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Varna IBC competitor Antonio Gameiro Casalinho. Photo by Nina Lokmadzhieva, Courtesy Varna IBC.

Every two years, dancers from all over the world head to the Bulgarian coastal city of Varna to try their luck at the Varna International Ballet competition. Established in 1964, the competition famously takes place at a leafy outdoor theater near the Black Sea, and its roster of past winners (Sylvie Guillem, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova) reads like a who's who of dance history.

This year's IBC, which took place July 15–30, brought together 120 dancers from 34 countries. After the third and final round, the winners were announced over the weekend. Yuan Zhe Zi (Jessica) Xuan, a grand sujet at Dutch National Ballet, won first place in the senior women's category. Sinuo Chang of China took first in the senior men's, while his partner, Siyi Li, placed first in the junior women's category. A few familiar faces from the competition circuit also made the list. Antonio Casolinho, a student at the Academy of Ballet and Dance in Portugal and this year's Junior Grand Prix winner at Youth America Grand Prix, took home the Special Distinction Award, Varna's top prize for juniors. Katherine Barkman, a principal guest artist with Ballet Manila, placed second in the senior women's category, fresh off her silver medal win at June's USA IBC in Jackson.

Read on to see the full list of prizewinners, then head to Varna IBC's Facebook page to catch videos of the competition. Congratulations to all!

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Ballet Stars
ABT in "Swan Lake." Petipa often collaborated with Lev Ivanov, who choreographed this ballet's white acts. Photo by John Grigaitis, Courtesy ABT.

Two hundred is the new 30. Or at least it seems so for Marius Petipa, whose ballets are as active as ever as we celebrate his 200th birthday this year.

Nearly all major ballet companies dance Petipa's iconic ballets, which reflect his prolific creative output. And they are heavy hitters: Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Paquita, The Pharaoh's Daughter, Raymonda and The Sleeping Beauty, to name just a few of the 50-plus ballets he choreographed. He also revived and reworked earlier productions of Coppélia, La Fille mal gardée and Giselle. During American Ballet Theatre's 2018 spring season, five out of its eight weeks will be attributable to Petipa, including the debut of artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky's newly reconstructed Harlequinade.

Gabe Stone Shayer and Misty Copeland in "The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Doug Gifford, Courtesy ABT.

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After a flawless performance of Giselle this past week, we've become a little obsessed with Sarah Lane. The American Ballet Theatre soloist seamlessly performed the crisp jumps and airy dancing that matched Giselle's youthful approach to love. Then transitioned into more fluid arm movements and lengthened lines that went along with her heartbreak (after an impressive mad scene at the end of Act I) as a Wili.

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Makhalina in Corsaire. Photo via the Mariinsky Theatre.

The lead female Paquita variation has a little bit of everything: It showcases the ballerina’s delicate footwork, graceful port de bras and her jumping and turning abilities. In this clip filmed in 1991, Mariinsky Ballet principal Yulia Makhalina has it all. She exhibits crisp entrechats six, clean (and many!) turns and polished hops on pointe. It’s the little details, however, that I find most admirable. I love the way Makhalina sustains her attitude turns so that she’s still sailing at the high note’s little ding. When the harp substantially slows down, she fills out the entirety of the music with her fluid épaulement, arms and wrists, as if she herself were playing the instrument.

When you think of Soviet Era ballerinas, Makhalina’s name may not immediately spring to mind. However, she joined the Mariinsky, then Kirov Ballet, in 1985—six years before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. A generation after she began her career, Makhalina remains one of the company’s reigning stars. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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

Prepping a variation for your upcoming auditions? If the Paquita music you downloaded from iTunes isn’t a ballet-friendly speed, try the Tempo SlowMo app, which lets you import songs from your music library and adjust their tempo—between 20 and 250 percent of the original speed—without changing pitch. The app’s helpful markers make rehearsal more efficient. To nail that tricky petit allégro section or build stamina, use the loop markers to replay sections of the song on a continuous loop. Pinpoint the “5, 6, 7, 8” before your fouettés with a place marker, or cut applause and lengthy intros on a live recording with the start and end markers. When you’re ready to film your variation, save the speed-adjusted track and export it via Dropbox or email.

The various import/export options, markers and tempo-adjusting tool come with the free download. Additional features are available for in-app purchase, including a playlist option that allows you to consolidate your customized classical and contemporary tracks in one place. Tempo SlowMo, by Martian Storms Ltd., is compatible with iPad, iPhone and iTouch and is available for free download from the App Store.

Benedicte Bemet, newly appointed soloist at The Australian Ballet, rehearsing Paquita. Photo by Lynette Wills courtesy of The Australian Ballet.

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

If you're in the Houston area next week, make sure you put this event on your calendar: May 9–11 at 8 pm, Houston Ballet will give three free performances at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. Two Stanton Welch works are on the program, Play and Sons de L'ame (Sounds of the Soul), as well as the variation-filled third act of Paquita.

 

The box office will distribute tickets on the day of the performance, 10:30–1:00. Each person in line can reserve up to four tickets, but you must be 16 or older to pick them up. If you can't get there early to nab a seat, the hill behind the reserved area will be open. For more information, see houstonballet.org.

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