South African’s penchant for honouring their own, leans more towards politicians, sports heroes, athletic heroines, pop stars, the Trevor Noahs of this world and an occasional Pretty Yende. Perilously low on the honours lists are classical ballet dancers, choreographers and teachers.
Why this should be is anyone’s guess. But possible reasoning lies in misunderstanding classical ballet as an elitist art. True, female dancers in glittering tutus, dancing sur les pointes (dancing on points/toes), and airborne male dancers often give the uninitiated that impression.
The truth and facts are a good classical ballet training kits out dancers capable of performing any and every dance genre – it’s a training no other dance form equals. So, in a rare privilege, New York Ballet Stars and Joburg Ballet join forces from 15 to 18 November 2018, to present a tribute to the late Mignon Furman.
Mignon Furman Ballet
The Mignon Furman Ballet (MFB) promises an exciting season in which Joburg Ballet, on their first Cape Town visit, will perform Kevin Durwael’s specially choreographed ballet –Transcendence.
Among other pieces, balletomane patrons will et an opportunity to see Ashley Bouder and Joaquin de Luz – principal dancers from New York City Ballet (NYCB) Ballet – perform Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. The bill will also include favourite pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Don Quixote.
Colleague Daniel Ulbricht (NYCB Principal) opposite Betsy McBride (America Ballet Theatre – ABT), dance The Flames of Paris pas de deux – a cogent ballet based on the French Revolution. Ulbricht shows off his remarkable technical dexterity in Tango, while McBride with Marshall Whitley from ABT, Sterling Baca and Nayara Lopes from Pennsylvania Ballet perform Kevin Durwael’s neo-classical work Joy.
McBride links up with ABT’s Marshall Whitley in Affection – choreographed by Kevin Durwael to Chopin to Mignon Furman’s memory.
Who was Mignon Furman?
A tiny, bubbly person, she shone for many years as one of Cape Town’s most illustrious award-winning pedagogues and choreographers. Inspired by her own teachers dedication, from her earliest lessons to her last breath in New York in 2012, Furman, never ceased studying, teaching, choreographing or promoting this beautiful, historic art.
During her long Cape Town career, Furman ran her own studios, guided assistant teachers in pedagogical correctness and among famous dancers she trained were Janet Lindup, Allison Foat, Ingrid Buhrer and, Elizabeth Triegaardt in her pre-professional years.
Furman, together with Dulcie Howes and David Poole, compiled the first syllabi when ballet was introduced as a matric subject in House of Representative and Cape Education schools.
An organiser per excellence Furman regularly organised Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) functions; choreographed performances of her own pupils who excelled at Eisteddfodau and festivals. When UCT Ballet School’s principal, David Poole invited Furman to teach at the ballet school she became a Senior Lecturer and, on Poole’s death, acted as director. In those positions she nurtured the RAD syllabi, restructured teacher training courses; raised sufficient monies to lay the foundation for the Cape Junior Ballet – a group advancing teenage dancers technique as well as offering performance opportunities at the Baxter Theatre, Grahamstown
Festivals and with CAPAB in Port Elizabeth
Upon winning a coveted green card Furman transferred her boundless energy to New York where, within a short time, she became a well-loved figure in that notoriously tough ballet fraternity.
She was RAD National Organizer for the USA, before formulating her own Performance Awards. Awards, designed to encourage young trainee dancers to maximise technical skills suitable to their ages. Furman trained teachers and examiners in this work in 10 countries – including South Africa. Through her American Academy of Ballet Furman developed remarkable summer schools that could, very easily, have died with her death. Instead, with equal energy and dedication her husband Simon Kaplan and son Laurence, have picked up her teaching shoes and holding her flame continue holding annual summer schools.
At last count approximately 600 delegates from 15 countries attended the six week course held at the Purchase College State University of New York.
The above only touches briefly on Mignon Furman’s life and legacy. Her life is rightly being celebrated by top-ranking American dancers and Joburg Ballet at Artscape from 15-18 November. With a gala on 17 November 2018 at 7.30pm.
Cape Town Theatre Guide: https://weekendspecial.co.za/stage-on-the-boards/
What: Mignon Furman Ballet New York Ballet Stars Tribute to Mignon Furman
Who: New York Ballet Stars, Joburg Ballet – Mignon Furman Ballet
Mignon Ballet when: 15 to 18 November 2018
Where: Artscape Theatre Cape Town
Mignon Furman Ballet ticket price: R250 to R550. 10% discount for pensioners, students. Block bookings 10-100 tickets and 15% for 100 or more
New York Ballet Stars Tickets: 021 421 7695, 086 915 8000,