Mark Hawkins. Photo by Robert Hamilton

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 A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Other Ballets.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by Mark Hawkins, is given expansive wings by his delightfully zany ’re-imagining’ of the Shakespearean comedy and his skilful choreography, and is further enhanced by the lighting design by professional designer Nicholas Michaletos and the set and costume design by the internationally acclaimed designer Andrew Botha, who has given the “visions” “form and feature”. The spectacular designs for both sets and costumes are as fresh and innovative as when Hawkins first dreamed his “Midsummer Night’s Dream” about 20 years ago.

Premiered by his Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company in 1997, the ballet was aptly described as “a froth of classical dance and comedy”. It successfully toured Taiwan in 1999 and earned principal dancer, Mary Ann de Wet the Nederburg Ballet prize for her exquisite interpretation of Titania. And in the serendipitous circle of celebrations, de Wet has made herself available to teach and guide the young dancers of JYB for this milestone season

Hawkins, well known for his innovative work, has cleverly integrated actors into the ballet narrative. “The work moves from the contemporary to the most imaginative of fantasy worlds – psychedelic dancing fairies link the world of the confused lovers to the feuding Titania and Oberon, the King and Queen of the Fairy realm. They dance through their dream and awaken with all their jealousies resolved and safely behind them. The actors find themselves transformed and enchanted, always at the behest of the fearless Puck,” he says. “The ballet culminates in a finale that will be remembered long after the curtain falls as the mercurial Puck, the mastermind of the magnificent chaos, reaches out in friendship.”

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.”

kate retief
Kate Retief
(image courtesy Mark Wolhuter)

The programme also features Garlands, from The Sleeping Beauty (a ballet first performed in 1890 to the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky) a 40th Anniversary ’re -invention’ by Kate Retief, who brings her distinctive choreographic touch to this greatly loved waltz.

Shanell Winlock Pailman. Photo by Carl Ballot.
Shanell Winlock Pailman. Photo by Carl Ballot.

An exciting and topical new contemporary work, LOOK UP, choreographed by Shanell Winlock Pailman and Nicholas Aphane completes the celebratory line-up. LOOK UP, danced to the stirring music of Hans Zimmer’s Time Suite, is inspired by the digital age, conformity and the impact that new technology has on socialisation, interpersonal communication and relationships.

Nicolas Aphane. Photo by Carl Ballot.

“‘Looking up’ is that universal sense in knowing where you want to go, who you address and how you relate to the world and people around you – but these days our smart phones talk for us and connect us without us having to ‘look up’ very often and so we spend less and less time making physical contact or eye contact. LOOK UP explores the need for physical touch, conversation, personal confrontation or even the formation and patterns created by us throughout the day”, says Winlock-Pailman.

The JYB was founded by Audrey King in 1976 and has the distinction of being the oldest youth company in South Africa. Over the past 40 years it has given well over 1500 young dancers from the greater Johannesburg region an opportunity to be a part of a professionally run company and to experience the dynamics of performing in an annual season.

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 (block bookings are available) or at the Joburg Theatre box office OR online at / patrons can also book and pay via the Nedbank app and at selected Pick n Pay stores (full list at

For further information please visit or email


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 /