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Natalia

How About Judging in BALLET Competitions? Corruption & Influence?

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Since 'judging' is at the center of the Olympic figure skating brou-ha-ha, perhaps we can discuss judging, over the years, at the big international IBC-style ballet competitions. Have any of you had experience with -- or known of -- judging irregularities or 'influence peddling' at Jackson, Varna or other major ballet competitions?

This one is harder to pinpoint, as the judges marks are NOT flashed before the audience at such competitions. But they are made on keypads & tabulated by computer. [i actually got some insight on how this is done at Varna 2000 & even was privy to some information on 'trends' among some judges...but I was sworn to secrecy by the gentleman who handles the auditing of scores, so I'll keep mumm. Nothing scandalous - just interesting. smile.gif ]

A probably-corrupt competition that comes to mind, right now, was the 1986 Jackson IBC, in which Jury Chairman Yuri Grigorovich -- then head of the Bolshoi Ballet -- allegedly manipulated some of the other jurors to award the Grand prix to, what some feel, was a less-than-deserving Nina Ananiashvili.

Any competition-judging horror stories out there?

ALSO - Should the Jackson & Varna IBCs (& similar ballet competitions) change the rules to require TRANSPARENCY & POSTING of the marks awarded to each competitor?

[ February 22, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Actually, in 1986, the Grand Prix was awarded to Ananiashvili and Liepa as a pair, with the Men's Gold Medal jointly awarded to Vadim Pisarev and Oliver Matz of East Germany. Anyone else who was there?

[ February 22, 2002: Message edited by: Mme. Hermine ]

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There have always been stories about vote-swapping, as well as companies' being assured, in advance, that if their dancers entered, they would be guaranteed a medal (offered by newer competitions trying to attract companies that had never competed). One story I can "print" is from Mary Day, as she told it to me in a formal interview. Day took several Washington School of Ballet girls to junior level competitions over the years. The last one was Kristy Windom at Varna in 1986 (?; forget exact date, but that's within a year or two). She didn't make it out of the second round, although she was a very strong technician. Day was not a judge at the competition, and said a fellow teacher who was a judge chastised her for bringing a student to a competition and NOT being a judge herself. She said she would never take a student to a competition again, and she hasn't.

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That's interesting, Alexandra. I've heard a similar story about Varna and also some about Prix de Lausanne and more recently, YAGP although the latter was in a slightly different context. I guess one simply has to accept that where there's formal competition, there's going to be politics. It's a tiresome mix.

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Although, with the relative newness of ballet competitions, I'd have to say that a well-oiled and disciplined machine of corruption such as I believe has institutionalized itself in sporting events hasn't had a chance to set in. Transparency and posting, oh, yes, and accountability outside of the theater.

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Oh, I think it's set in. You bet your bottom hook and eye it is. But I don't think discussing it in a public forum is anything I'm going to do!!!!

[ February 24, 2002: Message edited by: Juliet ]

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Here in Ottawa there is a yearly Kiwanis Music Festival which used to go hand in hand with the Kiwanis Dance Festival. But while the Music still goes on, the Dance was cancelled years ago (maybe 1992) because of unfair judging practices and general corruption. This is obviously a much smaller scale than Varna or Jackson, but if a fairly local competition can inspire judging controversies and favouritism I can only imagine what it's like when the stakes are major scholarships and international recognition.

Oh do share Juliet, you've whetted my appetite for insider information with that little tidbit smile.gif

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I think any time there's a situation involving subjective judgment (i.e., it's not a matter of seconds or inches, something that can be measured) AND there's a prize of any sort -- power, money, prestige, scholarship, career advancement, honor to the sponsoring studio, honor to the competition, etc. -- there is more than a possibility of corruption. I also think that 30 or 40 years is a long enough period of time for the competitions to have their own little "traditions" smile.gif

And this doesn't even take into account judgments which may not be considered "corrupt" but more on the order of "well-intentioned fudging," such as: "Give it to her; she's 18. It's her last chance." Or, "But we've never given a gold to someone from THAT school and it's about to fold. She's pretty good; let's give her a boost." Or "He's the only one that represents Vaganova, or Cecchetti, or My Own Method."

I don't know a way around it. The fact that a competition medal is becoming legal tender now for company-hopping or getting a job in a major company insures that it will continue.

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I forgot when I posted above that I was once a judge at a (very small, local) competition! Everyone else there knew everyone involved -- which is why they'd brought me in; I wasn't a teacher with students. This was a competition for scholarships to a summer program, and it also gave "encouragement" prizes to good students.

There was no pressure at all, and the two teachers of the two most likely winners watched the competition, but were not judges. The two most likely winners both had serious shortcomings, and it was decided, quite amicably, to give no gold, but two silvers.

What I remember most about that experience was one very young dancer -- 12 -- who HAD IT. She had all the potential to be not only a dancer, but a ballerina. Beautiful body, serene presence, very strong technique for her age. One of the good aspects of competition -- everyone noticed her. I actually made contact with her family, who seemed to have not the slightest clue of her talent; they thought she was doing this for fun. They would not send her away to a better school; they didn't want her to be away from home. They said they'd send her to SAB after she finished college. Sigh.

I asked about her several times in the next few years. She stayed with her very small, shopping center school and won competition after competition, but never chose dance as a career.

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Well if you want your daughter or son to win the American Youth Grand Prix, you better become a good friend with one of the judge.

I read one of the judge evaluation whom will remain nameless, and on one of the student that was dancing "Sylvia" by G Balanchine and coached by a Principal from NYCB, that judge wrote "wrong Choreography" Scary epecially when the variation was taught by a Ballerina that performed it with NYCB confused.gif

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