The sixth South African International Ballet Competition, held at the Artscape theatre, saw 87 young dancers competing with other dancers of their age from around the world.
This prestigious event allows up and coming dancers the opportunity to perform on a professional stage in front of esteemed judges from Germany, Portugal, South Korea, China, Latvia, America and South Africa. Not only does this exposure give great experience, but it also offers dancers the chance to partake in masterclasses with these renowned teachers and choreographers, as well as a welcome opportunity to network with other dancers.
The night of the finals saw solos and pas de deux from a variety of ballets including classicals such as Don Quixote and La Bayadère and romantics such as Giselle and La Sylphide, and also gave a brief look at some of the winning contemporary pieces. It was great to see three South African dancers in the finals with Paige McElligott (15) winning the West Coast Dance Academy award for the highest mark in a single variation in the Scholar category.
It was inspiring to see the level of professionalism and dedication from all the competitors, who performed tricky variations and pas de deux with surprising confidence. Especially impressive was the bravery of the young ballerinas who attacked the iconic fouette turns without hesitation. Most of the classical gold medalists performed pas de deux including female scholar Seyeon Min (14) from South Korea. She was delightfully light and energetic in La Sylphide with clean technique and a playful chemistry with her partner Eun Soo Lee.
The junior female gold medal was tied between Seonmee Park (18) from South Korea and Elena Iseki (16) from Germany/Japan. Park was mesmerizing in The Talisman with a natural grace and lovely adage quality. Her effortless port de bras and fine control made it seem like she was floating. Iseki on the other hand had a strong feisty energy with a sharp clean technique, elegant extensions and beautiful fouette turns with double pirouettes thrown in. Partnering her was junior male gold medalist Haruto Goto (18) from Japan/Germany whose technique was equally flawless with explosive height in his jumps and admirable strength in his lifts and partnering. Their pas de deux was the perfect climax to the classical programme. This being said, the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly double gold medalist, 14 year old scholar Antonio Caslinho. His soaring leaps and furiously fast yet controlled turns were exciting to witness but it was his confidence and obvious enjoyment that made him the audience favourite, with standing ovations after each of his solos.
Being exposed to talent such as this is one of the many benefits of competitions – over and above the prizes and scholarships. It is exciting to see how the SAIBC competition continues to grow and the opportunities it provides to young dancers.
The sixth South African International Ballet Competition took place at the Artscape Theatre on 3 March 2018.