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2012 Genee International Ballet Competition
Judges: David McAllister AM, Artistic Director, The Australian Ballet; Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director Scottish Ballet; and Li Cunxin, Artistic Director Queensland Ballet.

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 12 Dec 2012 to 15 Dec 2012
[Finals night: 3 hours]

Reviewed by Greer Robertson, 16 Dec 2012

The prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition is dedicated to promoting and rewarding standards of excellence in young dancers. Having met the stringent criteria, the aspiring dancers are offered a unique opportunity to work with world-renowned choreographers and professionals while experiencing the exhilaration and challenge of performing on a globally recognised stage. Do well and it could possibly lead to a much sort after contract and career; a life of hard work, passion and creative artistry, a life that these dancers desire. A life that only a few can have and hold to, as is the case of Darcey Bussell CBE, Royal Academy of Dance President and British ballet superstar.

A true testament of time, the annual competition originated in 1931, the supreme legacy of Dame Adeline Genée DBE. The Royal Academy of Dance in the past has hosted the competition in London and since 2002 it has become increasingly popular when staged in Sydney, Birmingham, Athens, Hong Kong, Toronto, Singapore, Capetown and now for the first time Wellington.

Over three days the candidates are put through their paces in front of an esteemed panel of judges: David McAllister AM, Artistic Director, The Australian Ballet; Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director Scottish Ballet; and Li Cunxin, Artistic Director Queensland Ballet.

As a precursor warm up, and rehearsed by Matz Skoog, the newly introduced Genée Dance Challenge, affectionately dubbed the Junior Genée, is where young up and coming talented dancers from all over New Zealand are finally judged by Lynn Wallis, Artistic Director Royal Academy of Dance, and Li Cunxin.

The winners are
Level 1. Larissa Kiyoto-Ward, Auckland, teacher Heather Palmer
Level 2. Damen Axtens, Winton Otago, teacher Paula Gilroy Schmidt
Level 3. Jana Baldovino, Wellington, teachers Paula Hunt and Helen Calman
Level 4. Riki Kudo, Auckland, teachers Philippa Campell and Joy Lowe

Before the Finals curtain up, there's an air of vibrant expectancy as even the beautiful majestic Edwardian theatre also glows in support.  Anybody who is anybody ballet is in attendance, with both the candidates and audience having traveled far and wide.

On the expansive naked stage there is no hiding. A solitary grand piano also leaps into life as the dancers are sympathetically and superbly accompanied by Archibald McKenzie and Grant Kennedy.

Making their first entrance, the twelve finalists, chosen from 70 entrants, promenade waltz onto the stage in a united display of discipline, yet with a singular yearning to win. The candidates then individually perform an intricately choreographed piece expressly commissioned from New Zealander Adrian Burnett. Fiona Tonkin Principal Coach and Ballet Mistress of The Australian Ballet also groomed the young fledglings with her knowledge and expertise.

The female standard is very high with the male candidates seen to struggle in elevating themselves to the lofty heights of past achiever's levels, but they impress the judges none-the-less. Some excel more than others, and the audience starst to take on a supporter fan role of secretly barracking for their choice to win. In true X Factor style, there is an invitation to vote in an Audience Choice Award. And the winner of a gorgeous glittering tiara designed and created by Tory & Ko Jewellers, goes to Ariana Hond aged 16, a New Zealander from Mt Eden Ballet Academy, Auckland.

One can tell when viewing the dancer's own choice section of a two minute solo, that their particular feats, often misplaced by being too gymnastic at times, or sometimes comic and quirky, are choreographically woven to stand out and catch the discerning eye of the jury. A  wide choice of elaborate costumes and/or music ranged from pure percussion, full on orchestra, and techno funk to rock opera and is ready to impress. Well known classical variations are also performed.

Preceding the presentation of medals, riotous applause thundered through the theatre as Royal New Zealand Ballet stars Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan performed The Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake.

In a formal speech of gratitude to the many that assisted in the enormous task of nationwide fundraising, Luke Rittner, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Dance commended that “the standards achieved by the candidates deserve our acclaim.”

In the final presentation, nobody is left out. With pomp and ceremony the semi finalists are presented onstage. They come from Australia, The Phillipines, Mexico, England, Scotland, America, South Africa, Japan, Indonesia, Spain, and New Zealand, and proudly take a bow. Then the awards are announced:

Male Gold Medal Winner: Aurelian Child-de Brocas from Alegria Dance Studios. (New Zealander) 
Silver Medal Winner : Harry Davis from The Victoria College of the Arts. (Australian)

Female Gold Medal: Montana Rubin from Dance Spot, Australia, a petite beautiful technician dancing with charisma and soul. (Australian)
Silver Medals: Ariana Hond and Kaena Ahern, both from Mount Eden Ballet Auckland. (New Zealanders)

There is much excitement in the air and New Zealand is proud.

The 2013 Genée will take place in Glasgow.

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Bill Sheat posted 29 Dec 2012, 12:12 PM / edited 16 Jan 2013, 12:00 AM

Unfortunately I was overseas and missed the Adeline Genee Competition. I understand that no mention was made  of her New Zealand connection. She toured here in 1913 but most important was her contact with the legendary Wellington Ballet teacher, Estelle Beere. Estellee Beere went to London in ther 19th century to study with Alexander Genee, Adeline's uncle. Alexander was connected to the Royal Danish Ballet. He arranged for Estelle to appear in a West End show. Estelle shared a dressing room with Adeline Genee. It is assumed that when Genee toured here in 1913 she made contact with Estelle again.

Further details about Estelle may be found on line at the NZ national Biography, the article being written by Jan Bolwell.

John Smythe posted 30 Dec 2012, 04:04 PM

Thank you Bill!  Here is the link to Jan Bolwell's biographical note on Estelle Beere: