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Genée International Ballet Competition - Final

by Ana Abad-Carles

September 11, 2005 -- Sadler's Wells, London

The Royal Academy of Dance held the Final for its Genée International Ballet Competition at Sadler’s Wells on Sunday, September 11, 2005.

Fifteen candidates reached the finals -- nine girls and six boys -- who were asked to perform three solos, two of which were set pieces in their male and female versions. The third solo was a Classical Repertoire variation.

The selection of set solos was a bit puzzling. They were not technically challenging and  seemed to rely more on phrasing and interpretation of their choreographic content. The problem with them is that they were too similar in structure and technical difficulty. It seemed odd to have two set solos that made such similar demands on the dancers, instead of opting for more contrasting qualities of interpretation. There was no adagio work or any grand allegro and thus it was left to the classical variation to provide some clues as to the young dancers’ range of interpretation.

There was little doubt during the performance as to who the winner of the competition was going to be. Celine Gittens performed her variation of “Giselle” with a sense of style and phrasing, something not fully realized in most of the other competitors.

One striking element of the competition was that different dancers seemed to execute the variations as if they were class exercises, unable to make something more out of them. This left a poor impression on the dancers’ musicality and stage awareness, and defeated the purpose of the set solos created for them. Those who succeeded in providing deeper artistic interpretations got their rewards at the end, emphasizing the fact that the judges were looking for more than technical ability in their search for winners.

The selection of classical variations was also puzzling. The second variation from Act II of “Raymonda” really showed how little attention is paid to phrasing, musicality and sense of style. The variations from “Raymonda” have been a constant in Ballet Competitions in recent years and I wish teachers preparing their students for these solos showed a little bit more awareness of what these variations stand for. They are not just exercises in adagio or allegro work; they are choreographic statements in their interpretation of these aspects of ballet technique. Their contrast within the structure of the ballet has a meaning in the development of the characters and this seems to be repeatedly forgotten. How sad that Nureyev’s words, when he used to emphasise the importance of arabesques and attitudes and their meaning within their contexts, seem to have been forgotten. Without that sense of understanding, the steps stand as meaningless exercises devoid of much artistic value.

Jade Hale-Christofi, who won one of the silver medals, managed to bring some sense of excitement to the evening and executed his variation from “Le Corsaire” with intensity, but his artistry needs to be polished so that his individual interpretation does not develop  unnecessary mannerisms.

Overall, it was an interesting Final, but one that highlighted the lack of qualities that ballet has been suffering from for a long time. It certainly brought to mind Anna Pavlova’s advice to young dancers when she asked them not to take the work they did in the classroom onto the stage.

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