When tremendous feats are performed, onlookers want to know one thing: How did they do it? On the international dance stage and, more specifically, last week at the six-day Cape Town International Ballet Competition in the Mother City, dance aficionados wanted to know two things: How did they do it and how were they scored by the panel of international dance luminaries?
The best of the classical competitors
Cynthia González Rodriguez
Day three was the last of the elimination rounds and arguably the best of the classical competitors. They performed for balletomanes who flew in from around the country and beyond to boost local audiences and support the 45 entrants ranging in age from 12 to 28. Marks were awarded for musicality, artistry, technique and style, of which the best and worst were eliminated and the balance averaged out to attain the fairest result.
The medal winners were determined by Kevin O'Hare, director-designate of The Royal Ballet; Dr Ramona da Sáa, director and Professor, National Ballet School of Cuba; Leticia Müller, former ballerina of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, UK and PACT Ballet, SA; Lynn Wallis, artistic director of the Royal Academy of Dance, London and jury chair; Septime Webre, artistic director of The Washington Ballet, Washington DC; Hae Shik Kim, Professor Emeritus, Korea National University of Arts, chairman of the Korea Ballet Festival and chairman of the Korea World Dance Day, SA-born Charla Genn, faculty member, Julliard School, New York and Denise Schultze from South Africa, a former ballerina and now a master teacher and coach who is also on the faculty of Boston Ballet's summer programme.
The majority of the 21 finalists who competed on Friday night hailed from South Korea and Cuba, followed by three South Africans and single representative from Russia, Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, the US and China.
If there were an award for charisma alone, it would probably have gone to Cuba. The dancers trained in that country present themselves with such confidence and showmanship that they add extra sparkle to consistently excellent performances. Interestingly, all the junior Cuban finalists received medals. Among them, Cynthia González Rodriguez was a delight to watch; technically brilliant and youthfully charming.
By comparison, their Asian challengers appeared faultlessly competent, impressing an appreciative audience with their unhurried prowess. South Korea's Jin-Ho Won took double Gold in the senior girls' sections; a feat matched by China's Junxiong Zhao in the senior boys' sections.
Won's wraithlike gala performance in the Giselle pas de deux, partnered by finalist Jae-Yong An, was exquisitely ethereal and an undisputed highlight. She danced with a lightness of being not seen on a local stage for many years - there may well have been some outstanding interpretations in the last two decades, but the one that I can recall is that by prima ballerina assoluta Phyllis Spira. It's that unforgettable.
Quirky acting ability
Dong-Woo Kim and Ye-Lim Choi from South Korea performed the Harlequinade pas de deux for the final gala, which gave Kim the opportunity to reveal some quirky acting ability together with pretty spectacular leaps, among others.
Australia's Aaron Smyth was another audience favourite, well remembered from the 2010 competition.
Meanwhile, it was 18-year-old local Mthuthuzeli November who won the hearts of local fans. His outstanding contemporary performance earned him the coveted Gold medal.
At age 14, South Africa's Kathleen Videira will be remembered for being one of the youngest competitors and earning a bronze in the junior classical section.
Cape Town International Ballet Competition CEO Dirk Badenhorst announced that the South African candidate chosen to travel to New York to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix in April this year is 12-year-old Alexia Bazzo. She was the youngest competitor at the event, which is now firmly established on the world's cultural calendar. Balletomanes will no doubt be counting down to the next event in 2014.
Male and female participants were judged separately in both the classical and contemporary divisions and the winners are as follows:
Senior Classical (Girls aged 19 to 28)
Gold and R25 000: Jin-Ho Won, 20, South Korea Silver and R15 000: Hyun-Hee Sim, 20, South Korea Bronze and R10 000: Aurora Dickie, 23, Brazil
Senior Contemporary (Girls)
Gold and R15 000: Jin-Ho Won, 20, South Korea (double Gold medallist)
Senior Classical (Boys aged 19 to 28)
Gold and R25 000: Junxiong Zhao, 20, China Silver and R15 000: Aaron Smyth, 20, Australia Bronze and R10 000: Emmanuel Vasquez, 20, Argentina
Senior Contemporary (Boys)
Gold and R15 000: Junxiong Zhao, 20, China (double Gold medallist)
Junior Classical (Girls aged 15 to 18)
Gold and R20 000: Ye-Lim Choi, 16, South Korea Silver and R12 500: Cynthia González Rodriguez, 16, Cuba Bronze and R7500: Kathleen Videira, 14, South Africa
Gold and R10 000: Cynthia González Rodriguez, 16, Cuba
Junior Classical (Boys aged 15 to 18)
Gold and R20 000: Dong-Woo Kim, 18, South Korea Silver and R12 500: Ramiro Antonio Gomez Samon, 18, Cuba Bronze and R7500: Randol Betancourt Figueredo, 18, Cuba
Gold and R10 000: Mthuthuzeli November, 18, South Africa
Debbie Hathway is a specialist dance writer and critic for the Cape Times and Bizcommunity's BizLounge. She's a former writer, columnist and critic for the Weekend Argus, Cape Argus and Daily News Tonight.
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