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Ballet’s first lady takes her final bow

Ballet fans will be familiar with Burnise Silvius – the ballerina who has touched the hearts of thousands of audiences and brought dancing to new levels of beauty during her time as Joburg Ballet’s prima ballerina. As Burnise prepares for her swan song performance as Camille in Joburg Ballet’s performance of La Traviata, she chats with us about a lifetime of dancing and her next move.

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What will you miss most about being Joburg Ballet’s prima ballerina?

I’ll miss the stage – I’ve been dancing since the age of four, and it’s hard to comprehend not spending my time on stage and being physical all day. I’ll also miss working in a studio and working with a partner every day to see your performance improve, which is an incredibly special experience.

What’s been the highlight of your time onstage?

I can honestly say that every ballet is a highlight. When you’re on stage, everything comes together to create what we call “flow” – the moves, music and performance are all in sync and you are 100% living in the moment. It’s an incredible feeling, and a highlight of each role. In terms of characters, my favourites have been Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet, and La Traviata’s Camille – my final role before I retire.

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How is Camille a fitting final role for you?

Unlike most female lead characters in ballet, who are young and naïve, Camille is an older woman who has lived a full life. She carries a sophistication and a level of experience that seems fitting for where I am right now. She’s no longer a child, and I’m excited by the opportunity to play my final role a little more as myself.

What’s next for you?

I’ve never had a break from dancing before, so I’m excited to take some time for myself. I’m planning to travel a lot, and I’m going to do some cooking courses, focus a bit on my upcoming wedding in September, and spend some time with my friends and family. I’ll also continue coaching at the Joburg Ballet Academy, and I can’t wait to get to watch the ballet from the audience.

See Burnise’s final performances on 1, 8, and 9 April – all at 3pm at the Joburg Theatre.

Buy your tickets online through Webtickets (

Joburg Ballet

Words: Lucy Sarah Heaney | Images: Supplied

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