Destination Johannesburg: Joburg Ballet Artistic Director

Interviews | 4th Sep 2017

Iain MacDonald, Artistic Director of Joburg Ballet, shares his insider tips for where to eat, drink and soak up world-class culture in Johannesburg.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m the artistic director of Joburg Ballet and we’re based at Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein. So every day I go to work in the heart of downtown Joburg, which is amazing.

What should more people know about Johannesburg?
I think the perception of Joburg is changing slowly. More people are starting to appreciate it as a place with great heart, energy and vibrancy. It’s a real melting pot for South Africa and a gateway to the whole African continent, but it also has some world-class destinations in its own right, like Constitution Hill, The Apartheid Museum and, just outside the city, the Cradle of Humankind.

How would you spend your perfect 48 hours in Johannesburg?
I have two young children, so Bambanani in Melville is a great place to start the weekend; the adults can enjoy a delicious brunch while the kids are kept entertained. Then a stroll across the road to 27 Boxes; it’s got a variety of interesting independent shops and some fun places to snack – it’s the perfect place to pick up some mementoes of your trip to Joburg. I’m a vegetarian but I love sushi, so my perfect 48 hours would definitely include a trip to one of the many great sushi places in the city. Then I’d round off my two days with drinks at 44 Stanley.

What’s your favourite place for a dose of culture in the city?
That’s a difficult choice because I work in the performing arts and Johannesburg has a lot to offer! Joburg Ballet’s studios are at Joburg Theatre so I often go to see what’s on in their three spaces – I loved The Fugard’s production of West Side Story earlier this year. For a family outing, we sometimes go to see productions at The Teatro at Montecasino and my dad and I try to hear some classical music at the Linder Auditorium when we can.

Where would you meet out-of-town friends for a drink?
The EB Social Kitchen and Bar in Exclusive Books, Hyde Park, is a great place for sundowners – the view over the city is brilliant and you can pick up something to read at the same time.

Where’s the best place to sit and watch the world go by?
The cafe at Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein – it has huge windows overlooking the street and you can literally see Johannesburg go by.

We often overlook what’s on our doorstep – is there anything you still need to do in Johannesburg?
Even though I work downtown I haven’t spent any time in Maboneng and I really should – visiting the artist William Kentridge’s new space The Centre for the Less Good Idea and checking out Arts on Main would be top of my list on this trip.

Would you choose a South Africa city break or safari tour?
Definitely a safari tour – much as I love Johannesburg it’s great to escape to the bush and restore your soul.

Three words to describe Johannesburg?
Dynamic, collaborative, creative.


Joburg Ballet’s upcoming season at Joburg Theatre includes a world premiere:

‘Snow White’ a new production choreographed by Iain himself (13 – 22 October 2017)


The Saxon concierge is on hand to help guests arrange a wide array of city experiences, including advising on upcoming ballet and theatre productions, and securing sought-after tickets.


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