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A Spartacus of Africa Announces its Stellar Cast

Opening at the Joburg Theatre on 4 June and at Artscape’s Opera House in Cape Town on 27 June, A Spartacus of Africa is gearing up to treat audiences to the world premiere of this magnificent large-scale ballet.

Veronica Paeper, South Africa’s acclaimed choreographer, has cast the lead roles in A Spartacus of Africa with three international dancers. “I am delighted to announce that Brooklyn Mack, and two of South Africa’s dancers, Lara Turk and Andile Ndlovu will be returning to South Africa’s stages,” said Paeper.

“The character of Spartacus, the captive King of Thrace, is a demanding role and requires strong dancers. I have cast Brooklyn Mack, Andile Ndlovu and Casey Swales in the role of Spartacus, whilst Lara Turk is Phrygia (Spartacus’s wife)”, said Paeper.

The role of Phrygia in A Spartacus of Africa will also be performed by Elzanne Crause, Michaela Griffin and Simone Botha and Aegina (the concubine to Crassus) by Kristin Wilson and Elzanne Crause.

The role of Crassus will be performed by Casey Swales and Willem Houck (previously from the Hong Kong Ballet). Crassus is a Roman Consul and one of the most intelligent minds that Spartacus and the Rebel army ever has to face.

Brooklyn Mack (28) was born in the small town of Elgin, South Carolina, where he enjoyed playing basketball and football. Mack, at the age of 25, set historical precedence when he became the first African-American to earn a Gold medal at the world’s oldest and most renowned ballet competition, the Varna International Ballet Competition (VIBC) in Bulgaria.

Mack made a deal with his mum to agree to do ballet lessons to enable him to improve his soccer skills at the age of 12. He then began his dance training at the Pavlovich Dance School under the guidance of Radenko Pavlovich and Milena Leben. He went onto attend the prestigious Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC and then the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. In 2006, Mack joined the Orlando Ballet where he expanded his repertoire to include many famous roles.

After joining Washington Ballet as a principal dancer in 2009, Mack repeated his successes as Basilio and Espada in Don Quixote, and the Cavalier in The Nutcracker and in 2012 Mack was recognized as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch”.

Andile Ndlovu, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, is in his fifth season with The Washington Ballet, after dancing one season with The Studio Company. Ndlovu began his training in Latin American and ballroom dance at the age of ten. At 15, he began training in ballet under Martin Schöenberg, director of Ballet Theatre Afrikan. Ndlovu was part of the 15-year anniversary tour of Step Afrika! as a guest artist, performed his collaborative choreography solo with Gregory Vuyani Maqoma in Beyond Skin and was a part of the South African version of Queen with Mzansi Productions, choreographed by Debbie Rakusin and Timothy Le Roux. Ndolvu recently choreographed Guardian of the Pool which was performed by The Washington Ballet Studio Company.

South African dancer Lara Turk was born in Durban and joined The Royal Ballet as First Artist in 2007 and has been there ever since. She studied with the English National Ballet School between 2000–2003 and graduated into the Playhouse Dance Company, where her repertory included Swanilda (Coppélia). She later moved to Cape Town City Ballet, dancing roles including Veronica Paeper’s Carmen, Snow Queen (The Nutcracker) and fourth song (Four Last Songs). She was named Best Newcomer and Outstanding Female Performer by Cape Town Balletomane Society. Her numerous international roles have made her the most respected and well-known female dancer of her time.

Casey Swales also born in Durban and has had a career both as a dancer and choreographer. He was a finalist in Dans Dans Dans the reality dance show on KykNet, and one of the founder members of Mzansi productions in 2008. He’s performed lead roles in Bovim Ballet’s, Romeo’s Kissas well as performed in numerous other seasons nationally including Under Construction, Syzygy and Freedom, The Nutcracker and Bolero at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban.

Elzanne Crause stars in the role of Aegina and started her dance career at the age of 6 at the Amelia Van Ryneveld Academy of Ballet where she completed her advanced RAD Ballet examination. She is also trained and highly proficient in other forms of dance such as Contemporary and Jazz. She is more recently employed in South Africa by Various dance companies including the Cape Dance Company, Bovim Balle and Joburg Ballet.

Simone Botha was born with profound hearing loss. She received a Nucleus multi-channel cochlear implant (a surgically implanted device coupled with an externally worn speech processor which enables direct electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve) at the age of 22 months. At that stage she was the youngest person in Africa to receive a cochlear implant.

Simone was still a young toddler at the tender age of two when she started taking ballet lessons with Natalie Swanepoel. Ballet came very naturally to her and she felt right at home on the dance floor. Her continuous ambition and love for dance carried her throughout the years and brought her to where she is today- a professional dancer. She has danced with Cape Town City Ballet- South Africa’s National Ballet Company, iKapa Dance Theatre, Bovim Ballet and has worked with many acclaimed national and international choreographers.

Born in Belgium, Oostende, Willem Houck started ballet training at the Royal Ballet school of Antwerp. In 2007 he was accepted into the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Saint Petersburg where he performed at the Marinsky theatre. After graduating he joined the Dresden semper Oper Ballett in Germany where he danced in ballets by George Balanchine and William Forsythe. In 2011 he joined the Hong Kong Ballet under the direction of Madeleine Onne. He was given solo opportunities in classical and contemporary repertoire of the company and participated in tours to the USA and Canada.

Kristin Wilson attended The National School of the Arts. She Trained with Ballet Theatre Afrikan under Martin Schonberg from 1997-2004 and was a soloist dancer in the company which collaborated with many other companies including the South African Ballet Theatre, Jazzart and Cape Town City Ballet. In recent years she has been a member of Bovim Ballet, Inspirations Dance Company and Tshwane Dance Theatre.

The re-choreographed ballet featuring the music of Khachaturian and accompanied by a full orchestra, boasts a cast of 35 professional dancers, excluding international guest artists, and is complemented by 60 senior student dancers who were selected after nationwide auditions.

SANDT’s successful fundraising applications to the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the National Arts Council, The Arts & Culture Trust and a variety of private funders and trusts have all made this outstanding production of A Spartacus of Africa possible.

The opening night of A Spartacus of Africa on 4 June is a red carpet, gala night and VIP tickets cost R495.00 (which includes sparkling wine on arrival, a production programme and cocktail event after the performance with special guests and the cast).

The Joburg Theatre season of 12 performances of A Spartacus of Africa runs from 4 – 14 June. Ticket prices range from R150 – R395.00 and can be booked online or by telephone with the Joburg Theatre Box Office. All performances are accompanied by the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of maestro Paul Hoskins (Musical Director of Rambert Dance, London)

The opening night on 27 June at the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town is a red carpet, gala night and VIP tickets cost R475.00 (which includes sparkling wine on arrival, production programme and cocktail event after the performance with special guests and the cast). All performances are accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of maestro Paul Hoskins (Musical Director of Rambert Dance, London)

Cape Town bookings can be done via Computicket for the Artscape season of 12 performances from 27 June – 12 July. Ticket prices range R150.00 – R375.00.

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