Established in July 2012, following the merger between The South African Ballet Theatre (SABT) and Mzansi Productions, South African Mzansi Ballet (SAMB) is Joburg’s very own professional ballet company – a first world ballet company for a first world city.
SAMB is proudly resident at the Joburg Theatre. The company consists of permanent and ad-hoc dancers skilled in both classical ballet and contemporary dance.
An extensive repertoire includes works by Petipa, Ivanov, Bovim, Maqoma, Paeper, Balanchine, Saint-Léon, Wubbe as well as our own homegrown choreographers Kitty Phetla, Iain MacDonald and Shannon Glover. An active performance schedule is maintained with two major seasons at the Joburg Theatre as well as promotional events, corporate entertainment, local and international tours.
In addition to the professional company, and under the auspices of SAMB, the following programmes are managed:
- Development School in Alexandra, Tshwane, Sophiatown, Mamelodi, Eesterus, Katlehong, Melville, Soweto, Olifantsfontein and Braamfontein
- A Cuban School
- An extra-curricular Ballet Academy for high school students and
- A Graduate (apprenticeship) Programme
The SAMB Development Programme is active in Soweto, Tshwane, Braamfontein, Alexandra, Sophiatown, Mamelodi, Eersterus, Katlehong and Melville with over 300 dancers being taught afternoon ballet class. Learners age from five to sixteen learn movement, body, spatial and language skills through their regular ballet training. SAMB aims to select talented learners for further training at the Academy and finally, for employment with the Company. The learners are encouraged to develop a new South African dance identity incorporating the ballet technique and their own movement vocabulary. Learners receive free transport to and from classes and rehearsal. The dancers from the Development Programme regularly participate in the professional Company’s major productions, annual Cecchetti examinations, eisteddfods and fundraising performances. The year culminates in the annual year end concert where learners perform for teachers, parents, friends and members of the media.
The Cuban School of Ballet
Earlier this year, SAMB launched a new initiative for SA dancers based on the internationally acclaimed Cuban training system. As the merger process between Mzansi Productions and SABT consolidates into a new ballet and dance company, it is envisaged that the training initiative will develop into a fully-fledged vocational school feeding dancers directly into the professional company, and a South African centre of excellence for preparing dancers for professional stage.
The project was launched in partnership with Cuban ballet, continuing and strengthening the dance ties with Cuba Dirk Badenhorst initiated in 2008 and which has played an increasing central role in ballet in SA over the last four years.
The training facility for dancers, based at SAMB studios, opened its doors on Monday 4 June 2012, and is headed on a rotating basis by visiting ballet teachers from the National Ballet School of Cuba. The Cuban teachers include Ms NorMaria Olaechea, Ms Ana Julia Bermudez de Castro and Ms Elena Cangas Martinez, assisted by Cuban dancers Claudia Monja and Luis Bermudez de Castro, in SA until the end of the year.
The training is based on the internationally respected Cuban ballet training system that has produced many acclaimed dancers but provision will be made for students also training in other methods (such as Cecchetti, DASA or RAD) to continue working with their accredited teachers and to take the examinations set by these institutions. The new school hopes to forge close links with the ballet training industry in SA and to make provision in its schedules for students already in training to continue working with their present teachers.
The activities of the new training project will not only benefit SA dance students but also SA teachers who will have the opportunity to be trained in the Cuban teaching methods.
The SAMB Academy was established in order to give promising young dancers the opportunity to supplement their training with private teachers. SAMB Academy dancers work in groups in order to prepare them for the corps de ballet work which they would do should they enter professional ballet company. The dancers range from age thirteen to sixteen and take regular classes with a highly skilled pool of teachers under the directorship of Jenny Barlow. At the annual Val Whyte Bursary Gala, groups from the SAMB Academy perform works specifically choreographed for them by guest choreographers. SAMB Academy dancers are also often called on to swell the ranks of professional Company’s corps de ballet during seasons. The SAMB Academy aims to contribute to the development of future generations of South African ballet dancers and the Academy management works closely with the Company management to further their mutual interests.
The SAMB Graduate Programme offers a unique opportunity for post-Matric dancers to train for either six months or a year with a professional ballet company and experience first-hand the career of a professional ballet dancer.
This exposure enables amateur dancers to experience whether they are equipped physically, emotionally and mentally for the rigors of a full-time ballet career. The course exposes the Graduate to the world of the professional stage and successful applicants will participate in the professional company’s classes, rehearsals and productions of a high professional standard.
The course consists of both practical and theoretical assessments.
At the completion of the one-year course, the SAMB Artistic Team evaluates the Graduate’s progress and accordingly, and dependent on availability, offer the individual a contract. All Graduates who successfully complete the course, (including the research project), receive a certificate to this effect.
OBJECTIVES OF SOUTH AFRICAN MZANSI BALLET:
Dance; Training; Outreach (discussed in more detail below)
- Job creation and employment opportunities in dance, stage design, support services, costume design, theatre personnel, ticketing offices, etc.
- Audience Development
- Continuity and sustainability through the ability to confidently plan ahead
- Add value to our sponsors through a growing and effective database
- Enhance cultural links with cities and countries around the world
- Use the ballet company to attract tourists and thus contribute to the economy
- Showcase the levels of sophistication and development achieved in South Africa
- Enhance the ambassadorial and goodwill role of the company and its dancers
- Transformation: We believe the potential benefits to all are immense and can enhance quality of life, increase civic pride and have a humanizing effect