps of the Joburg corporate ladder, discovers an unexpected and fascinating new window to the world of dance opening before him.

Unfolding in scenes showcasing the exhilaration of local dance, Big City, Big Dreams fuses styles from classical ballet to contemporary dance and street dance, combining high-powered technique with vibrant and vivid emotion.

Directed by theatre doyen Fiona Ramsay, one looks forward to a theatrical experience that combines dance and drama to vividly capture and reveal the very heart of the story. 

Ramsay challenged the dancers in superseding the traditional and sometimes stereotypical stock characters of dance to explore and embody characters that are natural, realistic, and convincing. 

Ramsay comments that when these “actors” break into their sensational dance routines, it makes the impact thereof even more electrifying.

Each of the three companies provided their own choreographer – Shannon Glover (Joburg Ballet), Lulu Mlangeni (VDT) and Sunnyboy Motau (MIDM). These choreographers each contributed their own choreographic styles including classical ballet, contemporary dance, 

African dance and street dance. The aim of the production is not to string together dance routines in which each of the choreographers created dances in their own styles. 

Contrary to this, the choreographers workshopped the choreography by merging styles into a unique fusion. What makes the choreography even more exhilarating is that the plot allows for contrasting dance scenes, such as club scenes, street scenes and dance class scenes. 

“It has been exciting to work with a director such as Ramsay, who is a visionary and is also extremely knowledgeable, creative and passionate. With her guidance, we could make the choreography come alive”, Glover explained. 

Mlangeni added that everyone was lifted from their comfort zones to produce work that is authentic to the spirit of the ballet. 
Composer Nik Sakellarides says that the music resonates with the vibe of Joburg – the energy, the pace, the chaos, the stark contrasts and the often-harsh realities. 

He believes that younger generations in particular will savour the energy of the music and the production. 

Many theatre practitioners agree that collaboration is the key in the development of the arts. 

Iain MacDonald, the artistic director of Joburg Ballet, reiterates that the pooling of talent, skills, resources and audiences makes for significant development in local theatre. Big City, Big Dreams is proof of that. 

* Big City, Big Dreams opens July 28 and runs until August 6 at the Joburg Theatre. Booking is at Joburg Theatre Box Office, or phone 0861 670 670, or at

Pictures: Lauge Sorensen