Ballet Training
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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Is anyone more at home onstage than Nina Ananiashvili? Her majestic stage presence is on display in this 1993 clip of her and fellow Bolshoi Ballet star Alexei Fadeyechev dancing Raymonda's Act I pas de deux. The two make a commanding pair, refined and elegant in the opening partnered section. Fadeyechev is a sturdy partner and a solid technician, as evidenced by his wobble-free variation. Ananiashvili draws on her delicate charm, cocking her head sweetly and lightly hopping on pointe in her variation (6:20). Yet underneath that grace lies a steely strength. Just watch the way she attacks her pirouette diagonal (7:33) and performs a sweeping manège of coupé jeté turns (9:05) in the coda.

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News
Nikita Boris and Justin Valentine received invitations to attend the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Photo by VAM, Courtesy VKIBC.

It was a tale of two competitions here in New York City last week: While Youth America Grand Prix was taking over Greenwich Village and Brooklyn, the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition was underway uptown. (Which meant a lot of running around for this editor in chief!) And while VKIBC was much smaller (134 competitors), the stakes were just as high, with ballet and contemporary dancers from 29 countries vying for medals, scholarships and company contracts.

Two training opportunities, in particular, stood out: an invitation to study at Russia's venerable Vaganova Ballet Academy and a traineeship with the State Ballet of Georgia, led by international superstar Nina Ananiashvili. (Both Ananiashivili and Vaganova rector Nikolai Tsiskaridze were among the judges.) And six standout dancers representing the U.S. won the honors. Tsiskaridze invited Nikita Boris and Justin Valentine, both students at the Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory of New York, to attend the Vaganova Academy for one year. Meanwhile, Daniela Maarraoui (City Ballet of Houston), Brecke Swan (VKDCNY), Dante Alabastro and Thomas Giugovaz (both from The Washington Ballet) received traineeships with the State Ballet of Georgia.

The Grand Prix was awarded to young Russian choreographer Ildar Tagirov. Maria Iliushkina of Russia and Dong Hyeon Kwak of South Korea received company contracts with the Ballet de l'Opera de Bordeaux in France. Maarraoui was also offered a company contract with South Carolina's Columbia Classical Ballet and Ballet Centro del Conocimiento in Argentina. Miho Morita (Japan) and Maria Clara Ambrosini (Ecuador) received trainee program contracts with Columbia Classical Ballet. Congratulations to all!

For a full list of scholarship recipients and Contemporary and Choreography Competition prize winners, click here. Below is a rundown of medalists in the Classical Competition.


Women's Senior Division Medalists

Gold: Maria Iliushkina (Russia)

Silver: Da Woon Lee (South Korea) and Hee Won Cho (South Korea)

Bronze: Anna Guerrero (Philippines) and Brecke Swan (USA)


Men's Senior Division Medalists

Gold: Seung Hyun Lee (South Korea)

Silver: Dong Hyeon Kwak (South Korea) and Gwan Woo Park (South Korea)

Bronze: Thomas Giugovaz (USA)


Women's Junior Division Medalists

Gold: Nikita Boris (USA)

Silver: Seon Mee Park (South Korea)

Bronze: Maria Clara Ambrosini (Ecuador)


Men's Junior Division Medalists

Gold: not awarded

Silver: Justin Valentine (USA) and Gilles Delellio (Belgium)

Bronze: Miguel David Aranda (Paraguay)


Women's Student Division Medalists

Gold: Caroline Grossman (USA)

Silver: Seon Hyang An (South Korea) and Ye Jin Joo (South Korea)

Bronze: Katya Saburova (Russia) and Yun Ju Lee (South Korea)


Men's Student Division Medalists

Gold: Eun Soo Lee (South Korea)

Silver: Keita Fujishima (Japan)

Bronze: not awarded


Best Interpretation of Classical Compulsory: Daniela Maarraoui (USA) and Seung Hyun Lee (South Korea)

Best Interpretation of Contemporary Compulsory: Anna Guerrero (Phillippines) and Dante Alabastro (USA)


Chan Hon Goh, a principal with The National Ballet of Canada since 1994, will perform with the company for the last time in June. Afterwards, she’ll have her hands full teaching at her parents’ Vancouver-based Goh Ballet Academy and further developing Principal by Chan Hon Goh, the shoe line she began with her husband 12 years ago.


Nina Ananiashvili, who has appeared with American Ballet Theatre since 1993, will give her final performance with the company on June 27. She will remain the State Ballet of Georgia’s artistic director, a position she has held since September 2004, and continue to dance with the company and internationally as a guest artist.


Seventeen-year San Francisco Ballet veteran Tina LeBlanc, who took her final bow on May 9, plans to devote herself to teaching at the company’s school. “I’m also excited to have a little ‘me time’ to do crafts, like quilting, crocheting and beading,” LeBlanc says. —Elizabeth Gorgas

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