The Johannesburg Youth Ballet’s 40th Anniversary Gala season will be celebrated in style at The Mandela, Joburg Theatre from 14 October to 16 October with Mark Hawkins’ delightfully zany version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream& Other Ballets.

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“Ballet is a reservoir of spiritual strength.” – Audrey King

As the Johannesburg Youth Ballet stands poised on the eve of a year – long 40th anniversary celebration, it is only right to reflect on the vision of its founder, Audrey King.

Having received an invitation to take a group of dancers to perform at the International Festival of Youth and Performing Arts in Aberdeen, King, defiant in the face of apartheid laws and draconian political restrictions, selected a group of racially integrated young Johannesburg dancers and prepared them for the Festival in Scotland. She held auditions in 1976 – a year that proved to be a watershed year for the youth of South Africa – and formed the Johannesburg Youth Ballet.

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Article in “Evening-Express”, 1977

In a box of memorabilia, magnificently yellowed by time, lies a well-folded, safely protected newspaper article from Aberdeen’s Evening Express – dated August 11, 1977. A powerful headline catches the eye “Her ballet group breaks down racial barriers”. She is quoted in the article as saying, “In South Africa we have coloureds, Indians, Africans and whites, I have a very international background myself – I lived in China for 17 years – and I didn’t think it was right for one teacher to take her pupils over to represent the country.”

Despite apartheid, political unrest, and the Soweto riots, surprisingly she met with no opposition at all as she assembled her young company. She strongly believed that all should just live, and let live and that differences should be buried. “I am not politically minded, and so I wasn’t surprised because I didn’t see why there should be any opposition. Many of the Africans travel to rehearsals through trouble spots at some personal risk. The members get on extremely well with each other, thanks to an opportunity they have hitherto been denied”, she is quoted as saying.

One of the pieces performed in Aberdeen was called What are We? “In it I try to convey my belief in life and in humanity, I am trying to say that you, me, we have the power within us to make the world a happier place than it is at this minute. The young are the people who are going to have to live in this world, and if I can engender in a few people in my class this idea I have done something. You can’t change the whole world – you can only throw a pebble in the water and watch the ripples go out”, she said.

The JYB pebble continues to create ripples and after four decades shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

The Johannesburg Youth Ballet is a story of vision, perseverance and dedication. Names forever associated with the JYB will be Janet and the late Tony Fogg, artistic directors Pat Durham, the late Rulov Senekal and the former Artistic Director and current Chairperson of the JYB – Jean Beckley – who has guided the JYB with wisdom and grace for 30 years.

On the occasion of its 21st anniversary the company received the following message from the indefatigable King, who was then Professor of Classical Dance and Ballet at the University of Santa Clara, California.

“It makes me very happy to know that what started out as an almost impossible dream of mine during the years of apartheid, has survived so long, and that the Company is still giving young dancers and choreographers an opportunity to present their talents to the public. Thank you for remembering me on this occasion. I only wish I could be with you for at least one performance.”

Audrey King passed away in 2003.

The Johannesburg Youth Ballet is a proud and grateful recipient of National Arts Council Company funding and extends warm thanks and acknowledgement to the NAC, as well as its media partner, Creative Feel magazine.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Other Ballets runs from 14 to 16 October at the Mandela, Joburg Theatre.

Performance times: Friday 14 October – Gala Opening at 19h30; Saturday 15 October and Sunday 16 October at 11h00 and 15h00.

Tickets: R100 – R120 – for tickets call 0861 670 670 or visit www.joburgtheatre.com (block bookings are available) or at the Joburg Theatre box office OR online at www.webtickets.co.za / patrons can also book and pay via the Nedbank app and at selected Pick n Pay stores (full list at www.webtickets.co.za/pnpoutlets.aspx)

For further information please visit www.jyb.co.za or email devar@iafrica.com
(Written by Brenda Sakellarides for Creative Feel)

 

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Notes to the Editor

The Johannesburg Youth Ballet was founded in 1976 by Audrey King, a Cecchetti teacher and examiner, in response to an invitation to perform at the Aberdeen International Festival of Youth and Performing Arts. Flouting the political laws of the time King selected a group of racially integrated dancers to perform at this annual festival. In what was a watershed year for the black youth of South Africa, this group of young dancers was one of the first racially integrated youth groups to represent South Africa abroad.

The newly formed company performed in Israel en route to Aberdeen and also performed in London. The JYB went on to tour internationally; in 1979 the company toured to Rome and Israel and in 1981 they visited the Republic of China. Local performances were held at many of the major centres around the country and at the Grahamstown Festival. In 2013 the JYB’s critically acclaimed Hansel & Gretel featured on the Main Programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, followed by a debut season at The Playhouse Drama Theatre in Durban.

In 1984 when King relocated to America, a founder company dancer, Pat Durham, took up the reins. She was followed by Theo Dantes (ably assisted by Erick Bowen), Jean Beckley, Rulov Senekal, Kate Martin and Mark Hawkins.

This small but enduring dance company broke down political barriers and forged a path that led to many dancers of all races realising their dreams and ambitions. It has been an important stepping-stone in the careers of many of South Africa’s classical and contemporary dancers, bridging the gap between the classroom training and the demands of professional performance. Many former JYB dancers have joined professional ballet and dance companies and have become locally and internationally renowned. Some of these, among many, are Angela Malan, Ann Wixley, Catherine Burnett, Iain Macdonald Kimbrian Bergh, Leigh-Ann Cohen, Mandy Brak, Marcel van Drunick, Melody Putu, Moya Michael, Nadine Sacker, Shanell Winlock, Shannon Glover, Tanya Futter and Yarisha Singh. All spent nurturing years with the JYB and readily acknowledge the important part it played in their development.

Over the years, a number of JYB alumni have given generously of their time and experience, returning as guest performers, guest choreographers and repetiteurs, giving the young dancers invaluable artistic support. Leading South African choreographers have included Adele Blank, Debbi Rakusin, Mandla Mcunu, Mark Hawkins, the late Jackie Semela and Timothy le Roux.

Now, under the visionary leadership of JYB chairman Jean Beckley and artistic director Mark Hawkins, the company continues to nurture young dancers from across Johannesburg. Their goal is to give dancers from all socio-economic backgrounds an opportunity to work and perform in a professionally run ballet and dance company. The JYB upholds the principles of discipline, commitment and perseverance.

Dianne Richards and Nigel Hannah serve as JYB’s artistic consultants.

2016 Season:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mark Hawkins
Garlands – (from Sleeping Beauty /music Tchaikovsky) re-invented by Kate Retief
LOOK UP – Shanell Winlock-Pailman and Nicholas Aphane

The cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Featured Actors: Hlengiwe Lushaba Madlala, Marc Kay and Mongi Mthombeni
Guest Artists from The Joburg Ballet – Titania: Alice Le Roux & Krystn Janicek & Oberon: Mahlatse Sachane & Ruan Da Silva
JYB Members: Puck: Fanelo Ndweni & Keelan Krinsky / Lovers:
Hermia: Corinne Lalouette & Megan Musiker / Helena: Robyn Jordaan & Samantha Bhoola
Lysander: Armand van der Merwe & Fanelo Ndweni / Demetrius: Mahlatse Sachane & Armand van der Merwe

The 2016 JYB Company:

Juniors: Jaden Clidaras, Bianca Gregory, Rachel Hertz, Danica Human, Lesedi Khanyile, Tebello Manyaka, Carina Ortlepp, Tamlyn Preston, Mia Silberman, Shayna Slom, Genevieve Stride.
Seniors: Marlize Badenhorst, Samantha Bhoola, Leela-Lind Devar, Negan Ferreira, Rebekah Gordon, Robyn Jordaan, Boipelo Keikelame, Gryphon Krinsky, Jezri Krinsky, Keelan Krinsky, Corinne Lalouette, Daniella Meunier, Jessica Mullins, Megan Musiker, Levashin Naidoo, Maxine Naude, Lisa Ncube, Fanelo Ndweni, Amani Pillay, Mahlatse Sachane, Meghann Thiselton, Amy Tod, Nicola-Marie Van der Linden, Armand Van der Merwe, Courtney Wilkinson.

Releases issued on behalf of JYB by Behind the Scenes Communications.

Please direct all media queries, requests for interviews, images/biographies and accreditation to: Di Sparks – 011 640 1500 / 073 208 8483 / disparks@artslink.co.za