40th Anniversary! A milestone indeed and the Johannesburg Youth Ballet has a record of which it can be justly proud!
This has been achieved through the years by dint of hard work and dedication from numerous people: teachers, costume makers, set designers and builders, parents and lovers of DANCE. Until a few years ago the Artistic management teams involved in any one season, gave their services to the JYB on a voluntary basis, and indeed the Directors and Management Committee still do so!
In several of the past years finances were very tight and we had to use VERY sharp pencils, BUT JYB never incurred debt! This is indeed commendable and I think quite extraordinary!
In 1976 Audrey King had received an invitation from the International Festival of Youth Orchestras and Performing Arts to present a work at the 1977 Festival. This Festival is an annual event in Aberdeen, Scotland. She could have well used her private pupils, but commented that she did not think it fair that one studio should represent South Africa.
The 50 dancers, selected from the 150 who auditioned, across the racial spectrum, formed the first inter-racial (or non-racial as it was termed at the time) to represent South Africa overseas – THE JOHANNESBURG YOUTH BALLET.
Dame Margot Fonteyn, who as a child had been taught by Miss King in Hong Kong, graciously agreed to be President of the JYB, and she remained as such after Audrey left South Africa for California in 1984. We have a signed letter from her to this effect, sent from Panama.
It is worth mentioning that 1977 was the first time a ballet company of JYB’s kind had performed at the Festival and interesting to note that South Africa had the distinction of being doubly represented that year! The other group was the Phe Zulu Company of 26 girls and boys from Natal who presented IKHAYA, a dramatised musical by Welcome Msomi.
That in a nutshell was the beginning of JYB!
The continuing story – up to 2017, will be told in a commemorative publication to be launched in the 2nd half of next year. Management has been fortunate to gather a wealth of memorabilia covering the history of the company and has secured the talents of dance writers Adrienne Sichel and Tammy Ballantyne for the project. I hope the prospect whets your appetite for that launch!!
The first ‘repertoire’ work was undertaken by the company in 1989 when Bruce Simpson produced Act 3 of Sleeping Beauty casting dancers Iain MacDonald and Stephen Jackets in the role of the ‘Blue Bird’.
Other repertoire works presented included:
2nd Act Swan Lake, Peter and the Wolf, Sleeping Beauty Act 1, Act 2, La Sylphide Act 2 and full length, Giselle Act 1 and Waratah. From time to time, we had the benefit of guest artists from State Theatre Ballet and South African Ballet Theatre and this year we are privileged to have young guest artists from Joburg Ballet. This is always so good for the members of JYB – they can see what is ahead of them!
I must make mention of my former joint Artistic Director, dear friend and colleague, Rulov Senekal, who died in tragic circumstances in February 2012. He choreographed several works for the Youth Ballet and was a wiz with costumes, colour spray and the glue gun!! He made a valuable contribution to the company and I think would be proud that it has reached its 40th year!
Special celebratory seasons were: 21st birthday which was attended by Audrey, 25th and 30th birthdays. For the latter we restaged her “WARATAH” ballet.
Several ex-JYB members have gone on to achieve a successful career in Dance here and internationally and others in the teaching profession. To mention but a few names, Mandy Brak, Moya Michael, Iain MacDonald, Melody Putu, Angela Malan, Shanell Winlock and Shannon Glover. Gail Myburgh (now Gail Featherstone) is Artistic Director of the Cecchetti Southern Africa. Our congratulations to all of them and also to those not mentioned here but not forgotten!