Ballet competitions can shape dance careers—sometimes in unpredictable ways. Jose Manuel Carreño’s spectacular win at the 1990 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson catapulted him to international stardom. But many other Jackson competitors that year also went on to professional careers. Winning a medal means far less than the exposure and experience a competition can bring.
One of those 1990 competitors, Kate Lydon, went on to dance in the San Francisco Ballet and ABT corps. Today she edits our sister publication, Dance Spirit, and is Pointe’s editorial advisor. Her experiences as a young ballet competitor shaped Pointe’s first-ever competition issue. Lydon, then 16, gained far more than she expected from Jackson. Though she never made it to the final round, and remembers she fell out of her double fouettés, she won a scholarship, and met many future colleagues.
She competed again four years later at the 1994 “Maya” International Ballet Competition in Russia, where ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie was a judge. Eliminated early on, at first she felt crushed. “But it made me see that you can make big mistakes, and if you keep going, nothing can break you,” Lydon says. She requested an audition at ABT the next year and McKenzie remembered her. “Despite my Maya performance, he saw something that he could appreciate,” says Lydon.
This issue looks at the benefits of competing—jobs, scholarships, network building—that Lydon discovered (“Competitions: Beyond the Medals”). It takes readers into the wings for the final round with tomorrow’s stars in “Behind the Scenes at YAGP.” And New York City Ballet principal Abi Stafford writes movingly of coming to terms with her own competitive feelings in “Toe to Toe.” Finally, don’t miss our salute to one of ABT’s most talented—and unselfish—dancers, in “The Prime of Maria Riccetto.”