South African Ballet Dancing and Dawn Weller

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As I live in South Africa, it is only fitting that I write from time to time on some of the great and outstanding ballet dancers that our country has produced. As South Africa doesn’t have a tremendous amount of opportunities to offer young dancers, we have lost a lot of our talent to overseas countries, but some have remained to lead their home companies.

Today I would like to write an article on Dawn Weller who was Pact’s prima ballerina at one time. Dawn was one of those ballerina’s who had to work hard for what she achieved. She didn’t possess natural talent, she just found unique ways of manipulating movements and feelings. She had the ability to receive something and develop it in her own way.

Dawn Weller was born in Durban in the Natal on the 16th of December 1947. She was the only child of Jack and Valencia Weller and she began her dance training at the tender age of two and a half with Iris Manning and Arlene Spear.

She was one of the first members of the Napac Ballet Company in 1964. She toured with the company in Natal and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but soon felt she needed further challenges that only a larger and more competitive company could provide. She therefore joined Pact Ballet in 1965.

She started off in the corps de ballet and later earned principal status in 1968. A number of experienced dancers left the company, and Dawn was forced to dance some very difficult roles before she was physically and mentally prepared for them. Because of this, she was made to feel inferior as a classical dancer for many years and took a long time to loose the barriers of the inhibitions that she had developed. She danced the way that she felt other people wanted her to dance, because she was afraid of being hurt and she spent many years hiding behind a fa├žade. Once she was encouraged to express her own individual talent, the quality of her work changed from dancer to artist.

Dawn was known as a non-conformist ballerina, as she developed characters in her own way and breathed new life into them. Her technique is based on the classical tradition, but she evolved a style that is uniquely her own.

She danced many great roles over the years, including Giselle, Cinderella, Juliet Anna Karenina and even had some roles that were created especially for her like Serabande.

She accepted the position of artistic director of the ballet company in June 1983 and a lot of people thought that this was the height of her career, but Dawn was reluctant to let go of her dancing career. She retained her position as principal dancer for the first couple of years.

Dawn Weller married Paul Ponthitos in 1973, and they had one son Gregorius who was born on the 16th of December 1977. Dawn Wellar was also the recipient of the Lilian Solomon Award.

Even though Pact Ballet Company has ceased to exist, many will remember the company and its dancers well. Dawn Weller was a major contributor to Pact, and ballet dancing in South Arica.

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