Searching for stars
Ballet, choreography competition draws promising talent to Beijing
On Aug 4, the world’s budding ballet dancers and choreographers began flocking to the Chinese capital in a bid for that first big break under the watchful eyes of some of the best practitioners of their art.
The Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition, the fourth of its kind in six years, aims to uncover the dancers and choreographers of the future. The event is also positioned as a major platform for enhancing dance communication between China and the rest of the world.
“One of the highlights of the competition are the top-class international dancers and choreographers who are invited to be our judges. They will share their professional experience,” says Zhao Ruheng, vice-president of the competition’s committee. Zhao was also a dancer with the National Ballet of China and its former director, as well as one of those who initiated the event. “The judges are genuinely looking for the stars of the future. So what the contestants present has to be more than just techniques.”
The competition consists of two categories — classical ballet and choreography — and it is open to contestants aged 14 to 22 for ballet and those aged 18 to 40 for choreography. It runs through Aug 11 and will be closed by two performances on Aug 12 and 13 at the Nation- al Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Dance works include Flames of Paris (pas de deux), choreographed by Vasily Vainonen; and Adagietto, by choreographer John Neumeier.
The jury panel of the classical ballet competition will include Russian ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina, who performed with the Mariinsky Theater; Italian ballerina Viviana Durante, the former principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre; and Alexandre Riabko, the Ukrainian principal dancer of the Hamburg Ballet.
Nearly 20 international ballet dancers will also perform at the NCPA. They include Semyon Chudin, the principal dancer of the Bolshoi Theater of Russia; and Marcelo Gomes, the Brazilian ballet dancer who performs with the American Ballet Theatre.
Sergey Yurevitch Filin, the Russian ballet dancer and former ballet director of the Bolshoi Theater, serves as the president of the choreography division, which comprises jury members such as David Bintley, director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet; and Fang-Yi Sheu from Taiwan, the former principal dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
“Hopefully, more talented people will be discovered through this. We also invite the internationally celebrated choreographers to choreograph new pieces for young dancers,” says Zhao, adding that the competition is held at three NCPA venues along with workshops and ballet-related movie screenings.
“I was discovered in competitions like this. This is a great project, giving so many young dancers and choreographers the opportunity to be noticed by the audience,” says Julio Bocca, the president of the jury panel of the classical ballet division.
Born in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, Bocca started learning ballet at 4. His talent was recognized at 18 when he won the gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow. He was then invited to join the American Ballet Theatre. He later began to combine ballet with tango after meeting Ana Maria Stekelman, one of Argentina’s leading choreographers and known for her fusion of tango and modern dance.
Regarded as one of the most important Argentine dancers of the late 20th century, Bocca has been visiting China since the 1990s. As part of the jury panel since the second competition in 2013, Bocca says he has been very impressed by the development of ballet in China.
“I’ve seen the growth of Chinese dancers and choreographers since I became a jury member of IBCC ... It’s not just about competing but also about presenting yourself,” says Bocca.
Zhang Dandan, the former ballerina of the National Ballet of China and the director and artistic director of the Guangzhou Ballet since 1944, says that the audience is also crucial for the development of China’s dance scene.
“When I was a dancer, I went abroad to participate in international competitions. Such a high-level competition is now held in China. It not just proves that China’s dance scene is vibrant, attracting international attention, it also shows that audiences want to see more new dancers,” says Zhang. “So we want to discover new talent as well as show audiences something they haven’t seen before.”
It’s not just about competing but also about presenting yourself.”
Julio Bocca, president of the jury panel of the classical ballet division
The Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition, featuring top-class dancers and choreographers as judges, will be closed by two performances over Aug 12-13 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.