South African Mzansi Ballet revitalised with city cash

More change is afoot for the South African Mzansi Ballet, which will be renamed the Joburg Ballet following an injection of funds from the City of Johannesburg.

The troupe – which had only recently become known as South African Ballet Theatre – has received a ZAR8m (€620,506) grant for an initial year, with further funding expected over the next three years.

It’s a solid lifeline for the company which had previously been strapped for cash loan, and will allow the team to plan ahead for the coming seasons. Joburg Ballet will programme six weeks of performances in The Mandela venue at the city-owned Joburg Theatre every year. In April 2014 the company will perform in Washington DC to mark the 20th anniversary of South African democracy.

The Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, councillor Mpho Parks Tau, said: ‘I’m delighted to be able to bring Joburg’s support to this company going forward as a shining example of the contribution the arts can make to communities.’

A further prerequisite of the funding is that two representatives of the Joburg City Theatres (the municipal entity now operating Joburg Theatre, Soweto Theatre and Roodepoort Theatre) will join the Joburg Ballet’s board of directors in order to monitor funding.

Joburg Ballet CEO Dirk Badenhorst said: ‘I thank Councillor Tau for acknowledging the value that a worldclass African ballet company can bring to a world-class African city. This support for the company has come about through the vision and commitment of many, and we thank all involved.’

The City of Johannesburg has had an ongoing relationship with the ballet company since April 2004.

The company, then known as The South African Ballet Theatre, moved from its base in Pretoria to the then Johannesburg Civic Theatre, under JCT’s CEO, Bernard Jay.

The company is now permanently housed at the purpose built, state-of-the- art venue comprising two ballet studios and office space, funded by the governmental body and SAPPI, a corporate neighbour.

Badenhorst added: ‘Children from the theatre’s development programme in Soweto, Alexandra, Olifantsfontein, Mamelodi, Melville and Braamfontein – as well as young people from across the city and environs – can now look forward with pride to joining the company. By providing these opportunities we are in accord with President Zuma’s call for the need to create more employment opportunities. I believe in the value of the arts to help us seek solutions to Africa’s problems and I am proud to be counted among the citizens of Joburg.’