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Dance International
Written by: Samantha Saevitzon

The South African Ballet Theatre (SABT), the country’s largest professional ballet company, celebrated its tenth birthday on Wednesday February 2nd 2011.

SABT is a non-profit making, Section 21 Company and was established in 2001 after the closure of The State Theatre Ballet in 2000 (previously PACT Ballet). Since then, it has forged a central niche in the local dance sector and has established itself as a major player in the performing arts with impressive productions of classical ballets, new works by South African choreographers and collaborations across international boundaries. International stars including Mara Galeazzi (Royal Ballet), Guillaume Côté (National Ballet of Canada) and Maina Gielgud (English National Ballet) have worked and performed with SABT and the SABT received public acclaim from Nigel Lythgoe (‘So You Think You Can Dance’) during his visit to South Africa to launch the South African version of his show. The founding members were all ex-State Theatre Ballet / PACT Ballet dancers: Fiona Budd, Iain MacDonald, Karen Beukes, Dirk Badenhorst, Kimbrian Bergh and Angela Malan. SABT is committed to bringing classical ballet performances of Quality, Glamour, Escapism and Magic to the South African stage and to make ballet an art form that is known, loved and shared by all South Africans.

In addition to the professional company which presents three to four annual seasons of international standard as well as undertaking national tours when funding permits, the following programmes are managed:

1. The newly re-branded SABT Development Schools (previously SABT Outreach programmes) sponsored by Air Products (Alexandra) and The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) (Melville, Soweto and Katlehong) which offer free ballet lessons, ballet equipment and trips to SABT performances, as well as the opportunity to participate in SABT’s professional productions, to young learners.

2. An extra-curricular Ballet Academy for high school students

3. A Graduate (apprenticeship) Programme

Apart from the many major seasons which SABT has presented to critical acclaim, it has achieved several milestones including the world premiere of Kenneth Greve's Hamlet 2003 and its move to a new home at the Joburg Theatre in 2004 with two state-of- the- art ballet studios at the Joburg Theatre sponsored by SAPPI Ltd and the Johannesburg Development Agency. In 2006, SABT became the first South African ballet company invited to tour to Russia, the ‘home’ of classical ballet. In 2007, SABT was the recipient of the prestigious Proudly South African Nation Builder of The Year Award and in 2008, SABT and SABC 2 partnered to present the full – length Swan Lake which was broadcast on Christmas day and repeated due to popular demand the following Christmas. In 2009 the SABT released the first – ever full-length ballet South African ballet DVD with its production of Coppélia which was also screened at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau cinemas countrywide last year.

*PHOTO: Burnise Silvius as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Photographer: JOHN HOGG

SABT continues to proactively seek sponsorship and establish partnerships to ensure that the wealth of talented and highly skilled South African ballet dancers are able to continue to practice their careers locally. In January 2010 the SABT stage a highly successful turn-around from the external market forces that wreaked havoc with most businesses during 2009 and substantial new funding was received – in major part from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. Additional funding was also received from Air Products, the National Arts Council and through generous support from private individuals.

SABT is delighted to announce that their newest application to the NLDTF has been approved ensuring that the company is able to present two major full – length seasons in 2011 as well as continue the excellent work being produced at the SABT Development Schools . An announcement regarding additional funding from the corporate sector will be forthcoming within the next month once details have been finalised.

The Company’s first season for 2011 is a tour to Bloemfontein of the ever popular two- act ballet The Nutcracker which opens at the Sand du Plessis Theatre in Bloemfontein on March 9, 2011. Set to Tchaikovsky’s well – known score, the ballet tells of a young girl, Clara, who receives a magical Nutcracker doll at a Christmas party. Her Uncle Drosselmeyer gives the doll life and takes Clara on a magical journey. The ballet, with choreographic revisions by Artistic Director Iain MacDonald, was critically received during its festive season run last year in Pretoria and is entertainment for the whole family. The four performances will be accompanied by the Free State Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Allan Stephenson.

Bookings are now open for The Nutcracker through PACOFS ticket office on 051 447 7772 or www.pacofs.co.za or through Computicket on 083 915 8000 or www.computicket.com.

Plans for 2011 include:

Two Autumn Schools at SABT studios Braamfontein (28 March – Saturday 2 April and Monday 11 April – Saturday 16 April).

• A season of the full – length ballet Romeo and Juliet at the Joburg Theatre (May 27 - June 19).

• A series of Gala dinners at award – winning restaurant Le Canard in Rivonia, Johannesburg (13 & 14 February; 11 & 12 May and 31 August and 1 September).

Tours to Botswana, Secunda, Knysna and George.

• The Sleeping Beauty season at the Joburg Theatre (30 September – 16 October)

• Four popular Open Days at the SABT studios on Saturdays from 10h00 – 13h00 (March 19, May 14, 10 September and 5 November).

• A Christmas ballet season at the SA State Theatre from 19 November – 19 December.

• The SABT Development Schools’ annual year-end concert on Saturday 2 December.

For further information, please visit:


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