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Joburg Ballet – developing the next generation of dancers

How do you ensure a ballet company in South Africa continues to develop and expand? Nurturing a classical dancer takes years; the full-time professional dancers who make up Joburg Ballet have all been trained from a very young age to ensure that the company – proudly funded by the City of Johannesburg – is a performing arts organisation that any city worldwide could be proud of.

     To help meet future needs, the company has been investing since 2012 in grassroots programmes designed to attract young people from all backgrounds interested in exploring dance. This investment of time, resources and knowledge aims to produce talented local artists who can one day join the ranks of Joburg Ballet, following in the footsteps of dancers like Thabang Mabaso and Mahlatse Sachane, who both emerged from the company’s development programmes.
     In 2018, the development programmes, offering four levels of tuition at the company’s Satellite Schools in Soweto, Alexandra and Braamfontein, continue to go from strength to strength, with a total of 116 students attending regular weekly classes. This year a further six students also joined Joburg Ballet School’s accelerated programme, bringing the total number of young dancers following this highly focused curriculum to 23. These students, all of whom have shown exceptional promise and talent, are largely identified via the Satellite Schools, as well as an annual open audition.
     One of the students in the accelerated programme, Naleli Hlalele, was recently offered the opportunity to attend a Summer School at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, following a successful audition held at the National School of the Arts in Joburg.

Our Joburg Ballet School students not only come to classes in our studios four times a week, they also have opportunities to perform on stage with the company, which gives them great first-hand experience

Joburg Ballet School

     ‘Our Joburg Ballet School students not only come to classes in our studios four times a week, they also have opportunities to perform on stage with the company, which gives them great first-hand experience,’ says Keke Chele, Joburg Ballet School’s coordinator. ‘Six students took part in our highly successful season of Carmen – The Ballet at Joburg Theatre in April, where they had the chance to watch choreographer Veronica Paeper at work, learn from the professional dancers and perform with a live orchestra, when the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra joined us for the season.’
     Chele, a former professional dancer with the company, has been overseeing Joburg Ballet’s development programmes and actively teaching young students for a number of years. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts in South Africa, he recently received a Certificate of Excellence at the Premier’s Youth Excellence and Service Awards from Gauteng Premier David Makhura and MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Faith Mazibuko.
     He was also named as one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2017, the only representative for dance. Now in its twelfth year, the list recognises excellence, so clearly, the future of dance, particularly for Joburg Ballet, is in safe hands!
     To enquire about Joburg Ballet School email keke@joburgballet.com. Follow the company on Facebook and Twitter @JoburgBallet for news and updates.

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