Besides attending prestigious Ballet Schools and touring with impressive companies, dancers dreaming of becoming famous for their feats in pointe and grace also need to compete for trophies, titles, and medals.
Every year hopefuls from every corner of the Globe try their hand at winning contests but only a handful make it to the top. This list focuses on matches all over the world where ballet dancers compete for the spotlight and the win.
Asian Grand Prix
Established in 2010, this ballet competition was just recently held for 2016 at the Y-Theatre, Youth Square, Chai Wan, Hong Kong from August 8th until the 12th. The mission of the Asian Grand Prix ballet competition is to celebrate the latest innovations and talents in the world of ballet on an international scale.
By holding this competition every year, the Asian Grand Prix creates an avenue in which contemporary ballet dancers can showcase their aptitudes, strengthen their abilities, and immerse themselves within a community of dancers where they can learn and influence each other.
Every year the event is held in Hong Kong and ballet students from every corner of the globe are invited to participate and compete. This year the Asian Grand Prix reached a new high by raising the barre for themselves by electing a residency of jurors, tutors, and ballet dancer/educators of great influence and importance.
Sitting in residence at the Asian Grand Prix for 2016 included Ms. Mavis Staines, C.M., DHumL, who is the Artistic Director of Canada’s National Ballet and a board and jury member of the Prix de Lausanne, Mr. Garry Trinder, MNZM, jury president of the Asian Grand Prix, Director of the New Zealand School of Dance and also a Prix de Lausanne jury member, and Ms. Marilyn Rowe, OBE, former Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet School and jury member of the Prix de Lausanne.
Other members come from the Beijing International Ballet & Choreography Competition, School of the Arts Singapore, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the Royal Ballet.
Prizes in the competition include cash, full scholarships to established and respected ballet schools including Canada’s National Ballet School, Elmhurst School for Dance, New Zealand School of Dance, and Shanghai Dance School.
For the 2016 the Asian Grand Prix has showcased the talents of two hundred and seventy-seven ballet dancers that hail from more than twenty cultures and ethnic groups. At the end of the week long competitions a final gala performance was held at the same location in Hong Kong on Saturday, August 13th.
Prix de Lausanne
Mentioned in the last entry this competition is held in Lausanne, Switzerland annually since 1973. Yet from inception this particular competition did not have it easy getting off the ground. Although the first competition was sold out and a huge success the next year the Prix de Lausanne came upon some problems.
The selected jury did not have a clear set of standards in which to make decisions and the crowd became irritated while waiting for the winners to be announced. Founder Philippe Braunschweig is quoted as saying, “At that time I had the feeling that we were never going to make it.”
Little did he know that the Prix de Lausanne would become one of the most prestigious ballet competitions on the scene. With the addition of choreographers like John Neumeier and Heinz Spoerli on the jury and performances that were “under the patronage of Princess Grace de Monaco,” the Prix de Lausanne has established itself as a prominent contest in ballet.
The Prix de Lausanne has matured from thirty ballet up-and-comers competing in 1973 to a current list of over two hundred dancers. Also, the grants offered by ballet schools in the beginning were scarce whereas now there are nearly thirty grants available to winners of the competition.
Taking the Prix to a global market was also a way this competition enhanced its image internationally. The Prix was taken over the pond to New York in 1985, to Tokyo in 1989, and to Moscow in 1995.
From February 1st to the 6th of this year seventy-one contestants embodying nearly twenty different nationalities competed at the 44th Annual Prix de Lausanne at the Beaulieu Theater. They were chosen from three hundred entries and from the seventy-one selected twenty dancers were chosen for the final competitions. From there only seven were declared winners of healthy scholarships that will expand their studies in ballet.
Among the winners at this year’s Prix de Lausanne are sixteen-year-old Hang Yu from China, seventeen-year-old Madison Young from the United States, and eighteen-year-old Vincenzo Di Primo from Italy.
USA International Ballet Competition
In the unlikely location of Jackson, Mississippi, the USA International Ballet Competition has one goal in mind, that is to become the number one ballet tournament in the world. The initial vision to create a platform in which enables dancers to challenge their abilities as well as reveal their talents is still part of their mission today. In essence, this competition thrives to be an event where dancers are allowed to flourish.
In 1964 the inaugural International Ballet Competition was held in Varna and subsequently rotated annually between three cities, Moscow, Tokyo, and Varna, Bulgaria. Eleven years later the Jackson Ballet Guild of Mississippi reached out to Thalia Mara to help create a premier ballet company and school in the southern state. Mara was an internationally recognized ballet dancer and educator from Chicago.
It was her vision to also include a ballet championship. Mara was able to persuade the Guild to acquire the USA International Ballet Competition and in 1978 the Mississippi Ballet International Inc. was formed and the very first International Ballet Competition was held in the United States the next year with seventy dancers from fifteen countries all over the world. On that first panel of jurors Robert Joffrey, Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet, sat as chair.
The results of Mara’s efforts were astounding. The USA IBC received a sanction from the International Dance committee of the International Theater Institute of UNESCO and Jackson, Mississippi was put into the rotation alongside Moscow, Tokyo, and Varna. Three years after the first US IBC the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution that Jackson, Mississippi was officially the home of the US International Ballet Competition.
International Ballet Competition Varna
In 1964 the very first International Ballet Competition was founded in Varna, Bulgaria. It is the oldest ballet competition in the world and, considered by the majority, the most renowned tournament in dance genre of ballet. Held that year for eleven days in July in Bulgaria’s biggest sea resort French ballet master Serge Lifar said this “competition is a unique event in the history of ballet, an event of huge importance.”
Arnold Haskell, an internationally known English ballet critic, called this first attempt at an international competition “a remarkable example of co-operation and friendship.” He went on to say that the “requirements” were of high standard and professionalism and complimented Bulgaria’s “creative atmosphere” and “organization.” Haskell finished his praise calling for a long life to “the spirit of Varna.”
Since its inception this ballet competition is one that others have modeled themselves after. This is due to specific requirements and guidelines. They are consistently anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five exemplary ballet masters from around the world sitting on the jury for every competition. Also, the age of the dancer competing is important. Veteran dancers and those who are still green are evaluated individually.
John Gregory, another prestigious English ballet critic has been quoted as calling the “Varna Ballet Competition” the “Varna Ballet Olympiad” and rightfully so. It is not only the top ballet competition in the world, its existence spanning more than fifty years it has been held twenty-five times boasting the largest number of contenders totally to more than twenty-five hundred ballet dancers from forty countries around the globe.
This year, the twenty-seventh edition of the International Ballet Competition Varna, twenty-five finalists were selected from one hundred and fifty-five entrants. Vladimir Vasiliev, principle dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, sat as chair over the jury.
After the decisions were made Vasiliev told all the contestants, “All of us, who have been at the competition before, are of the opinion that this edition is much, much stronger and more competitive than the previous one. A huge number of remarkable dancers appeared in Varna and, out of them, we had to pick the best. That is why it was not easy to come up with a decision.”
Still, winners were chosen and they include, Amanda Gomes, who won first prize, Gold Medal, Diploma and title “Laureate of the 27th International Ballet Competition Varna 2016.” Also, for the men, Paul Marque won the first prize, Gold Medal, Diploma and title “Laureate.” The Varna Grand Prix or Grand Prize was not awarded to a dancer this year.
Second prizes for the women went to Joy Annabelle Womack from the United States and Saeka Shirai from Canada. For the men second place prizes were awarded to Jorge Javier Lopez Barani from Cuba and Yue Shi also from Canada. Third place prizes were given to Yeonjae Cho from Korea, Asami Nakashima from Japan, Elena Svinko from Bulgaria, Sunwoo Lee from Korea, and Yuya Omaki from Japan.