By Dolce Fisher.
Sydney Opera House
July 22 2012
What another successful year for the McDonald’s Ballet Scholarship, held by Sydney Eisteddfod! Once again an array of young talent graced the Opera House stage competing for individual and jazz troupe honours.
If you are not familiar with the amazing opportunities that are associated with the scholarship the overall Ballet Scholarship winner receives a prize of $18,000 and the runner up takes home a prize of $12,000. Both dancers also receive a photographic portfolio sponsored by WinkiPoP Media, Bloch Vouchers and the amazing opportunity to take class and view rehearsals with many of the world’s leading companies. These prizes help propel the young talent into exciting careers in dance.
After judges Rani Luther and Colin Peasley viewed 144 entrants and went through a tedious process of elimination, they chose just six finalists that continued into the final classes and then performed at the Sydney Opera House where the Australian Ballet’s David McAllister joined the judging panel.
This year’s outright winner was the gorgeous Kelsey Stokes. Currently based in Queensland, she is a student of Prudence Bowen Atelier. Originally from New Zealand, her whole family showed their support for Kelsey’s dreams by relocating to Australia just so she could study under Miss Bowen’s guidance. This move definitely paid off! Kelsey performed her classical solo, Giselle’s Variation Act 1, with a gentle innocence and an enormous amount of control and her contemporary solo showed her versatility.
Runner up, Aaron Kok, hailing from McDonald College’s Australian International Ballet Academy in Sydney, was well deserving of second place. He showed the most maturity of the male finalists. In his variation, ‘Prince Desire’ from Act 3 of Sleeping Beauty, he showed much elevation. His contemporary solo was also strong with wonderful expression that made him a stand out amongst his male counterparts.
As the evening is somewhat of a gala performance, the packed Concert Hall also enjoyed the Open Age Jazz Finals and a series of guest performances selected from this year’s dance eisteddfods.
The Jazz Finals made for a tough competition with every group packing the stage with dancers in tight unison. There were a couple of more creative performances from Paws and Ev & Bow, but unfortunately creativity didn’t seem to be what the judges were after this year. All the place getters were what you’d usually expect from a large group competition performance: kicks, leaps, turns and way too much acrobatics.
First place was awarded to Brent Street Group B for their piece Control and Village Performing Arts Group A came in second. Their tight, fast choreography was packed with great moments and was very entertaining. Third place was awarded to the Newcastle’s National College of Dance.
The guest performances were packed with young talent. The Dance Spot gave a delightful ballet performance to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade. Winners of the Open Age Lyrical Group dance division, Dance Junction, gave us a taste of our Anzac history with Only 19 and North Shore Prep School made everyone giggle with their hip hop number. From the student performances, the highlight was Dubbo Ballet Studio’s open contemporary group dance inspired and set to music from the movie, Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It was full of fun and laughs and was very entertaining. The choreography came across as though it was quite simple, yet it actually had much detail.
Former scholarship winner Stephanie Hancox, now dancer with the Bavarian State Ballet, performed an excerpt from The Taming of the Shrew with partner Matej Urban. Both performed their character roles wonderfully and it was well received by the audience. With the evening somewhat of a gala it may have been nice to see a piece of repertoire that had a bit more bravado.
The Scholarship’s experience and exposure definitely helped propel Stephanie Hancox into her dream as a dancer and Australia should be proud to be exporting dancers of such a high standard. We hope that this year’s winners and finalists will be just as successful.
Top photo: 2012 Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Ballet Scholarships finalists. Back row: Kenji Wilkie (Alegria Studios, NSW), Brydee Lyttle (Christine Walsh, VIC), Charlotte Price (Sonja Shepherd,WA), Laura Atencio (Tanya Pearson, NSW), Aaron Kok (McDonald College, NSW). Front row: Kelsey Stokes (Prudence Bowen, QLD), Liam Morris (Christine Walsh, VIC) and Robyn Begg (Beth James, WA)