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SABT needs urgent assistance with funding

March 24, 2010

Burnise Silvius as Cinderella from 2009's seasonThe South African Ballet Theatre announced late in 2009 that although it was debt-free, it faced severe financial challenges, and if substantial funding was not found, the board of the organisation might have to take strong action to preserve its integrity. It was not clear what that action would be, but it was clear that the SABT was in dire straits.

Ballet is not a self-sustaining business – the SABT’s annual budget amounts to about R12 million and a typical season costs R2 million to produce. The SABT relied on external funding for two-thirds of its budget, and although performing to an average of 40 000 audience members, ticket sales only came up to one-third of the income required to run.

The prominent bodies from which the SABT traditionally gained funding were no longer forthcoming, possibly as a result of the tighter economic conditions. The SABT has always produced excellent classical ballet dancers, and through its outreach programmes teaches ballet to 250 children throughout Johannesburg free of charge. Along with the future of the company, the continuation of these classes was also in question.

After the announcement, goodwill struck and many patrons responded to various fundraising initiatives, raising R1.9 million in addition to the R2 million that had previously been committed to the SABT for 2010. However, this was still not enough – another R4 million was needed to enable the organisation to continue its normal operations.

As a result of the continual lack of funding, staff members were given notice of retrenchment at the end of 2009 despite the additional funds raised. If the necessary additional funding is not raised by April 2010, the staff face unemployment.

Apparently the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) were filled with desperate pleas by not only the SABT but the Dance Umbrella as well for funding and sponsorship, and questions lingered about why South Africa did not care about its arts and why there was no investment in artistic talent. 

After all this, there are still major problems, and the outreach project mentioned before might also be scaled down if new sponsorship is not found. The dancers at the theatre show such commitment to their craft and to sharing it that they continue to dance without being paid.

As an effort to raise the much-needed funding for the organisation, the management team behind Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Story have decided to donate a performance at The Joburg Theatre to the SABT on 30 March 2010 – tickets cost only R200 and proceeds are all to be donated to the SABT. Please show your support of this amazing organisation, and South Africa’s amazing theatrical and artistic talent, and support this initiative! Tickets are available through Lesley at +27 11 877 6970 or

Continue to show your support of the SA Ballet Theatre by also attending their first season production Swan Lake.

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