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South African Mzanzi Ballet

Photographer: Kim Ludbrook


Established in July 2012, South African Mzanzi Ballet (SAMB) is one of just two full-time professional ballet companies in South Africa. The company boasts as extensive repertoire includes works by Petipa, Ivanov, Bovim, Maqoma, Paeper, Balanchine, Saint-Léon, Wubbe as well as home-grown choreographers Kitty Phetla, Iain MacDonald and Shannon Glover. In addition to the professional company, and under the auspices of SAMB, an extensive outreach program offers free ballet lessons to over 300 dancers from townships in and around Johannesburg, including the city’s oldest township, Alexandra, where Nelson Mandela once lived. Young dancers from the age of 5 to 16 learn movement, body, spatial and language skills through their regular ballet training. Dancers receive free transport to and from classes and rehearsal and regularly participate in the professional company's major productions, annual Cecchetti examinations, eisteddfods and fundraising performances. The dancers are encouraged to develop a new South African dance identity incorporating the ballet technique and their own movement vocabulary. The SAMB Development School ultimate aim is to select talented dancers for further training at the SAMB Academy and finally, for employment with the Company as professional dancers. As the township dancer dreamed of a walking onto the big stage the dancers of SAMB put the final touches on 'Don Quixote' before the show opens.