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New York International Ballet Competition 2009

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Honoring Eleanor D’Antuono

Rose Theater
Frederick P. Rose Hall
(Rose Theater Website)

ILONA COPEN: Founder/Executive Director
ELEANOR D'ANTUONO: Artistic Director
IGOR YOUSKEVITCH (1983-94): Artistic Director

The 2009 Jury:

Nanette Glushak (USA) President of the Jury,
Artistic Director of the Ballet du Capitole, Toulouse, France
Lita Beiris (Latvia), Director of the International Baltic Ballet Festival
Hae Shik Kim (Korea), First Dean, School of Dance,
Korea National Univ. in Seoul
Mikko Nissinen (Finland), Artistic Director, Boston Ballet
Stanton Welch (Australia), Artistic Director, Houston Ballet
Ashley Wheater (UK), Artistic Director, Joffrey Ballet/Chicago
Mauricio Wainrot, Artistic Director,
Ballet Contemporaneo del Teatro of Buenos Aires

Raymonda, taught and coached by Cynthia Gregory
Aureole (Paul Taylor), taught and coached by Rachel Berman
Paquita, taught and coached by Winthrop Corey
Alternating Class Teachers:
Deborah Wingert and Fabrice Herrault

Gala Guest Artists/NYIBC Alumni:
Victoria Mazzarelli, 1984
Alexandre Proia, 1984
Silvina Perillo, 1990
Roddy Doble, 2007
Karina Gonzalez, 2007
Ricardo Graziano, 2007

Publicity: Audrey Ross

Announcement of the Winners:


Amber Neumann (USA), Silver Medal
Olga Malinovskaya (Russia), Bronze Medal
Yong Jung Rhee (Korea), Bronze Medal
Jia Zhang (China), Lefkowitz Award for Artistic Recognition


John Mark Giragosian (USA), Silver Medal
Artjom Maksakov (Estonia), Bronze Medal
Ricardo Santos (Brazil), Bronze Medal and
The Gerald Arpino Award (one year contract with Joffrey Ballet)
Ki Wan Kim (Korea), Lefkowitz Award for Jury Acknowledgement
Marco Pagetti (Italy), Lefkowitz Award for Jury Acknowledgement

Robert Battle: Host
Announcer: Lynne MacLaren
Ilona Copen: Founder/Director of NYIBC
Eleanor D'Antuono: Artistic Director

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 28, 2009

(See Photos of the 2009 New York International Ballet Competition Rehearsals)

(See a Review of New York International Ballet Competition 2007)

(See a Review of New York International Ballet Competition 2005)

Once again it was time for the much anticipated bi-annual New York International Ballet Competition (NYIBC), founded by Ilona Copen in 1983, with the first Competition held in 1984. Ms Copen is Executive Director, but tonight’s 10th Competition marked her retirement, after 26 years, and Eleanor D’Antuono, Artistic Director of the Competition, was tonight’s honoree. So, there were many lovely speeches in the first half of the program to share with the audience the fine work and dedication of both Ms. Copen and Ms. D’Antuono. Robert Battle, Host, made a glowing and witty speech, as did Cynthia Gregory, former ABT principal dancer, one of this year’s coaches, along with John Meehan, ballerina D’Antuono’s former partner at American Ballet Theatre. Flowers and tributes abounded. Ms. Copen and her husband were even given elegant watches by the NYIBC Board.

This is an extraordinary event, with dance couples competing in modern and classical genres, for Awards that could bring them to the Joffrey Ballet or, occasionally, American Ballet Theatre (no ABT Award was given this year). The rehearsals are held at The Ailey Center Studios, while Rounds I, II, and III, plus the Awards Ceremony and Gala are held at Rose Theater. The dancers, who compete in couples, flew in from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States of America. The judges, listed above, flew in from France, Latvia, Korea, Boston, Houston, Chicago, and Buenos Aires.

The winners, listed above, were announced in the first half of the program, and sadly there were no Gold Medals this year. I saw some winning performances, both tonight and Friday night, when I attended Round II, but the judges had their own “gold standard”. ABT did not offer a one-year scholarship award, as it has previously, but Ricardo Santos, from Brazil, won a scholarship to the Joffrey, as well as a Bronze. Amber Neumann and John Mark Giragosian, from the USA, won the Silver Medals. Olga Malinovskaya, from Russia, Yong Jung Rhee, from Korea, and Artjom Maksakov, from Estonia, won Bronze Medals, along with Mr. Santos.

Friday night at Round II, I watched eleven couples dance the Fourth Movement Duet in Paul Taylor’s Aureole, coached by Rachel Berman. Round I featured the Act III Pas de Deux in Petipa’s Raymonda, coached by Cynthia Gregory, and Round III featured the Wedding Pas de Deux in Petipa’s Paquita, coached by Winthrop Corey. The second half of Friday night’s program was a presentation of solos that each dancer brought to the Competition, and that was a segment I really wanted to see. Earlier in the week, I photographed many of the dancers in rehearsal at the Ailey Center Studios, and their stamina, energy, collegiality, and eagerness to improve were all palpable in the early summer glare. A poignant part of this Competition is the fact that as dancers are eliminated in the various Rounds, their partners still need them in the Pas de Deux, so eventually many of the final dancers are actually no longer competing, but, rather, they are helping their partners compete.

During the Friday night Taylor Competition series (There’s always a Modern Dance Duet included in this Ballet Competition), I was struck by the seasoned awareness of the Taylor genre. Paul Taylor’s Aureole is light, romantic, replete with head and arm gesture, and the male partner has to lift the female from a knee-bent position. The lyricism is key, and charismatic partnering, with emotional connectedness, is inherent in its design. I was delighted to see Paul Taylor’s work being so honored in this 10th NYIBC. (See Reviews of the Paul Taylor Dance Company). Perhaps Richard Chen See, a former Taylor dancer and the next Executive Director of NYIBC, had some influence.

The dancers who caught my eye in the Taylor Competition were Amber Neumann and John Mark Giragosian (USA), who won both Silver Medals. Both dancers exuded the exact caring emotion called for in this work, with rounded arms and movement that seamlessly flowed. Their choreographed walk offstage, heads together, was as professional as could be. I was also struck by Juliana Guilherme Leonel and Ricardo Santos from Brazil, who had attitude and style. Diana Catalina Gomez Gonzalez and Andres Felipe Figueroo from Colombia danced with sensitive soulfulness. The fourth couple that drew me in was from Argentina, Paula Cassano and Adrian Lopez. This Round obviously helped Ms. Neumann and Mr. Giragosian in their Silver Medal Awards. It was mesmerizing to watch the eleven international couples, sequentially, dance the same Taylor Duet, each with unique interpretation.

In the Solo Competition, in which eighteen dancers presented Modern or Classical Ballet dances, I especially liked Ms. Gomez’ Kitri Variation from Petipa’s Don Quixote, in which she swiftly executed her 32 fouettés with personality and poise. Hayeryn Kim from Korea danced Seokhun’s “Virgin Heart”, one leg high and foot flexed, a very dramatic dance to atonal, Korean music. Yevgeniya Korshunova from Ukraine danced Isanpov’s La Fille Mal Gardée with extended en pointe timing. After a while, many of the solos became repetitive, with angst-driven, athletic motifs. The music and choreography of the modern solos merged to generic, and I’d suggest structuring stylistic variety into this segment of Round II. The few classical ballet solos were a welcome respite, just in the contrast. However, it was interesting to spot talent here, and I had my favorites.

In the Gala performance, that followed the Awards and Tributes on Sunday night, the dancers were relaxed, already knowing the outcome of the Awards. Their goal here, aside from getting some final attention from the Judges, Coaches, Artistic Directors, and Choreographers in the audience, was to fully maximize and soak in their New York debuts. There were no fewer than 23 different performers in 15 modern or classical works. Four dancers from China, Korea, Russia, and Estonia presented the Raymonda Pas de Deux that they had now integrated into their bodies and psyches. These four dancers were balanced and confident, a good introduction to those that followed. Caroline Betancourt and Ben Needham-Wood, from the USA, danced the Taylor Duet, with elegance and mutual attention. Artjom Maksakov fro Estonia danced his modern solo, “Nino Bien”, to music that resembled jazzy Argentinean Tango.

The Guest Artists danced with mixed results, as Roddy Doble (2007 Alumnus) miss-judged the size of the stage and the closeness of the backdrop, a huge hazard in Solor’s Variation from La Bayadère, but Silvina Perillo (1990 Alumna) danced “Se Dice de Mi” in scintillating style. Karina Gonzalez and Ricardo Graziano (2007 Alumni) were eloquent, dancing to Lyle Lovett’s “Nobody Knows Me”. For me, the Guest Artist highlight was seeing Victoria Mazzarelli and Alexandre Proia, NYIBC Alumni from the very first 1984 Competition (which I actually attended on more than one night), dance “You’re My Thrill”. It was lovely, a perfect choice and danced with charm and joy. Other Gala performance highlights were Ricardo Santos’ (Brazil) impassioned “Primeira Voz” and the American Silver Medalists’ Paquita Wedding Pas de Deux, which they danced as a finale, with enthusiasm and electricity.

The next New York International Ballet Competition and Gala will take place in June 2011, with Richard Chen See as the new Executive Director with Eleanor D’Antuono, Artistic Director. This is always a well-organized and high energy series of performances, not only the final Gala, but the Competition Rounds as well. Kudos to Ilona Copen, Eleanor D’Antuono, and also to Richard Chen See for another successful production.

Amber Newman and John Mark Giragosian
USA Silver Medalists in "Paquita"
Courtesy of Whitney Browne

Jia Zhang, China, Lefkowitz Award, and Young Jae Jung , Korea
in "Paquita"
Courtesy of Whitney Browne

Ricardo Santos, Brazil, Bronze Medalist, and Winner of the Arpino Award
in "Primeira Voz"
Courtesy of Whitney Browne

Olga Malinovskaya, Russia, Bronze Medalist, and Artjom Maksa, Estonia, Bronze Medalist
in "Raymonda"
Courtesy of Whitney Browne

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at