Rita Lee, owner of Botswana’s own Riza Ballet school, has promised to give World Class African Ballet Company - Jo'burg Ballet, a run for their money when her dancers open the floor for the South Africans at Maitisong on March 23.
There will only be two shows at 1400hrs and 1930hrs. With elegant moves, elaborate costume, spectacular lighting and make-up, Jo'burg Ballet promises a breath-taking programme from classical ballets. Lee says the invitation to be curtain raisers for the show presents an incredible opportunity for the young ballerinas to step onto the stage alongside some of the world’s greatest ballet dancers. The young dancers will be inspired to become part of great companies like the Jo'burg Ballet. "It is fantastic for me and my students. They can now see results for so many years of training. I am very excited and happy that they have given us an opportunity to open for Jo'burg Ballet. Batswana children are very good in ballet dancing, they feel the music in their bodies, they are very strong dancers. We will surprise the Jo'burg dancers, I promise you," says Lee confidently.
She says despite the fact that the opening performance is a short dance, it is really a great opportunity, and they are very lucky that Jo'burg Ballet secured a sponsorhip to come to Botswana as their shows are very expensive. "It is something that we are looking forward. I am pleased that they asked me to feature in their show. It is wonderful," says Lee whose school is affiliated to Royal Academy of Dance in London. She is a registered teacher with the academy that sends examiners to Botswana every year to assess standards at her school.
Riza Ballet conducts classes for children of different age categories at Energym in Broadhurst with examinations held every year in June. Lee says she has been teaching ballet in Botswana for over 30 years now. She started with about only 10 students but now a majority of her students are locals. "A lot of Batswana now know about ballet. We have some good dancers in our school. We have been inundated with applications to join but have been forced to turn back some children because we cannot accommodate them," she says, adding that some of her graduates have gone into teaching while two are based in America.
On Friday rehearsals started for a group of 20 dancers aged between 10 and 17 who will do the curtain raising for the Jo'burg Ballet show. Two of the older students are acting as assistants helping Lee with teaching.
Jo'burg Ballet is a major South African cultural institution presenting ballet in Johannesburg, across South Africa and internationally as well as operating extensive educational, development and outreach programmes. Within the broader context of South Africa’s social fabric, ballet has a role to play in achieving greater cultural diversity and understanding.
Jo'burg Ballet dancers reflect the demographics of South Africa. It is racially and culturally diverse with dancers from around the globe. Its mission is to make dance an accessible form of artistic expression embracing the widest cross-section of society, and to enhance standards, training, development, job creation, opportunities, continuity, sustainability, tourism, international goodwill and transformation. The dancers possess incredible talent, poise, elegance and grace. Performances will include Diana and Acteon Pas de Deux, The Dying Swan, Czardas (from Swan Lake), Big Swan (from Swan Lake), Cygnets (from Swan Lake), Black Swan Pas de Deux (from Swan Lake), Solor’s Solo Variation (from La Bayadere), Gamzatti’s Solo Variation (from La Bayadere), Carmina Burana (Highlights), Flames of Paris Pas de Deux, Spring Waters, Second Movement (from Kopano), Gauteng (from Kopano), Jantjie, Don Quixote Pas de Deux and Finale.