A Spartacus of Africa opens at the Joburg Theatre on 4 June and at Artscape’s Opera House in Cape Town on 27 June. A Spartacus of Africa, the re-choreographed ballet featuring the music of Khachaturian and accompanied by a full orchestra, opens at the Joburg Theatre on 4 June and at Artscape’s Opera House in Cape Town on 27 June.

Casey Swales as Spartacus - pic by Claire Gunn

Casey Swales as Spartacus – pic by Claire Gunn

Ballet and dance enthusiasts in Gauteng and Cape Town will be delighted to watch a cast of 100 dancers whilst they listen to a 70-strong orchestra performing an exciting new version of Spartacus, last produced in South Africa in the 1980s.

Leading South African choreographer Veronica Paeper’s dream of once more staging this magnificent production for local audiences is at last coming true thanks to the South African National Dance Trust, a non-profit organisation founded in 2009 to promote the art form of dance through performance, education and the creation of job opportunities.

Spartacus, the tale of a Thracian gladiator who led a major slave uprising against the Roman Empire in 73BC, mirrors the oppression that various African countries have fought to overcome, and presents an excellent opportunity for a large cast of classical ballet and contemporary dancers to give the story 21st century relevance.

The cast of 35 professional dancers, excluding international guest artists, and complemented by 60 senior student dancers was selected after nationwide auditions. Veronica keeps all her solo and pas de deux choreography as classical ballet, whilst her assistant, David Krugel, introduces an internationally flavoured contemporary dance to the corps de ballet.

Elzaane Crause as Aegina in Spartacus of Africa - pic by Claire Gunn

Elzaane Crause as Aegina in Spartacus of Africa – pic by Claire Gunn

There are three sets of principals in the cast – Spartacus will be danced by Washington Ballet’s Brooklyn Mack, South African Casey Swales, and Andile Ndlovu originally from South Africa and who has been with the Washington Ballet for the past four years. Lara Turk, a South African soloist with the Royal Ballet in London, Elzanne Crause and Johannesburg-based Kristen Wilson appear in the principal female roles.

Ensuring the involvement of local communities, SANDT regularly supports and encourages new audiences and students to attend films of world class ballets at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town.

Legendary Dicky Longhurst’s costume designs form the basis for Penny Simpson’s imaginative costumes and, in a first for set design, KMH Architects in Cape Town have spent the past year designing progressive stage designs . A group of Masiphumelo women have plaited thousands of recycled green plastic bags into vines to form part of the set.

City Varsity film students have captured all elements of the production’s build-up to create an eight-minute DVD. These will be shown at schools, particularly in previously disadvantaged areas and as a pre-performance clip for learners attending the special educational performances of Spartacus at the Joburg Theatre and Artscape Opera House.

Experienced British ballet conductor Paul Hoskins (Musical Director of Rambert) will conduct the Johannesburg Philharmonic and Cape Philharmonic Orchestras who accompany Spartacus in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively. He will also be mentoring aspiring young South African conductors.

This wonderful unfolding story of A Spartacus of Africa has been made possible by SANDT’s successful fundraising applications to the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the National Arts Council, the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) in association with Nedbank Arts Affinity and a variety of private funders and trusts.

The opening night on 4 June is a red carpet, gala night and VIP tickets cost R495 (which includes sparkling wine on arrival, a production programme and cocktail event after the performance with special guests and the cast).

The Joburg Theatre season of 12 performances runs from 4-14 June. Ticket prices range from R150 – R450 and can be booked online or by telephone with the Joburg Theatre Box Office.

The opening night on 27 June is a red carpet, gala night and VIP tickets cost R475.00 (which includes sparkling wine on arrival, production programme and cocktail event after the performance with special guests and the cast).

Cape Town bookings can be done via Computicket for the Artscape season of 12 performances from 27 June – 12 July. Ticket prices range R150 – R375.