Africa

Inside South Africa's most prestigious ballet

Updated 7:10 AM ET, Wed March 8, 2017
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During her 14 year-career principal dancer Shannon Glover has performed in 13 ballets including Romeo and Juliet and ballet's most well-known romance Swan Lake.

This month she takes the lead in South African Veronica Paeper's choreographed La Traviata. Pictured here, she rehearses at the Johannesburg theater.
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Lauded as one of South Africa's most prestigious, Joburg Ballet opened in 2012 as an institution for the masses, adapting classical techniques with an injection of traditional African identities and dance rigor.

The ballet company has been attempting to reach out beyond its predominantly white audience since its launch.

Pictured: Ballet soloist Kirstel Jensen rehearses for Swan Lake.
Courtesy Barry Goldman/Joburg Ballet
Joburg Ballet and Via Katlehong Dance Company are involved in the promotion of ballet in disadvantaged areas of South Africa.

Pictured: Members of the ballet company rush backstage after a performance ahead of an open discussion on dance as a powerful means of change in society.
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Using ballet and dance to promote healthy and positive choices, in 2014, it provided lecture demonstrations to twenty schools in Soweto, raising awareness and informing students of the available free classes they provide together with the provincial department of education.

Pictured: Senior soloist Kitty Phetla performs in a classroom at the Nka-Thuto Primary School in Soweto.
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Around 250 children have been offered classes as part of its satellite schools around South Africa's neighborhoods, at a lower costs for parents.

Pictured: Senior soloist Kitty Phetla waits to perform in a classroom at the Shalomanne Primary School in Soweto.
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Choreographer Adele Blank looks on while dancers warm up before a full dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker Re-Imagined - an African reworking of the popular ballet piece with traditional African elements. The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is instead played by a Sangoma known as a traditional healer in South Africa. MARCO LONGARI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Dancers get ready to enter the scene during a full dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker Re-Imagined. With a stage backdrop representing the Kalahari desert, it premiered to an audience of 970 strong at the Johannesburg Theatre.

"We are trying to sustain the existing audience, but grow a very new South African audience, particularly a young and black and exciting audience," CEO of the Joburg Ballet, told local paper Mail & Guardian back in 2014.
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For a full-length two or three act ballet such as Swan Lake, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, rehearsals take place for eight to ten weeks prior to opening night.

Pictured: Kitty Phetla takes to the stage in The Dying Swan.
Courtesy Susanne Holbaek/Joburg Ballet
Ballerina Monika Cristina and head seamstress Evancina Mokwebo during a costume fitting in Johannesburg.

Given the expense lavished on ballet costumes, they are often reused for a production for many years and adjusted to fit individual dancers.
Courtesy Joburg Ballet
A very basic costume takes two to three days, a tutu takes anywhere from four to fourteen days to design depending on how elaborate the beading and decoration designs requested are.
Pictured: Nicole Ferreira-Dill and Juan Carlos Osma in Swan Lake.
Courtesy Lauge Sorensen/Joburg Ballet
After each season costumes are cleaned, repaired if necessary and taken for storage at a warehouse in Pretoria, South Africa.

Pictured: Juan Carlos Osma and Shannon Glover in Giselle, act II.
Courtesy Bill Zurich/Joburg Ballet