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Visionary new company reimagines dance in Africa

Debbie Turner has launched a new ballet company, Cape Ballet Africa, with a mission to “reimagine how ballet can look in Africa”.

We cannot wait for the inaugural season at The Baxter in September 2024 which will include a triple bill of ballets by celebrated South African choreographers Kirsten Isenberg, Mthuthuzeli November and Michelle Reid, as well as international guest appearances.

This is what we are (reliably) told about Cape Ballet Africa:

Cape Ballet Africa celebrates cultural values imbued through dance, instilling the discipline of classical ballet while blending in the exciting heritage of South African culture. The Company identity will strongly align with the global dance landscape while building a proudly African organisation.

Cape Ballet Africa will, through performance excellence and ongoing professional development of artists, inspire new generations to appreciate an artform that demands much of the human spirit, gives much back to the human spirit and fosters a broad appreciation and following within the African diaspora.

Education and upskilling of young apprentice professional artists working with more experienced artists will also be a focus for the new company.

“Cape Ballet Africa seeks to reimagine how ballet can look in Africa, using the interplay of identity and culture, the diversity in all elements of the artform; the people and the repertory … this creates a catalyst for a cultural legacy for future generations.”

Debbie Turner, Cape Ballet Africa founder

The creative team includes many luminaries from the ballet, dance and theatre world such as international classical ballet pedagogue Diane Van Schoor; international classical producer and choreographer, Maina Gielgud; renowned set designer Michael Mitchell and award-winning lighting designer Wilhelm Disbergen, to name a few.

“A core team of founding dancers have been working for a month now, and I am thrilled to be on this new dance journey with them, launching in Cape Town, our beautiful city in the Western Cape,” says Turner.

Cape Ballet Africa is honoured to include Dr Connie September, Diane Van Schoor and Thoriso Magongwa as the company’s Patrons, to serve as sounding boards and guidance for what will be a constantly evolving endeavour.

“Ballet, in its many guises, will be the focus of this new company presenting work that inspires artists to dance and dance lovers to share in the magic of viewing ballet and dance. It will provide an additional employment opportunity for current and upcoming artists, prioritising talent from South Africa and the African diaspora. We are also looking forward to welcoming many artists and guest artists from further afield,” said Turner.

Cape Ballet Africa is now accepting applications from interested artists. For further information, email: [email protected]

Join the conversation and keep in touch with updates from Cape Ballet Africa: Instagram Cape Ballet Africa Facebook Cape Ballet Africa Tik-Tok Cape Ballet Africa

Debbie Turner Artistic Director Cape Ballet Africa. Photo credit Oscar O’Ryan

There is a lot to be said about Debbie Turner, including about her own career in ballet and Spanish dance, her role as a judge for the inaugural season of M-Net’s Dancing With The Stars and the five years she served as Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director of Cape Town City Ballet. In the latter role, she staged works of both South African and international choreographers including Maina Gielgud, Veronica Paeper, Mthuthuzeli November, Kirsten Isenberg, Marlin Zoutman, Michelle Reid, Lindy Raizenberg, Jiri Kylian, George Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Kenneth Tindall, Gregory Maqoma and many others.

But we at Call Off The Search know and love Debbie Turner best for her work with the Cape Dance Company, which she founded in 1995. They performed nationally and internationally for 24 years, including in the UK many times, New York and South Korea. The company’s dance school, the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, operated from 1985 until 2021 in its own custom-designed building. More than 100 students emerged from the vocational training programme over 17 years, many of them now working across the performing arts industry and multiple other disciplines, both nationally and internationally.

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