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Congrats to the 2019 Genée IBC Medalists!​

Michael Slobodian, Courtesy RAD

This week, 62 of the world's top young dancers trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus gathered in Toronto for the annual Genée International Ballet Competition. Each year, the Genée is hosted by a different country; this was its first turn in Canada since 2008. After a week of intensive coaching and competition, the contestants, ages 15 to 19, performed before a panel of judges including Karen Kain, Mikko Nissinen, Magdalena Popa and Dame Monica Mason DBE last night. Also at the ceremony, Kain was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, making her the first Canadian to receive this honor.


Here's the list of 2019 medalists (aka dancers to keep an eye on); after all, Stella Abrera, Francesa Hayward, Alex Wong and many other ballet luminaries won the Genée as teenagers.

Gold medalist Darrion Sellman

Michael Slobodian, Courtesy RAD

Gold Medal

Darrion Sellman and Mia Zanardo, both age 15, took home the gold. Sellmann is from the U.S., and trains under Andrea Paris-Guiterrez and Jose Carayol. Zanardo is Australian, and studies with Hilary Kaplan and Archibald McKenzie.

Silver Medal 

This year's two silver medal winners are Julian Wen-Shang Gan and Paloma Hendry-Hodson. Gan, 17, trains in Malaysia with Serena Tan Suet Lang. Hendry-Hodson, also 17, hails from Australia, where she is trained by Shirley Rogers.

Bronze Medal

Jessica Templeton was awarded bronze. She is 16, from the UK, and studies with the faculty of Tring Park School.

The 2019 medalists and judges

Michael Slobodian, Courtesy RAD

Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award

Gan also won the coveted Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award.

Choreographic Award for Best Dancer's Own Variation

South African dancer Ashton Parker won the Choreographic Award for her solo Alcoba Azull, choreographed by Indra Reinholde. Parker is trained by Jonathan Barton.

Next year marks a very special year for the Genée. The competition will be renamed The Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition after its longest-serving president, who would be 100 this year. The 2020 competition will be held in the UK to coincide with RAD's centenary, giving dancers an exciting chance to perform on the Royal Opera House stage.

Congratulations to all!

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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