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Calliope, January 3, 2002
Posted January 3, 2002
When and where did ballet competitions start?
Good question, and I hope someone with more knowledge on the subject than I can answer it.
According to Horst Koegler's Oxford Dictionary of Ballet (odd, I keep reaching for this old one rather than the new, improved version which has half the information in it of the old, but I digress), the International Ballet competition at Varna began in 1964 and was started by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. I don't know if that is the first, though. The Moscow competition may predate it.
Jeannie? Do you know this one?
Posted January 11, 2002
I moved this over from Anything Goes and am posting to bump it up. I'm sure Jeannie can give a more thorough answer.
Posted January 12, 2002
Thank you. I was wondering what if any is the feeling about these competitions and does it feed the feeling that we're pushing dancers.
At the risk of causing confusion, I just moved this thread back to Anything Goes, since it's taking a "should there be competitions" tack. The role and wisdom of competitions can always be debated; I just didn't want the subject raised in the competitions forum, for the reasons stated in the post announcing the forum on Ballet Alert! Online.
[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: alexandra ]
You could almost begin a new topic on your 2nd question -- that of people's feelings about whether or not competitions push young dancers too far or in the wrong direction. In fact...I now see that Alexandra has addressed this. I agree - we can discuss the 'Are competitions good or bad?' stuff over in Aesthetics.
Now for your initial question, re. history:
Alexandra is right, in the the 'grand-daddy' of all UNESCO-endorsed competitions falling within the "IBC" (International Ballet Competition) heading is the one in Varna, Bulgaria, which is flourishing to this day & will celebrate its 20th edition this July.
There have, of course, been 'ballet competitions' of sort at the Paris opera Ballet, as part of their annual promotions process. I'm not sure when those began but I would guess in the 20s or 30s...Estelle or Francoise or jean-Luc, can you shed light?
There were several 'All-Soviet' Ballet Competitions among young dancers of the former Soviet Union, commencing at least in the 1950s. For example, the Kirov's Alla Sizova & Rudolf Nureyev won the 1958 All-Soviet Competition, held in Moscow. That's the competition that truly brought Nureyev to the eyes of the ballet world, dancing 'Le Corsaire pdd' in his panther-like manner. The b&w film of that competition made its way to the west & he (& Sizova) became quite well known even before Nureyev defected to the West in 1961/62. Portions of that pdd, in the All-Soviet competition, are available in one of the Kultur compendium videos, by the way.
By the time that Varna 1964 occurred, dancers of the Eastern blok were quite familiar with and comfortable with such competitions. The French, too, fared quite well at such competitions, perhaps due to their familiarity with the rigorous internal POB competitions.
[ January 11, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]
Originally posted by Calliope:Thank you. I was wondering what if any is the feeling about these competitions and does it feed the feeling that we're pushing dancers.
I think one can make the case that competitions push dancers I'm also wary of them because they have become a way for dancers who are not always well-schooled, but who can dance two or three variations that especially suit them, or can be coached and overcoached technically so that they can "deliver" in a competition, enter competitions as a way to get noticed, to boost a career.
I don't blame them for doing this, if any "blame" it's to the teachers for pushing them and the companies for taking them in as soloists, or into the corps, but with soloist roles. It's not unusual for medal winners (and I'm not going to name names ) to get into a company, do their two or three specialty pas de deux, and then fall not be able to hold the same level in regular repertory.
I think there are other ways to build dancers without pushing them.
Sorry for the confusion and thank you for the responses.
My initial reaction, was how can an art form be competitive? It seems to me, based on just advertising in some dance magazines that there's almost a split between ballet dancers, some go way of the competition circuit and others into companies.
I never realized that POB used them as part of their promotions!
Calliope, at the POB there is a competition every year to choose who will be promoted to an upper category (there are five categories in the company), only the étoiles (principals) are chosen directly by the director of dance. Actually they get a mark on 30, with 20 points given by the jury (which includes the director of the opera, the director of dance, the ballet master, two "outside personalities"- this year John Neumeier and Boris Akimov- and five dancers elected by their colleagues) and 10 points given by the direction (based on "l'assiduité et la conscience professionnelle"- I don't know how to translate that, roughly it means how seriously you do your job). For each category, there is a compulsory variation, which is danced by all the competitors,
and each competitor dances a second variation, chosen freely in the company's repertory.
I've posted the result of this year's competition in another thread, in the "news and views" section.
There have always been some debates about the usefulness of such a competition, the honesty of the results, etc. However, one point about which nearly everyone agrees is that at least it enables the dancers of the corps de ballet to show a variation alone on stage, which doesn't happen often to some of them, and so perhaps to get noticed.
So what is the history of the Prix de Lausanne?