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Australian dancers compete in Genée International Ballet Competition in Lisbon

The Genée International Ballet Competition 2016 in Sydney. Gold Medal Winner Maeve Nolan. Photo by Winkipop Media, courtesy of Royal Academy of Dance.

This week, dancers are hard at work in the studio, taking class, receiving private coaching on their solos in preparation for competition and learning work from a leading choreographer, all as part of the 2017 Genée International Ballet Competition, held for the first time in Lisbon, Portugal.

The 2016 Genée in Sydney. Photo courtesy of RAD.

The 2016 Genée in Sydney. Photo courtesy of RAD.

The 86-year-old competition is part of the Royal Academy of Dance’s (RAD) commitment to widening access globally to the highest standard of dance training. Last year, the Genée was held in Sydney.

The Genée is open to dancers aged between 15 and 19, who have passed the RAD Intermediate, Advanced 1 and Advanced 2 examinations in Classical Ballet. During the 2017 week-long event, students receive intensive coaching by world-renowned répétiteurs and choreographers in the studios of Companhia Nacional de Bailado. Each year, the RAD Artistic Director also commissions a choreographer who creates a new piece with participants. This year, César Augusto Moniz is creating two variations to be premiered at the competition final.

For the competition portion of the Genée, the Semi-Finals will be held 13 – 14 September, at Teatro Tivoli BBVA, and the Final will take place at Teatro Camões on 16 September. The judging panel will consist of prominent figures in ballet, including Director of The Royal Ballet Dame Monica Mason, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet Christopher Hampson and former Artistic Director of the RAD Lynn Wallis OBE.

2016 RAD Genee International, Sydney Gold Medal Winner, Joshua Price. Photo by WinkiPoP Media

Many Australian dancers who have previously competed at the Genée have worked as professional dancers in some of the world’s top ballet companies. Laurel Gill, the 1935 Gold Medal winner, for instance, was the first Australian female to join Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet. And more recently, 2014 finalists Jessica Allison-Walker and Vida Polakov are dancing with West Australian Ballet; and Joshua Price, last year’s Gold Medal winner and recipient of the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award, is now at San Francisco Ballet School, on his way to a professional career.

There are many Australian dance students competing at this year’s Genée as well, such as Brisbane’s Lucy Christodoulou and Matthew Maxwell, whom you can get to know more about and their experience at the Genée below!

Lucy Christodoulou, age 17, Brisbane (Annette Roselli Dance Academy)

Is this your first time competing in the Genée?

“Yes, this is my first time competing in the Genée, and my first time in Europe as well.”

What have you most been looking forward to about participating in the Genée? 

“I’ve been most looking forward to seeing the different styles of dancing and the different standards around the world, all doing RAD at the same time, but it’s interesting to see so many different types of dancers in the one competition. It’s been really exciting to see the same variations all done so differently by so many different people. Everyone has their own unique touch on everything, and that’s really nice to be able to pick up different things from other dancers as well.”

Why do you think the Genée is a great opportunity for dancers? 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for dancers to have exposure. Considering it is in Europe, there are going to be so many directors and so many different people around watching, and you never know who might see you dance. And I think it’s so great to be able to be with so many different people. You might never dance with someone from Japan or Taiwan, but you get to all do class together, and you make so many great friendships here. It’s a very nurturing environment.”

A unique part of the Genée is the coaching dancers receive, which is probably invaluable! What has been your experience been like so far?

“It’s been very good so far. I really enjoy it. The teachers are so precise with what they want, and it’s nice because it’s a different input than what I’m used to at home. It’s always nice to have feedback from so many different areas because you can add so many things to your solo to really make it as good as it can be. And you can tell that all the teachers really want to help, and they really want your solo to be the best it can on the day.”

What do you like about Lisbon? Have you seen any incredible sights yet?

“I really like the custard tarts, not going to lie! They have been really nice. I love all the pastel buildings. I think it’s really beautiful, and especially since it’s my first time in Europe, it’s so different to anything that I’m used to, so my mum and I are making our way around Lisbon.”

What are your dance goals? Any dream companies or choreographers you’d like to dance for?

“Honestly, anything. I would be so happy. I want to be a ballerina obviously, but I would be so happy with any company that would take me. It’s so hard to get a job in this day and age in dancing, and I just think anywhere that would allow me to do what I want to do every day would just be an amazing opportunity for me. I’d like to stay at home in Australia and maybe go for Queensland Ballet or something like that because I like being at home with my family, but I’d definitely be looking to go overseas within the next few years if that doesn’t work.”

What do you hope to take away from this year’s Genée?

“I hope to take away some friendships and exposure from other teachers. I’ve learned so much here already, and it’s really crazy how much my solo has changed, and my classwork. I’ve learned so much because RAD is so precise with what they want, and I hadn’t done RAD in so long, and now it’s just opened my eyes back to true ballet, like back to basics. And I hope to take that back with me to Australia and the different styles of dancing that I’ve seen from around the world now all in this one competition, I hope to take some of that away as well.”

Matthew Maxwell

Jacqueline Morland Awards Queensland 2017 Winner Matthew Maxwell. Photo courtesy of RAD.

Matthew Maxwell, age 15, Brisbane (Annette Roselli Dance Academy)

Is this your first time competing in the Genée?

“It is my first time competing at the Genée, but I competed in the Genée Dance Challenge last year, and I was in the Final in Sydney.”

What have you most been looking forward to about participating in the Genée? 

“I think all the coaching is unlike any other competition. It’s just invaluable. That’s probably one of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most.”

Why do you think the Genée is a great opportunity for dancers? 

“It’s good exposure, especially when performing on stage, there are always people watching, and they might just see you and you might have an opportunity come from that.”

A unique part of the Genée is the coaching dancers receive, which is probably invaluable! What has been your experience been like so far?

“The coaching is the best part, I think.”

What do you like about Lisbon? Have you seen any incredible sights yet?

“I think all the old architecture around here is just amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it before because I’ve never been to a city like this that’s so old.”

What are your dance goals? Any dream companies or choreographers you’d like to dance for?

“Probably my two dream companies would be The Royal Ballet and English National, so I would like to dance in England somewhere.”

What do you hope to take away from this year’s Genée?

“I would just like to improve, get exposure and just improve the standard of my dancing.”

For more information on the Genée International Ballet Competition, visit www.rad.org.uk/achieve/the-genee/genee-home-page

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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