CTDPS mourns the passing of Johaar Mosaval

16 Aug 2023
Johaar Mosaval
16 Aug 2023
Johaar Mosaval

The CTDPS is saddened by the news that renowned South African ballet trailblazer, Johaar Mosaval, passed away on Wednesday, August 16, at the age of 95. The indelible mark he left on the world of ballet is a testament to his pioneering spirit.

A family-issued statement revealed that Mosaval had suffered an injury three months prior, which gradually escalated into excruciating pain, restricting his once-remarkable range of movement and profoundly impacting his mobility. This injury became the harbinger of a discernible decline in his overall well-being. 

Johaar Mosaval (8 January 1928 - 16 August 2023) was a distinguished South African ballet dancer whose remarkable contributions to dance garnered international acclaim. Notably, he rose to prominence as a principal dancer in England's Royal Ballet, becoming a trailblazer for dancers of colour during the 1960s.

Born in Cape Town, Mosaval emerged from modest beginnings as the eldest of ten siblings in the vibrant District Six community. His unconventional journey into ballet began when he caught the eye of Dulcie Howes, a notable figure in South African theatrical dance, during a gymnastics display. Despite societal and familial challenges, Mosaval embraced Howes' invitation to the University of Cape Town Ballet School in 1947, excelling under the guidance of Jasmine Honoré.

While apartheid hindered his ambitions at home, fortuitous encounters with ballet luminaries Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin led him to London's Sadler's Wells Ballet School in 1950 on a community-funded scholarship. Mosaval's path was marked by personal sacrifices, yet he overcame obstacles, ultimately achieving a prolific career.

Joining the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet in 1951, Mosaval's journey culminated in his role as a soloist and later principal dancer with the prestigious Royal Ballet in 1960. He graced stages worldwide, captivating audiences alongside renowned ballerinas like Margot Fonteyn. His performances in ballets by Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan left a lasting impression.

In 1976, after an illustrious quarter-century with the Royal Ballet, Mosaval retired and returned to Cape Town. His commitment to sharing ballet's artistry transcended racial boundaries through his ballet school, despite facing adversity, including apartheid-driven closures.

Recognition followed his dedicated career, with honours including a Professional Dancer's Teaching Diploma and a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. The Cape Tercentenary Foundation's Molteno Gold Medal celebrated his lifetime achievement.

Johaar Mosaval's journey symbolises resilience, shattering barriers, and enriching dance and culture. In 2021, he was awarded the Doctor of Music (honoris causa) degree by the University of Cape Town for his extraordinary achievements in dance  and contribution to community empowerment. His legacy continues to inspire dancers and dreamers worldwide.

Here at the CTDPS, we have ensured that his legacy is memorialised through the Johaar Mosaval Cup for dance performance,  instituted in 2023. This award is given to the most outstanding dance performer who shares the fiery zeal and determination to succeed  as the legendary Dr. Johaar Mosaval did. The first recipient of this award was Happiness Sikhwai.