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Written by: Michèle le Roux

Val Whyte’s passion and commitment to a vision became an incredible, all encompassing vessel of opportunity to foster classical ballet talent in Gauteng.

Val passed away in 2010, but her legacy of ongoing generous sponsorship, ensures this prestigious Bursary lives on, already beyond a quarter of a century, impacting significantly on the greater ballet community, locally and abroad.

The 2016 Bursary Performance at the Roodepoort Theatre, took place on 27 and 28 May, with Paige McElligott (R.A.D. trained by June Melville, Dorothy de Wit and Vanessa Eborall), being selected as the new bursary winner.

10 Finalists who were selected in September 2015 at an audition of Cecchetti and R.A.D. participants, were coached until the 2016 performance, to dance off for the selection of a winner. Clad in peppermint green and black trim, they skilfully presented a carefully arranged class then a solo to music from Raymonda (composed by Alexander Glazunov) and lastly, a group dance to Essential Yanni - In the Mirror, all of which, had been meticulously and artistically prepared by Nicole Ferreira-Dill, Senior Soloist with Joburg Ballet, and accompanied by Jakie Roos at the piano. The finalists were: Ané Bierman (Yana Auger), Ruchél Cornelius (Karlien Hugo), Nicola De Necker (Karlien Hugo), Joanna Doran (Marie Sadie), Paige McElligot (June Melville, Dorothy de Wit, Vanessa Eborall), Oke Odiley (Joanne Bobrow), Hannah Said (Gail Myburgh, Robyn Savage), Rhylee Smith (Karen Beukes, Anneliese Venter), Daniella Venter (Wilcarine Yeats, Annabelle Herbst) and Chandré Wiid ( Paula Olivier).

(* Val Whyte Bursary finalists)

The adjudication panel comprised;
Odette Millner Parfitt who was R.A.D. trained in Johannesburg by Joyce Myroff and Reina Berman and who won the Adeline Genée competition and Royal Ballet School scholarship in London to train there for 2 years, then went on to be Principal dancer at Ballet West in the U.S.A. and returned to PACT Ballet where she danced principal roles;
Elesia Ceronio F.I.S.T.D. Cecchetti Faculty who was one of the first Val Whyte finalists in 1991, taught at the State Theatre Ballet School under the guidance of Dawn Weller and Faith de Villiers and teaches all levels of Cecchetti Ballet in Pretoria. She was appointed as an examiner in 2012 and having served as Chairperson of the Pretoria and Districts Region, has recently been elected onto the Cecchetti Council of Management, Southern Africa;
Michèle Gonçalves F.I.S.T.D. Cecchetti Faculty, who was predominantly trained by Ms. José Pretorius, attending the Johannesburg High School for Art, Ballet, Drama and Music and after matriculating, furthered her studies at UCT Ballet School, where she studied with Ms. Jennifer Louw. She teaches in Johannesburg and has previously had finalists in the Val Whyte Bursary. In 2008 she was the recipient of the Pat Hardy Scholarship to attend the Cecchetti Summer School in Chichester, England and was Chairlady for the Cecchetti Society Johannesburg Region from 2009 to March 2016. Michèle is also an examiner for the Cecchetti Society of Southern Africa;
Debra Gush studied Ballet, Modern and Tap dancing with Lyndee Luck and Lynnette Whitehead in the Eastern Cape. She completed her National Diploma in Dance at the Pretoria Technikon in 1991 and then joined NAPAC Dance Company, working extensively on outreach dance education in Natal. She moved onto the commercial stage of Sun City before taking on a lecturing post at the Pretoria Technikon and has completed her B.Tech degree in Dance with emphasis on teaching methodology. She has choreographed for many dance seasons and worked on the South African version of “So You Think You Can Dance”. She is versatile in teaching Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz, Pilates and Body Conditioning, currently teaching at Southdowns College and the Southdowns Dance Academy.
Nigel Hannah was a student at the Royal Ballet School from the age of 12. He joined the former PACT BALLET (later The State Theatre Ballet) corps de ballet in 1977 and in 1992 was the first dancer to achieve the status of Character Principal with the company. He has danced most of the Character roles within the ballet repertoire. In 1991 Nigel joined the Dance Department at Pro Arte Alphen Park High School, Pretoria as a part-time teacher and full-time from September 2002. He has been HOD from 2006, producing annual shows. In 2007 he became cluster leader for the new national curriculum for Dance Studies in Gauteng. He has received awards from Dalro, Vita and Friends of the Ballet and the Lilian And Ivan Solomon Award. He is a well known adjudicator and still performs in professional ballet shows locally and abroad. In 2001 Nigel was appointed Co-Artistic Consultant to the Johannesburg Youth Ballet and is Artistic Consultant for the Ovation Youth Ballet.

The programme show cased the development of nurtured talent in the children’s ballet to the selection of the finalists’ class, solos and group presentation, progressing to the past finalists’ incorporation into Joburg Ballet Academy, and finally, the professional phase outcome in the Joburg Ballet company.

The supporting programme of dance excellence opened with Run, choreographed by Shannon Glover, Joburg Ballet Principal Dancer, to music by Ludovico Einaudi. This enjoyable piece was danced by students of the Joburg Ballet Academy.

The Creation, a Children’s Ballet produced by Joanne Bobrow, Tracey McNiven and Amber Jones with a cast of 36 children aged between 7 and 12, told the story of the creation of heaven and earth, the Garden of Eden, a paradise for all creatures, until man’s natural instinct led his inquisitive mind to wander, to question and to disobey. This brought about fighting amongst the elements of nature, for the ultimate balance of the universe. The scenes moved from The Beginning… a sound with a voice over and celestial beings, to The Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and the Serpent in the midst of flowers, leaves, butterflies and bees, moving onto The Elements of Nature encompassing Earth, Water, Air and Fire.

It is with huge appreciation that we reflect on the numerous Children’s Ballets which Joanne and Tracey have choreographed for the Val Whyte Bursary Performance, including Christmas Delight 2010, A Galaxy of Imagination 2013, followed by Oliver Twist 2014, Under African Skies 2015 and The Creation 2016. This formidable task has been consistently accomplished beyond excellence, delighting the audiences over and over.

The supporting programme continued with the Garland Dance from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Iain MacDonald and Burnise Silvius and charmingly performed by students of Joburg Ballet Academy.

The final item was the Walpurgisnacht Pas de Deux choreographed by Malcolm Burn, after Prokovsky to music by Charles Gounod (1818-93). The music is from the Walpurgisnacht scene in Gounod’s opera, Faust. It was lovely to see 2009 Val Whyte Bursary winner, Olivia Parfitt, who is now in the corps de ballet of Joburg Ballet, perform this with Juan Carlos Osma, Principal dancer with Joburg Ballet.

Children’s Ballet: THE CREATION: FIRE with the whole cast

Children’s Ballet: THE CREATION: WATER with the whole cast


Children’s Ballet: THE GARDEN OF EDEN

The Val Whyte committee, chaired by Cheryl Van Niekerk, with Carole McLuskie as secretary and Zandra Gibbon, Penny Molfessis, Karen Symons and Kerry Vida with Michèle le Roux co-opted, wishes to thank Joburg Ballet, as well as Sue King for being a long standing Master of Ceremonies, and all the Gauteng Ballet teachers for their support of this Bursary.

Auditions for 2017 Val Whyte Bursary will take place on 10 & 11 September 2016.

For further information, kindly contact Carole McLuskie 082 379-1681.

(* All photographs by Colin Hall)


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