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Behind the scenes at the Genée International Ballet Competition 2016

Behind the scenes at the Genée International Ballet Competition 2016

Last week, 86 of the world's finest young dancers from 12 different countries spent an intense and exhilirating ten days in Sydney learning, competing and dancing at the illustrious Genée International Ballet Competition. Every candidate walked away from the event having gained invaluable experience, whilst six talented young dancers also received the ultimate accolade, taking home the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals at the iconic Sydney Opera House.

The competitors, who ranged between 15 and 19 years of age, were judged by an elite panel of the dance industry's best: David McAllister, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, Kevin O'Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, and Francesco Ventrigilia, Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. 2016 proved to be a truly exceptional year for our Aussie dancers, with eight of the twelve finalists from Australia (three British and one Japanese dancer made up the remaining candidates).

Genée 2016 Gold Medalist Maeve Nolan shares a moment with a fellow competitor during the day.

Genée 2016 Gold Medalist Maeve Nolan shares a moment with a fellow competitor during the day.

Joshua at the Sydney Eisteddfod 2016, where he took home second place

Joshua at the Sydney Eisteddfod 2016, where he took home second place

Queensland's Joshua Price, 16, from the Gold Coast (taught by Janice Heale of The Dance Centre) and Maeve Nolan, 16, from New South Wales (taught by Marie Walton-Mahon of Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy) both took home the event's coveted Gold Medal, whilst Talia Fidra, 15, (taught by Heidi Landford of Atelier Australia and Claudia Dean of Claudia Dean Coaching) and Brayden Gallucci, 17, (taught by Hilary Kaplan of Alegria Dance Studios) walked away with the silver. 18 year old British dancer Hamish Scott (trained by Sarah Dickinson of Elmhurst Ballet School) and Madison Ayton, 15, (trained by Annette Roselli of Annette Roselli Dance Academy) were awarded the Bronze medals.

Joshua Price equally impressed audiences as well as the judging panel, receiving the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award after performing the Act III variation from Le Corsaire with incredible panache. Whilst Japanese dancer Kanon Kondo, 16, (trained by Moritoshi Kudo of the Kudo Ballet School) took home the Choreographic Award (despite not being a finalist herself) performing her 'Dancer's Own' variation.

When asked what went into the decision-making process as a judge, the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Artistic Director Francesco Ventriglia said, "There’s a lot of things [to look for] …I could say talent, good technique, […] musicality, and all the rest. But […] when you’re talking about art, the most beautiful thing is to see how much young artists work so hard to become the next generation of dancers."

“The competition had a really friendly atmosphere. It was amazing to work with such incredible teachers and choreographers too, I thoroughly enjoyed the Genée experience! Also having the opportunity to perform on the Opera House stage was so inspiring for me as young dancer.”
— Maeve Nolan

Dancers enjoying the moment backstage after the curtain closed on another day of performance at the Concourse, one of Sydney's leading entertainment and arts venues.

It wasn't just the medalists who walked away with something valuable. All of the candidates had opportunities for one-on-one coaching with the highly sought after teachers, as well as the chance to perform at the world-class Sydney Opera House Concert Hall in front of a receptive audience (something otherwise inaccessible to many students from small or rural schools). 

Meeting other talented, aspiring dancers from all around the world was also an important part of the event; Oscar Ward, 18, from Britain said, "I've just loved every second," whilst Olivia Castagna, (18 from Australia) added, "It's been great to make new friends and it gives you connections for later on." Our Ambassador and previous Genée Bronze Medalist, Makensie Henson (now with the Royal Ballet School in London) also had some words of support for this year's participants in the lead-up to the event, "Wishing all the candidates of the Genée International Ballet Competition an amazing week! It is such an incredible opportunity for young, aspiring dancers and I hope you enjoy this experience as much as I did."

Other highlights included the Genée's Commissioned Choreographer, Tim Harbour (a Resident Choreographer of The Australian Ballet and who we proudly sponsored) teaching his commissioned choreography to this year's candidates. His work was showcased to audiences and judges during the competition's final, with female dancers performing the piece 'Velvet Drop' and the boys performing 'Teak' - both to music by Nicole Murphy.

Feedback from the finalists affirmed just how rewarding the experience was to work with a choreographer of such calibre. Not only did Harbour's piece challenge dancers to explore technically diverse choreography, but his dedicated work with the students in the studio in the lead up to the semi-finals was an enriching insight into the rehearsal experience of life as a company dancer. Students pushed themselves to new heights and gained a better understanding of what skills really elevate both classical repertoire and contemporary choreography, as well as their role as performers with artistic licence in bringing that choreography to life.

“For me [the highlight] has probably been the commissioned variation. It’s been really cool working with Tim and learning the unique style that he has.”
— Joshua Price, 2016 Genée Gold Medalist and Audience Choice Award Winner

As a major sponsor, we were there to support not only the dancers but the future of the dance industry as well, standing behind organisations such as RAD to cultivate opportunities for dancers from every corner of the globe. Elysia Mangier, our Marketing Manager and David Williams, our Office Manager, both distiguished dancers themselves, travelled to Sydney for the event, spending time backstage talking with finalists and judges alike.

"I’m so inspired by the young talent we have in this country, it really is a credit to the hard work coming from both the dancers themselves and their amazing teachers," says Elysia. "I look forward to watching the exciting progression of the candidate's dance careers from the wonderful platform Genée offers." 

What was equally impressive to the team, was the atmosphere present throughout the event, "What really stood out to me was the sense of camaraderie between all of the candidates, everyone showed such a wonderful sense of unity and goodwill towards one another, which has such a positive effect on the dance industry and the wellbeing of the community," says David. "When such a big part of our brand philosophy is supporting the dance community and their way of life, it's a real pleasure to see that reflected in the younger generation of dancers."

David Williams talking backstage to some of the Genée's young candidates.

David Williams talking backstage to some of the Genée's young candidates.

We would like to congratulate all of the candidates of this year's Genée competition on the exceptional standard of dance that was showcased throughout the event. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for all of the candidates and celebrating the incredible calibre of our young dancers once more when the Genée returns in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017.

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