It is a new year, and for the young ballet world, this means competition season. Major competition events are celebrated around the United States, such as the Youth America Grand Prix, World Ballet Competition in Florida, and The USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi (which is held every four years).
However, Miami is now emerging as a innovative city as it hosts The Miami International Ballet Competition for the second year.
Internationally renowned ballet masters and choreographers Vladimir Issaev and Yanis Pikieris decided to premiere a unique competition in 2018 in North Miami Beach, and there is no doubt that it is gaining rapid exposure.
“Last year we had half of the participants we have this weekend, and there is a lot of progress,” stated Miao Zong, Chinese choreographer for Ballet de l’Opéra National du Rhin & The Art East Association, France. Zong is a member of the jury and instructs contemporary master classes at MICB.
Issaev, from Russia, is the Artistic Director of Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida for more than 20 years and acclaimed ballet master in South America and Asia; while Pikieris, born in Venezuela, is currently the Artistic Director of Miami Youth Ballet and continues to travel as a freelance master teacher.
Both are well-known choreographers and established recognizable professional careers in Russia, Europe, Asia, and South America. Their presence in Miami has a recognizable reputation, and their choreographies keep being performed around the world.
There is no question that both Issaev and Pikieris found a distinctive event. “The competition is in Miami allows for a huge international broad. With the event growing up, it is reaching broader and broader not only to North America but also to countries in Asia and particularly having strong contestants from Latin America,” said David Palmer, Artistic Director of Rochester City Ballet in New York and President of the Jury.
With the founders having strong connections in South America, MICB has an especial number of contestants coming from countries such as Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Panama. Issaev also has an especial recognition in Asia, which directed him to attract contestants from the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
“For what it seems, this one [competition] is a bit more intimate, even when it is getting bigger. I know that YAGP has gotten humongous, however, MICB is more centred on building a community and educating the dancers. It is a caring competition,” said former Miami City Ballet Principal Dancer and Artistic Director of Dimensions Dance Theatre Miami, Jennifer Kronenberg.
One of the other highlights that put MICB in a special place, is that it allows the competitors to warm up and try the stage before their performance execution in front of the judges.
“The master classes are not only to share and learn from each other, but also allows for them to warm up properly. Also, trying the stage and floor before performing is an aspect that the competitors are very lucky to have,” said Mary Carmen Catoya, principal dancer with Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, also part of the jury, “not everyone has this kind of opportunity in a competition.”
Indeed, MIBC allows the competitors to fully rehearse their classical and contemporary variations and ensemble presentations in the order of the drawing without the judges. Victoria Schneider, a faculty member at the HARID Conservatoire, Boca Raton, FL, said she “is amazed that they are allowed to do this, rather than looking to warm up at a corridor somewhere. It is really wonderful.”
At MICB, each judge is looking for something specific, whether in the physical, technical or artistic aspect. Some of them will offer scholarships and direct admission to their respective institutions. For instance, Schneider, from the HARID Conservatory, focuses on different aspects for the dancers to qualify for HARID’s program: “Clarity of movement, lovely musicality and movement quality.”
“When they are students, you are looking at their potential: Where they are and where can they go,” stated Cynthia Ridler, “you have to see how ready they are, and if they have that mental and physical ability to work in a company somewhere in the future. The performance quality is special no matter who old they are.”
Palmer also has a similar opinion when judging: “As and they get up through the levels, it is really a combination of several things: training and perseverance (because not every time on stage is your best time), and other things that formulate the potential for a professional career down the road.”
On the other hand, it is Kronenberg and Catoya’s first time as judges on an event of the sort. Both have a similar opinion on the fact that the current generation (who are focused so much on social media and being involved in an “online competition”) does not have to only focus on the technical aspects, but also on the artistic factors.
With many competitors from other countries, the Miami International Ballet Competition is definitely a non-commercial event, where the artistic aspect is highlighted in balance with the technique of the participants.
“First of all, I look for the dancers’ joy on stage,” continues Kronenberg, “You can tell no matter what level, how much work they put in and how much they are invested. (…) It is funny because in my comments [when judging] I put ‘What is your character?’ The tricks are great, they are exciting, we all love to see them, but there has to be a balance. If you lose that balance between technique and the artistry, there is a problem, whether there is a shift to one or the other.”
Catoya agreed with “the technique is broad in this generation, but they have to worry about complimenting it with the artistry and apply the details. For instance, they concentrate so much on executing steps that the musicality is sometimes lost.”
MICB also seeks to develop the contemporary and modern side of dance within their participants. Mr Zong is a well-known contemporary and modern choreographer with a strong presence in Europe. He states that contemporary dance in Europe “is more open and pushes the imagination, while in America is still a bit more conservative.”
However, despite the differences between the regions where he works and where he is judging, what Zong is looking for in the contemporary round is “the personality of the dancers. Because we are human, we are not a fabrication of a machine. Someone has to catch me with movement, and movement coming from inside of the body.”
Any other way, Zong is happy that a new ballet competition like MICB has been founded in the United States. Naturally, it includes both classical and contemporary dance, but these kinds of events “maintain classical dance. People say it’s old. But it is not. It has a history of 400 years, but this is like classical music, it opens your mind. I think classical ballet will come back.”
Unquestionably, Issaev and Pikieris are making a difference when talking about dance competitions. Their collaboration has built an event that the participants, judges, and audiences can learn from each other, making the world of dance grow and develop in positive and nurturing environment, as their mission for MICB is for “artists to gain confidence, develop friendships and connections, and become the chief protagonists in the development of their own futures.”
We are ready to see more of the Miami International Ballet Competition and what it can bring to the dance community for the years to come. It will keep growing as a noteworthy occasion, where dancers from the age of 9 to 25 can share their experiences, learn even more about the art form they are representing, and participate in a healthful, humble competition environment.
If you are in the South Florida area, you can attend MICB’s competition rounds for free of charge. The event is hosted at the Julius Littman North Miami Performing Arts Center, from the 23rd to the 27th of January 2019, which includes the competition rounds, the Awards Ceremony, and the Gala Performance (with the winners and guest professional dancers.)
The jury is composed of professionals of varied backgrounds:
David Palmer (Artistic Director, Rochester City Ballet, New York), Ivy Chung (Artistic Director Ivy Chung School of Ballet, Hong Kong), Nicolae Vieru (Artistic Director, Schweinfurt Ballet School, Germany), Victoria Schneider (faculty at the HARID Conservatory, Boca Raton), Jennifer Kronenberg (Artistic Director, Dimensions Dance Theatre Miami), Mary Carmen Catoya (Principal Dancer, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, Miami), Karina Gonzalez (Principal Dancer, Houston Ballet), Cynthia Ridler (Faculty at Ballet West), and Miao Zong (Assistant to the Artistic Director and Choreographer, Ballet de l’Opéra National du Rhin & The Art East Association, France). This aspect, according to Catoya “is important for both the organizing artists and the competitors, as the jury has different visions.”
For more updates and information on future registration for 2020, you can visit their website at www.miamiibc.com or follow them on Facebook or Instagram (@miamiibc).
Official photography at MICB is by Patricia Laine’s Photography and video by Carlos Ochoa.
The Wonderful World of Dance is a proud supporter of the Miami International Ballet Competition.