Navin Jacobs trains at the Annarella Sanchez International Conservatory of Dance in Leiria, Portugal. Picture: Supplied

The South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), supported by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), is once again making strides in its commitment to all-inclusive ballet development and sustainability in South Africa through training projects in local communities and via strong international collaborations that open up invaluable opportunities overseas for local dancers. 

The sixth biennial competition, Africa’s most established, was held at Artscape Theatre in Cape Town in March and saw the largest number of entrants since the competition’s inception in 2008 with competitors flying in from different parts of the world, including Portugal, Cuba, Latvia, the US, China, Cote d’Ivoire, South Korea, Italy and Japan. 

The SAIBC was founded by entrepreneur Dirk Badenhorst, who later this year will be on the judging panels of competitions in China and Portugal.

Several of the participants who did not place in the medal ranking were recipients of various awards and are making their way across the world to take up their special prizes at summer schools in Switzerland, Germany and Portugal.

All gold, silver and bronze medalists have been invited to participate in the Shanghai International Ballet Competition in September. Thanks to the generous support of the organisers all the entry fees, flights and accommodation will be sponsored.

Angelique Harris of Art of Motion in Johannesburg, who choreographed winning pieces for two competitors, was singled out by judge Professor Gregory Seiffert, the head of the Berlin State Academy, who invited her to Berlin to choreograph at the school later this year.

The SAIBC’s impact over the past 10 years has translated into jobs and training for SA dancers all over the world, the most notable being Andile Ndlovu from Soweto, who has been with the Washington Ballet since 2009, Joshua Williams from Cape Town, who is training at the Zurich Ballet Academy in Switzerland, and Yuan, who is a member of the Dutch National Ballet in the Netherlands. 

The South African International Ballet. Picture: Supplied

The panel of judges includes dance luminaries from the Berlin State Ballet School, Korea University of the Arts, Liaoning Ballet in China, the Julliard School in New York, Alvin Ailey and Ballet Hispanico, the National Ballet of Latvia and teachers from Cuba and Portugal. 

The two South African judges were Dr Eduard Greyling and the director of Ikapa, Theo Ndindwa. 

Additional support came from the Mary Oppenheimer and Daughters Foundation and Cachalia Capital. 

These contributions help further SAIBC community projects and performances that continue during the two years between each competition, helping ensure that ballet is accessible to all and furthers teacher-training initiatives and the sharing of new techniques taught at world famous ballet and dance schools across the globe.

Forty teachers are being trained in Orange Farm, Soweto, Geluksdal, Reigerspark, Boksburg, Ennerdale and surrounds, with more than 1000 students taking class under their expert eyes. 

This is where the performing arts meets entrepreneurship and micro business as many of the teachers progress to start their own dance schools, ensuring the growth, development and transformation of ballet and dance in South Africa.

The South African International Ballet. Picture: Supplied

In determining the real value of outreach and transformation programmes, one has only to look at dancers who hail from disadvantaged communities and who have achieved great success. 

Thamdumzi Moyakhe, prior to his death, established himself as an accomplished professional dancer who drew positive reviews from the media. Also worth mentioning are Ndlovu and Boysie Dikobe, who took part in the inaugural SAIBC during the beginning of 2008, who were also discovered through outreach projects. Both were offered bursaries to take part in the prestigious Summer School of Washington Ballet, with Ndlovu being offered a position with Washington Ballet.  

The SAIBC funding received was instrumental in the staging of the new production of Bengingazi, an innovative cross-cultural piece created by Adele Blank in association with several choreographers who merged various dances styles such as classical ballet, flamenco, pantsula and contemporary.

Aside from enjoying its world premiere at the SAIBC, it has been presented in Gauteng, the Free State, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces alongside several workshops hosted by teachers and dancers from South Africa and abroad. The music for Bengingazi was composed by Nic Paton, the grandson of Alan Paton. Preparations are under way to extend the tour in South Africa and there are plans for an international staging as well. 

The SAIBC received support from SA Tourism, the Mary Oppenheimer and Daughters Foundation, Cachalia Capital, the Ministry of Arts and Culture in Cuba and the Cuban Embassy in South Africa last year. 

At the closing SAIBC gala attended by several prominent VIP’s and embassy representatives, South African dance legend Johaar Mosaval was honoured for his contribution to ballet in South Africa and abroad. 

On July 28 a special awards ceremony was held at the Cuban embassy in Pretoria, where a group of teachers and students received certificates for their achievements within the SAIBC’s CuDansSA training programmes that are in the townships using Cuban methodology. 

* Dates for the SAIBC 2020 will be announced soon.