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Thursday, September 5, 2013


(Lwazi Msimase & Jamie Mills as Hansel & Gretel. Pic by MarkWolhuter)

The timeless story of hunger, love, courage and triumph that is Hansel and Gretel comes to Durban this month as a brand new ballet choreographed by Durban-born Mark Hawkins, who is now based in Johannesburg.

Featuring the Johannesburg Youth Ballet (JYB), this highly acclaimed original will be presented at the Drama Theatre from September 19 to 21, in association with the Playhouse Company and with the support of the Arts and Culture Trust.

First performed in Johannesburg for a short run last year, the JYB made its celebrated debut on the main programme of the recent National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

The Durban run is perfectly timed for end-of-term celebrations and the start of the September spring holiday. With this in mind, the JYB has scheduled two dedicated school’s performances on September 19 at 09h00 and 12h00.

Another artist familiar to Durban audiences is Andrew Botha, who has created the set design and digital animation, while the original score is the work of Pietermaritzburg-born and Midlands-raised Nik Sakellarides and audiovisual integration is by Malcolm Finlay of Penmac.

Hansel and Gretel, played to full houses and critical acclaim when it premiered at the University of Johannesburg’s Arts Centre in August 2012. It is a definite audience pleaser.

The 37-year-old JYB, under the leadership of artistic director Kate Martin, features a company of 32 of the city’s most promising young dancers who proudly carry the banner of youth arts to a new height. They embody the promise of the continuity of this classical art form while showing its wide appeal to youth from all backgrounds.

The narrative of Hansel and Gretel provides rich character possibilities and challenging performance opportunities in solos, duos, trios as well as full company ensemble numbers.

The JYB invites audience members to donate non-perishable food items to create a “House of Food” in the foyer. This non-perishable food drive cleverly draws attention to the fact that Hansel and Gretel is a tale of hunger and that there are latter day Hansels and Gretels eking out a survival on the harsh streets of our cities.

The story has as much relevance today as it had when it was first published by the Brothers Grimm 200 years ago. While there are vulnerable children and exploitative adults, the story of Hansel and Gretel needs to be told. The Johannesburg Youth Ballet’s version will inspire audiences with its sensitivity, lyricism and beauty.

Hansel and Gretel has public performances on September 19 and 20 at 19h30, and September 21 at 11h00, 15h00 and 19h00. Tickets R90 booked through Computicket.

Schools wishing to make bookings should contact Kim Coppen at or 082 579 6882.