Joburg Ballet has returned to the Joburg Theatre’s stage after a yearlong interruption of its performance season by the covid-19 pandemic.  

The dance company debuted its showcase of four new ballets in the premiere of Ballet and Beyond between 911 April 2021. 

The South African arts and culture sector has been hit hard by an economic slump due to the banning of public gatherings during lockdown. Joburg Ballet was, however, able to stay above water financially thanks to the continuation of performances outside of the theatre and to renewed funding. 

“We are very blessed to receive funding from the City of Johannesburg,’’ said Esther Nasser, CEO of the company. 

Principal dancer Nicole Ferreira-Dill expressed a collective sense of relief after dancers were able to return to the stage with their finances still intact. You don’t dance for the money,’’ she said, but added, ‘’I think the company was really amazing to make sure everyone in the company still got their salaries.”

Thabang Mabaso, soloist and teacher for Joburg Ballet, said that “as dancers, we were lucky that we were able to keep our jobs’’.

A segment of the show, titled The Silent Wanderer, by Italian choreographer Mario Gaglione, detailed a South African dancer’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. The body of work included a recorded excerpt of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech announcing the first national lockdown, and it pushed dancers to adapt to the added discipline of dancing masked. Ferreira-Dill explained what this means for her when performing: ‘‘You can’t breathe, you are breathing in your carbon dioxide the whole time, and your muscles need oxygen.’’ 

Nasser explained the company’s decision to embrace this approach. “We have chosen to do certain works with masks just so that we are all comfortable, and so people can see we are being responsible,’’ she said.  

The level of excitement was at a record high, with performers eager to return to their craft. Aspirant dancer Anke van Rooyen described how fortunate she felt over the chance to dance again. “Being back on stage is such a privilege,” she said. 

Mabaso expressed his appreciation for the arts prevailing during these challenging timesI think it ian exciting time for South Africa to get itdance company back.’’ 

FEATURED IMAGE: Joburg Ballet dancers on stage in The Silent Wanderer ballet production. Photo: Provided