In 1976, a tumultuous but ultimately defining year in South Africa’s history, the late Audrey King, one of Johannesburg’s leading classical ballet teachers at that time, was invited to take a dance group to participate in the International Festival of Youth and Performing Arts held annually in Aberdeen, Scotland. She overcame political opposition and selected the first completely non-racial youth group to represent South Africa overseas. The performance of her ballet ‘Waratah’ at the Festival was a resounding success and to capitalise on the experience of performing within a ‘professional atmosphere’ the JOHANNESBURG YOUTH BALLET was formed, with the late Dame Margot Fonteyn as its President. Further international tours were undertaken to Italy, Israel and Taiwan under Audrey’s directorship. Since then the company has performed in centres around the country, including the Grahamstown Festival, in the Eastern and Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and in centres throughout Gauteng.
After Pat Durham and Theo Dantes tenures as Artistic Director, Jean Beckley took over the position in 1987, with the late Rulov Senekal a joint Artistic Director from 1991 to 1999, and continued in the position until 2007. After a year as assistant to the Director in 2007, Kate Martin took over the position in 2008.
The Artistic Management endeavours to include excerpts or works from the classical repertoire and to invite guest choreographers to work with the company. It aims to give young dancers of all races and socio-economic backgrounds an opportunity to develop their art and skills, and to work and perform in a professionally run company.
The Johannesburg Youth Ballet sponsors needy members, absorbing their fees and raising sponsorship for them to tour, should this be possible, for their weekly transport costs to and from classes and for their costumes.
Over the years a number of JYB alumni have given generously of their time and experience, returning as guest artists, guest choreographers or to assist as repititeurs, lending the young dancers artistic and creative support.
In 2013 The Johannesburg Youth Ballet were given the opportunity to undertake tours to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and Durban, KZN as well as perform in Gauteng at the University of Johannesburg Arts Centre.