JYB dances for a better world

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Johannesburg Youth Ballet celebrates 40 years
Johannesburg Youth Ballet celebrates 40 years

From the earliest days of the Johannesburg Youth Ballet (JYB) dancers from Eldorado Park sparkled in this pioneering company, founded by Audrey King in 1976.

From the outset King defied all apartheid laws by running an integrated dance company. In many ways she regarded herself as a cultural diplomat working hard to improve race relations through creative expression. The young company, selected in 1977 to participate at the International Festival of Youth Orchestras and Performing Arts (Aberdeen, Scotland) boasted 50 young dancers of all races and was the first integrated ballet company to represent South Africa overseas.

A scene from the JYB's 2015 production of Peter and the Wolf.
A scene from the JYB’s 2015 production of Peter and the Wolf.

“In our own little way we’re helping to make the world a better place to live in,” she was quoted as saying in an article in the Rand Daily Mail in July 1976, “although we’re not doing anything in a big way it’s effectively within our own sphere. Hopefully we’re influencing people in the audience. It’s like throwing a stone in a pool and watching the circle get bigger and bigger.”

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The circle has continued to ripple.

The JYB included dancers from the greater Johannesburg area including Eldorado Park, Riverlea, Bosmont, Noordgesig, Lenasia, Soweto, Daveyton, Brakpan, Benoni, Boksburg and even Pretoria.

Names from the early years include Dali Beck, Leslie Mongezi, Pat Durham, Gillian Evans, Desire Michaels, the late Geoffrey van Buuren and the late Leslie Carelse, Kim Segal, Gail Myburgh, Helen Nathan, Heather Bruce, Faith Malebo, Beverley Hermans and Michelle Nelson. Over the years the JYB has been home to many dancers from Eldorado Park (and the surrounding areas of Riverlea, Bosmont, Noordgesig and Lenasia), including from the early years, Pearl Fourie, Felicity Mitchell, Juanita Steyn and Celeste Theunissen.

Some of the Eldos JYB dancers went on to pursue international careers. Names that come to mind are Moya Michaels (who received her early Ballet training from Cecchetti teacher, Di Sparks, who as it is happens is JYB’s publicist for the anniversary season) and Shanell Winlock Pailman. They have both enjoyed and continue to enjoy impressive international careers as contemporary dancers and choreographers. Both spent time in the Akram Khan Dance Company – one of the top contemporary dance companies in the world. While Michaels lives in Brussels, Belgium, Winlock Pailman returned to South Africa in 2011 and is happy at home teaching, conceptualising, performing and being a wife and mother.

Winlock Pailman was approached by the JYB early in the year with a commission to choreograph a new contemporary work for JYB’s 40th anniversary season. She collaborated with Nicho Aphane and the riveting new work titled LOOK UP will premiere on October 14. Featured in this new piece is another Eldorado Park dancer Negen Ferreira who was introduced to the JYB by Eldos dance teacher and champion of other-abled dancers – the visionary Gladys Agulhas who received a Presidential Award – the Order of Ikhamanga in 2012 for her contribution to the arts and for putting South Africa on the world map. Ferreira discovered his love for contemporary and ballet dancing at the age of six and is thriving in the environment of the JYB.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Other Ballets takes to the Mandela Stage at The Joburg Theatre from 14 – 16 October.

Tickets are R100 – R120 and are available through www.joburgtheatre.com and Webtickets.

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