2000• Performing Arts Award

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Phyllis Spira-Boyd has been described by a fellow South African as “the greatest performing artist in our history”.

Her name has become synonymous with ballet, and her best performances overflow with greatness, with heightened awareness and a sense of natural limits transcended.
Phyllis was born in Johannesburg where she attended school and received her early ballet training.

Phyllis was accepted into the Royal Ballet School (London) in 1959 and within months had graduated into the Royal Ballet Touring Company with which, as soloist, she toured widely in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.

She returned to South Africa in 1964 to dance with PACT Ballet and a year later she joined CAPAB Ballet where, over the following 28 years, her high artistic standards helped raise the Company to international standards.

Phyllis was granted the status of Prima Ballerina Assoluta in 1984 and in 1991 she received South Africa’s highest civilian award for excellence, the Order of Meritorious Service Gold.  She twice received the Nederburg Award for Ballet, the Lilian Solomon Award and the Bellarte Woman of the Year Award for the Cape (1979).

Phyllis retired from dancing in 1988 and continued to teach and coach dancers and to perform her duties as Principal Ballet Mistress until July 1999.

She is now in charge of the Youth Training Programme of the David Poole Trust, which administers the Cape Town City Ballet’s Dance for all Education Development Programme.  Phyllis is also a trustee and the official fundraiser.

The Education Development Programme teaches dance to two hundred disadvantaged children per week in the underpriviliged communities of Gugulethu, Nyanga and Khayelitsha. 

The Trust provides the necessary material supports for these students and channels the children’s energies and talents into something they enjoy and derive a strong sense of achievement, discipline and self-confidence.  As Phyllis notes, “I teach these students every afternoon after regular school and they are proving to be quite exceptional.  Very focussed and dedicated and of course abounding with talent.  For me this is very rewarding and I am enjoying this challenge immensely.”

Phyllis’s dance career brought audiences pleasure and joy; her work with the Trust brings children hope and opportunity.  Truly a magnificent legacy.