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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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Starting last week, dancers from around the world gathered in Bulgaria for the prestigious Varna International Ballet Competition. For the first time, two Nashville Ballet dancers, Alexandra Meister and Nicolas Scheuer, have been chosen to participate. Pointe spoke with Meister before she and her partner jetted off to the competition.

Nicholas Scheuer and Alexandra Meister. Photo by Anthony Matula, Courtesy Nashville Ballet.

What's it been like rehearsing?

We have most of the summer off from Nashville Ballet, so we've been juggling other side jobs and rehearsal. Typically we'll take class in the morning and come back in the evening to rehearse. We've been preparing the Sugar Plum pas for the first round. If we make it to the second round, Paul Vasterling has created a piece on us, and we'll also do the Black Swan pas de deux, which is a beast. And then for the third round, company dancer Christopher Stuart choreographed a piece for us, plus we'll be doing a Le Corsaire excerpt.

 

Is there anyone on the jury you're eager to meet?

Aurora Bosch. She's a Cuban judge who coached Ana Lobe, who was my ballet teacher growing up. Ana competed at Varna when she was my age, so that's a neat thing that we're going to share.

 

How does competing help you as a professional dancer?

It's definitely going to be a big leap forward for us artistically, and even stamina-wise because these are some big pas de deux to get through. As a professional, I don't think you should ever feel like there's a point where you're done growing. This is about improving myself, working on my partnering and learning something. Doing things like this re-inspire me.

 

Last night, Varna announced the 44 competitors—out of more than 100—that advanced to the second round. Unfortunately, Meister and Scheuer were eliminated, but you can watch the remaining performances live online through July 30.

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

For many dancers, the International Ballet Competition in Varna is the ultimate test of technique and artistry. In ballet, a gold from Varna is just as prestigious as all those medals Michael Phelps has hanging around his neck.

 

Congrats to Americans Brooklyn Mack and Miko Fogarty, who both just had incredible showings at the 25th IBC–Varna. Mack, a dancer with The Washington Ballet, shared the gold with Denis Cherevichko for the senior men. Fogarty, who was recently featured in the documentary "First Position," took home a thrid class distinction. Here are the rest of the results.


Senior Women 

Gold Medal: Not awarded
Silver Medal: Miki Wakuta, Japan and Chae-Eun Yang, Korea
Bronze Medal: Christina Chochanova, Bulgaria and Aigerim Beketayeva, Kazakhstan


Senior Men
Gold Medal: Brooklyn Mack, USA and Denis Cherevichko, Austria
Silver Medal: Arata Miyagawa, Japan
Bronze Medal: Not awarded

Junior Girls
First Class Distinction: Wang Qingxin, China
Second Class Distinction: Not awarded
Third Class Distinctions: Min Jung Kim, Korea, Nataly Bratanova, Bulgaria and Miko Fogarty, USA

Junior Boys
First Class Distinction: He Taiyu, China
Second Class Distinction: Not awarded
Third Class Distinction: Joo Won Ahn, Korea

 

Other Awards
Special Distinction: He Taiyu, China
Special "Emil Dimitrov" prize for young talents:  He Taiyu, China
Prize from the "Nina Kiradjieva" Fund: Christina Chochanova, Bulgaria
Prizes for promising junior dancers awarded by Sylvia Co., Japan: Kateryna Odarenko, Belarus and Joo Won Ahn, Korea

This year marked the 50th anniversary of IBC Varna. Though the competition has grown steadily more sophisticated and intense over time, no competitors were awarded gold medals this year. Two silver medals were awarded to the senior women: Hannah O'Neill of the Paris Opera Ballet, and Ye Lim Choi of Korea. Two bronze medals were awarded to the senior women, as well: Sara Renda of Italy and Hee Sun Kim of Korea. Senior men fared the same—the highest award was silver. Dae Han Na of Korea went home with second place, while Jeremy-Loup Quer and Hugo Marchand, both of France, went home with a bronze medal each. In the junior devision, American competition regular Miko Fogarty (representing Switzerland) won the silver medal.

 

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