Chinese ballerina Li Siyi takes gold in the junior division of the 6th Shanghai International Ballet Competition. [Photo provided to China Daily]
The recently concluded 6th Shanghai International Ballet Competition showcased the progress that Chinese ballet has achieved over the past few decades.
The competition, which took place at the Shanghai International Dance Center from Aug 3 to 11, featured 95 dancers from 15 countries and regions.
Chinese dancer Shi Yue, 22, from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of Canada and Ao Dingwen, 24, a ballerina from the Liaoning Ballet, won gold in the senior division; while 17-year-old Li Siyi, also a ballerina from the Liaoning Ballet, took gold in the junior division.
The top prize, the grand prix, however, was not awarded this year.
This year, 40 overseas dancers featured in the quarterfinals that took place in Shanghai over Aug 3-11, and 45 of the 95 contestants had previously won international awards for dancing.
Shi, for example, was a student at the school attached to Liaoning Ballet when he won a prize at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2014.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the oldest ballet company in Canada, then offered him a job, and he is now a second soloist with the company.
Speaking about his award, he says that winning in Shanghai was like "an affirmation for my future, and testimony to my improvement".
Shi aims to be a principal dancer at the Canadian company. Eventually he hopes to become an international star like his idol Daniil Simkin, a principal with the American Ballet Theatre.
Speaking about Chinese dancers, he says they have outstanding technique, but they need to work on their artistic expression and performance skills.
Frank Anderson, the former artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet, was chairman of the jury this year, which comprised established ballet dancers, ballet company leaders and officials from other international ballet competitions.
Anderson has been following Chinese ballet for the past 23 years. And there was a time when he believed that Chinese dancers were the "best-kept secret" on the international ballet scene, but now things have changed, he said.
Frank Anderson, chairman of the jury of the 6th Shanghai International Ballet Competition. [Photo provided to China Daily]
"Now Chinese dancers are being invited ... to go abroad. They learn a lot of things, get knowledge, experience and know-how.
"Then they return to China, and they pass on their experience to the next generation."
He also says he found that Chinese dancers at the competition were bringing to the stage a lot of the things that they had learned from the West.
"It is wonderful to see that they are taking the tradition of Western classical ballet, and using it as a language for Chinese ballet.
"They have integrated the Western ballet tradition into the ballets they produce today, even those with revolutionary themes."
Anderson and his colleagues judged the dancers on talent, potential, musicality, artistry, and most importantly, whether they were dancing with heart.
One of the jury members, Andris Liepa, a former principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, says that the jury was looking at more than just the 50-second performance of the contestants.
"We wanted to see a role and use the dancer later on in a company, or in a production. Such is the difference between art and sport," he says.
Liepa, who has judged the SIBC in two consecutive events, says he found that the level of the dancers had improved this time, especially the Chinese dancers.
"They were jumping higher, and doing the pirouettes better. However, we haven't had a personality," he says, explaining why the top prize was not awarded this year.
"When you have a strong personality, it just knocks you down," Liepa explains.
"The audience, the jury and the competitors, they all realize that he or she beats everyone. There will be no discussion."
But finding such a personality is often a matter of luck, he says.
"Maybe one will show up at an event in Beijing, or maybe next year."
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