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PRESS: Dancers to honour Dr Johaar Mosaval at the Artscape in DREAMING DANCE IN DISTRICT SIX

Allison Foat


South African dance icon and living legend Dr Johaar Mosaval will be honoured by shining stars of the South African ballet and dance scene in Dreaming Dance in District Six: The Johaar Mosaval Story. The award-winning production, taking place at the Artscape Opera House from 2 to 4 March 2023, embodies the spirit of District Six and dance.

Presented by the District Six Museum in association with Artscape, Dreaming Dance in District Six not only celebrates Johaar Mosaval but also shines a spotlight on burgeoning South African talent, both emerging and established, who continue to draw much inspiration from Johaar’s success story, even as decades separate their respective career journeys.  A versatile company of 36 will perform show-stopping solos and group pieces in tribute to Johaar and his stellar career.  Jazzart, Joburg Ballet, Figure of 8 Dance Collective, the Waterfront Theatre School and the Cape Junior Ballet (CJB) will all be part of this meaningful show that is narrated by Dr Mosaval himself. 

In its first iteration, Dreaming Dance in District Six was conceptualised by former CAPAB ballet dancer Sharon Paulsen who won a kykNET Fiesta Award for it in 2018. This refreshed version of the show that once again unveils the fascinating story of Johaar’s life through dance, music, narration and multimedia, is co-directed by Basil Appollis and choreographer Grant van Ster. 

Pas de deux and solos include Joburg Ballet’s Ruan Galdino (pictured) from Brazil with Chloé Blair dancing the famous Bluebird Pas De Deux from The Sleeping Beauty and The Neapolitan from Swan Lake. From Figure of 8 Collective, award-winning contemporary dancer Shaun Oelf (pictured) will dance the iconic Moor’s Room solo from Petrouchka and Sebastian van der Berg (pictured) from Durbanville takes the role of the young Johaar. Choreographer Robin van Wyk has created a delightful excerpt from A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring the CJB dancers coached by Professor Elizabeth Triegaardt. The impish role of Puck, to be danced by Cleto van Rooi from Paarl, is one for which Johaar was famous, as he was with the Bluebird variation and many others. Another highlight will be a charming extract from Coppélia, featuring Cassiel Eatock from the Mowbray Ballet Academy as the Doll with former Cape Town City Ballet and PACT Ballet Senior Principal Johnny Bovang as the eccentric Dr. Coppélius.

As a student, Johaar was cast in the ballet Coppélia that tells of a wacky alchemist who believes he can bring a wooden doll to life by giving her a human heart. Interestingly, the world-famous Professor Christiaan Barnard, then a medical student, was in the audience with his mother. The storyline resonated, he was inspired, and many years later when Johaar returned to South Africa on a vacation, the distinguished heart surgeon reached out to Johaar and held a party for him in his honour. Dr Mosaval holds numerous prestigious awards for his achievements and contribution to the performing arts, including the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold, which was presented to him by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019. In 2021 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town.

According to Basil Appollis, Dreaming Dance in District Six merges powerful dance performances - classical, neo classical, jazz, contemporary and hip hop - with storytelling and visuals to bring Johaar Mosaval’s story of perseverance, tenacity and hope to life while portraying an historic and hugely relevant story. In his day, Johaar Mosaval experienced the full might of the Apartheid State and was forced to pursue his dancing dreams in a foreign country, leaving his beloved District Six behind. “It is with great joy that we are able to celebrate our South African ballet icon who succeeded against all odds in taking his talent, extraordinary skills and passion to far-flung corners of the world,” says Appollis.

Dr Mosaval, who turned 95 years old in January, grew up in District Six as the eldest of ten children. During the apartheid era he left South Africa to pursue his dance dream and went on to carve out an illustrious career as a Senior Principal dancer with London’s Royal Ballet, between the 1950s and 1970s. It was during his tenure with the prestigious company that he performed before the late Queen Elizabeth at her 1953 coronation, a momentous occasion indeed. As one of South Africa’s greatest living legends, he was also the first person of colour to dance at Artscape, known back then as the Nico Malan Theatre. 


Tina Smith, Head of Exhibitions and Project Coordinator for the Johaar Mosaval Legacy Project at the District Six Museum, says, “The District Six Museum is indeed privileged to work closely with Dr Mosaval at his delicate age of 95. He possesses a mindful eloquence, a charismatic and engaging personality and is an invaluable asset to Cape Town’s local cultural heritage. Having had an international and established artistic profile, we feel honoured to be able to share the scope and scale of Dr Mosaval’s career and contributions through this production. His story is vital within South Africa’s post-apartheid narrative and is vital to younger generations.” 


Dreaming Dance in District Six: The Johaar Mosaval Story takes place on 2, 3 and 4 March at 7:30pm with one matinee on Saturday 4 March at 3pm. Tickets cost from R120 per person through Computicket and Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 0214217695. A 25% discount for group bookings, students and pensioners is only available when booking seats in person at the Artscape box office or at Computicket outlets, upon presentation of valid identification.  The District Six Museum is grateful for support from the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Old Mutual and Old Friends Young Talent (OFYT), among others.

All proceeds from this production will go towards supporting the District Six Museum.


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