Kali Kleiman performing at YAGP's New York Finals. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

As someone who has judged many ballet competitions, I've had the opportunity to see some breathtaking contemporary solos that combine fantastic technique with well-conceived choreography. Yet it's often hard for us judges to see the artistic intention behind these solos the way we can when watching a classical variation. For one thing, we're simply more familiar with classical ballet's repertoire and characters. But also, when a contemporary solo is just a string of one trick after another, or only delivers one emotion (such as overwrought angst), we don't get to see any artistic depth.

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Mackenzie Brown competing at this year's Prix de Lausanne. Gregory Bartadon, Courtesy PDL.

Earlier this month, 16-year-old Mackenzie Brown took home the first prize at the 2019 Prix de Lausanne. Not only was the Stafford, Virginia-native the only American to place in the finals; she also won the Contemporary Dance Prize and the Audience Favorite Prize. A student at the Académie Princesse Grace in Monaco, Brown's path to the Prix was anything but smooth: The determined young dancer fought against injuries that threatened to keep her on the sidelines.

We caught up with Brown, currently taking a few weeks to recover at home with her family in Virginia, to hear all about her experience at the Prix de Lausanne.

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Mackenzie Brown, the only American prizewinner, at the Awards Ceremony. Gregory Bartadon, Courtesy Prix de Lausanne.

After a full week of class, coaching and competition, the 2019 Prix de Lausanne has announced its eight prizewinners. The dancers were selected from an initial group of 74, narrowed down to 21 selected to perform in last Saturday's Finals. The eight winners will receive company apprenticeships or scholarships to one of the Prix de Lausanne's partner schools. In addition, the Prix awarded five other prizes, and all of the remaining finalists received the Finalist Award, which includes 1,000 Swiss Francs.

This year, the Prix offered an unprecedented number of live streaming hours. If you tuned in this week, you weren't alone; more than 562,530 ballet fans watched the daily sessions, and the selections have been viewed more than 1,199,322 times. If you missed out, you can catch up here.

Get to know the winners below!

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Courtesy VAM Productions

Raise your hand if you're excited for competition season! Youth America Grand Prix Regional Semi-Finals are well underway, leading up to the much-awaited New York Finals April 12-19. Even better, they're live-streamed, meaning you now have the perfect excuse to spend your weekend at home, watching ballet (while sewing your pointe shoes and stretching, of course).

This weekend features semi-finals in Seattle, Washington and Tampa, Florida. To see the full schedules and set up streaming, click here. Streaming starts at $13.99. Packages of 2, 4, 6 or 12 total viewing hours are available, and viewers can log in and out as often as they like.

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Ballet Stars
Hannah Bettes. Photo by Jayme Thornton for Pointe.

This is Pointe's October/November 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Hannah Bettes has had a very big year. The Boston Ballet second soloist was nominated for a Princess Grace Award, and she made her debut in three major classical roles—Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Effie in La Sylphide and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, her most challenging classical role to date. "You're carrying a full-length ballet, and you have to have the stamina and stay composed and in character, even if you're dying!" Bettes says.

When Bettes, 22, made her professional debut with Boston Ballet four years ago, she was already a highly recognized teen in the competition world, bringing with her a raft of prizes. But she also brought stylistic versatility and a palpable hunger to learn. While she possesses the quintessentially elegant classical line—high extensions, dazzling turns and slender feet that curve into perfect crescent moons—Bettes can easily skew off-center to sidle into the slinky undulations or sharp slices of Boston Ballet's contemporary repertoire.

The wide-ranging rep is one of the aspects of the company she likes best. "Having to keep switching your approach keeps things interesting. Technically, I've been able to progress faster."

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Canadian junior finalist Mya Kresnyak in a variation from "Paquita." Photo by Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy USA IBC.

On June 10, 119 dancers from 19 countries gathered in Jackson, MS to compete in the USA International Ballet Competition. Today, the USA IBC announced the list of 32 finalists, who will compete for medals and cash awards in Round III, held June 19-21. All of the finalists will receive a travel stipend, and medalists and award winners will be announced at the competition's gala on June 22. See the full list below, and stay tuned all week on our Facebook and Instagram pages as we bring you the latest from Jackson, live.

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Ballet Stars
Steven McRae at the 2003 Prix de Lausanne performing the variation from "Le Corsaire." Photo Courtesy Prix de Lausanne.

This week, young ballet dancers from across the globe have been studying and competing for coveted scholarships at the Prix de Lausanne. This infamous competition has been a launch pad for many of the ballet world's biggest stars. One such star is Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae, who was a prize winner in 2003 with these two outstanding performances in the finals.

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Kyle Froman for Dance Magazine.

As told to Madeline Schrock and Nancy Wozny.

We asked five frequent judges for their advice, their pet peeves and their approach to the scoring process.


Peter Stark

  • Head of the men's program at Boston Ballet School, associate director of Boston Ballet II
  • Valentina Kozlova IBC, Youth America Grand Prix

Igor Burlak, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

I am an advocate for competitions. I know there are people who are against them, but dancers can learn a lot when they're working one-to-one versus in a classroom setting. My mentor Bruce Marks, who was chair of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson for many years, said, “the process is the prize." It's true. As a coach, I've had dancers win and lose, but I certainly feel like the process of setting a goal and working on something is valuable.

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Hannah Fischer and Piotr Stanczyk in Christopher Wheeldon'sThe Winter's Tale. Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC.

The 12th International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize will take place in Toronto on November 15. The event, which honors Bruhn's danseur noble legacy, is a pretty accurate predictor of up-and-coming talent. Last year's winners included NBoC second soloist Hannah Fischer, who danced as a first-cast lead in Christopher Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale during NBoC's opening, and recently promoted San Francisco Ballet principal Carlo Di Lanno.

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It's that time again! Prix de Lausanne registration opens on September 1.

Every year, the Prix de Lausanne brings some of the world's best ballet students together, pushes them to the next level and changes lives. We're not exaggerating: You've probably heard Maria Kochetkova's story about entering the competition against her teacher's wishes, winning and starting on the path toward international ballet stardom.

The competition runs January 29 to February 5, 2017, in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. Last year, 67 dancers were selected to compete, and 20 of them advanced to the final rounds. The prizes are significant: Scholarship winners are awarded 16,000 Swiss Francs to cover the cost of living at summer intensives, while other prizes include diplomas or even contracts.

We love seeing students earn summer intensive scholarships and apprenticeships, and we especially love that the competition is live streamed! With former Houston Ballet Academy director Shelly Power as the new competition director, it looks like there are fresh ideas at this year's event. And we're sure the dancing will be as stellar as ever.

2016 silver medalist Madison Young (photo by Gregory Batardon, Courtesy Houston Ballet)

Click here and here for all the detailed application information—registration will be open until September 30.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

For aspiring dancemakers who dream of seeing their work performed in a professional setting, the Joffrey Ballet's seventh annual Winning Works competition is an opportunity you'll want to take note of.

Jeffrey Cirio in Paul Taylor's Company B. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor.

The award recognizes promising African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab and Native American artists with a $5,000 stipend, at least 30 rehearsal hours and a group of dancers from the Joffrey Academy Trainee Program and Joffrey Studio Company to set their work on. Winners will premiere their completed original works at a performance in March 2017.

This past year, American Ballet Theatre principal Jeffrey Cirio was one of the winning choreographers. His work, Chapter 1, Chapter 6, included elements of step dancing, and was presented at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in March.

As part of the application, artists must submit a video clip with a short excerpt of their choreography, and a letter describing the kind of work they plan to create. If they choose, this year's applicants can also draw inspiration from the poet Gwendolyn Brooks (the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize), whose centennial the Joffrey is celebrating.

The full application is available online, and the deadline is October 1. Start getting those creative wheels turning!

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

The summer Olympics may be just around the corner, but we know that ballet dancers perform superhuman feats all year long. Next week offers an especially good chance to see this in action, as talented dancers from around the globe come together for the World Ballet Competition.

Photo courtesy Siggul/VAM Productions

WBC celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and from June 13–18, you can livestream each day's competition rounds for free. About 150 dancers ages 9 to 24 take the stage in Orlando in hopes of winning cash prizes and scholarship opportunities. They represent over 20 different countries, and were pre-selected through a video audition process.

Each day's livestream starts with a pre-show broadcast, and the coverage promises to take viewers behind the scenes and inside the action, including interviews and backstage access. The competition itself is notable for its electronic scoring system, which shares results with the audience—and couch potatoes worldwide—in real time.  

The week culminates in a gala performance on June 18, featuring many familiar faces who have graced the pages of Pointe, like New York City Ballet's Daniel Ulbricht and Pennsylvania Ballet's Mayara Pineiro, who will perform alongside competition finalists. And judging from past history, we can expect some pretty exciting things from the young talent on that stage. Past WBC competitors have gone on to dance for companies like San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Ballet West and The Washington Ballet.

Catch the livestream starting Monday, June 13, at 4:30 pm Eastern time.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

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