Search­ing for stars

Bal­let, chore­og­ra­phy com­pe­ti­tion draws promis­ing tal­ent to Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­

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.

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