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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.

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