Joburg Ballet

Transformation is at the forefront of Joburg Ballet’s vision, and it’s why CEO Esther Nasser was appointed by the then Chairs of the Joburg Theatre Board, Wally Serote, and Joburg Ballet, James Campbell in 2016. The company provides a high standard of training for students via Joburg Ballet School and Academy, plus a comprehensive programme of community-based development and outreach work via its Satellite Schools, with an emphasis on historically disadvantaged communities.

Along with transformation, Joburg Ballet is keeping one of the oldest art forms alive. It is dedicated to the growth and revitalisation of the great legacy of classical ballet and to the development of new choreographers, new works and new audiences across South Africa. “Many companies globally are looking at new ways of collaborating and discovering how ballet fits in with the ‘new world’ of digital dominance and the effects of it on the audiences’ expectations,” says Nasser.

Based within the Joburg Theatre, Joburg Ballet, formerly known as the South African Ballet Theatre, was formed in 2001 by six dancers who were retrenched by PACT Ballet. Since then it has spread its wings: the company was invited to perform in Russia in 2006 and has had exchange programmes with the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Paris Opera and the San Francisco Ballet.

Its repertoire includes full-length productions of major classical works, as well as shorter ballets, including original works created for the company by South African and international choreographers. The company presents three major seasons a year at Joburg Theatre, and also tours to other regions in South Africa and internationally.

For 2023, the Joburg programmes are:

Dialogues (Joburg Theatre): Friday 17 March – Sunday 26 March

Romeo and Juliet (Joburg Theatre): Friday 30 June – Sunday 9 July

Don Quixote (Joburg Theatre): Friday 29 September – Sunday 8 October

Surprisingly, the company thrived under lockdown in many ways: “With the guidance of our law firm, BakerMcKenzie, we drafted a strict policy to enable us to bring the company back at the end of June 2020. Joburg Ballet was fortunate in that we managed to keep safe with very few cases affecting us. We were also blessed that the organisation was paid full salaries during the lock-down period. A further blessing was the fact that the company could explore new choreography through necessity, which highlighted the fact that there were many talented people in the organisation and offered new opportunities to company members, whose careers have benefited from the lock-down.”

Joburg Ballet is assisted by Friends of the Ballet (FOTB), which comprises people who love ballet, want to learn more about it and, where possible, want to help grow and support this beautiful art form. FOTB strives to build awareness and support for Joburg Ballet and its dancers, raising funds via membership and events that introduce new audiences to its performances. These include hosting Under 21 events, which build a base of future dancers and audiences. The non-profit organisation also puts together informative talks about ballet: discussions with choreographers, dancers and musicians. Historically FOTB has played a pivotal role in funding specific projects for Joburg Ballet.

There is a strong vision behind the dance company, says Nasser: “To expand its repertoire with the resources on hand and collaborate with other companies, not only in SA, but abroad to bring together the talents of the many artists we admire. To expand the company’s brand; to enhance it as a South African ballet company with a strong South African identity.”

Joburg Ballet is a registered charity that requires ongoing support for a number of costs that include hiring external choreographers and teachers, live piano accompaniment at lessons and performances, dance footwear and accessories. It has its own range of dancewear, called Made to Move, with 30 outfits that are manufactured to a very high standard. Items can be ordered from