Ballet Competitions On the Go

Whether you are a pre-professional ballet student, a young professional in the early stages of your career, or an instructor coaching classical ballet-hopefuls, ballet competitions are definitely on your radar.

Dancers at the Genée International Ballet Competition

Genée International Ballet Competition 2013, Photo by Andy Ross

These international events afford invaluable opportunities: to hone skills with renowned teachers and choreographers, to gain increased performance experience, and in some cases, to earn medals, scholarships and contracts. But international ballet competitions are about more than the final results; more than the bragging rights; more than the prizes. They are artistic journeys, where technical excellence, creative growth, and life-long connections can be cultivated.

And not just for participants, the competition circuit is also for the serious ballet enthusiast; a platform where the up-and-coming talent in the world of classical dance is featured.

Ballet Competitions Around the World

Over a dozen different ballet competitions happen throughout the calendar year, around the globe.

The USA International Ballet Competition will soon return to Jackson, Mississippi.

Varna International Ballet Competition runs for the second half of July in Bulgaria;

February in Switzerland means the Prix de Lausanne.

And the Youth America Grand Prix is held in various locations throughout the US (and internationally) during the Winter/Spring months.

This list would not be complete without mention of the Royal Academy of Dance’s Genée International Ballet Competition.

One of the longest running international ballet competitions, this year’s highly anticipated program will be held in Antwerp, Belgium from September 18th to the 27th. Though the 2014 Genée is still four months away, the 2013 Genée app allows you to start gearing up now.

Genée On the Go

A free download from RAD’s Dance Gazette, the 2013 Genée app gives a detailed inside look at last year’s competition on your smart phone or tablet. Join the dancers, directors, choreographers and judges as they progress through the historic two-week intensive program.

Arranged in calendar form, each page of the Genée app reads like a live journal, documenting one particular phase of the competition – the arrivals, class, semi-finals, rehearsals and the concluding medals ceremony. Each ‘entry’ gives comprehensive information about eight highlighted Genée topics; details, descriptions and context through written blurbs, video clips, and collections of gorgeous still photos.

Additional background, historic data and other specifics can be found by clicking on the ‘read more’ or ‘factfile’ buttons in the bottom right-hand corner of each individual page.

Day 2 travels “In The Studio” as the fifty-eight participants work to perfect their classical variations; Day 6 (“Dancer’s Own”) showcases work on original choreographic solos, a new category in the Genée competition; and in Day 10’s “The Final”, twelve remaining competitors perform in the 2013 Genée International Ballet Competition’s culminating concert.

This fun, engaging and educational format allows a rare glimpse into the dancers’ story, the choreographic and coaching process, as well as the overall Genée adventure.

From the user perspective, the 2013 Genée app is straightforward and easy to navigate. In fact, the first page you encounter (following the digital front cover) provides a helpful tutorial – clear and precise instructions describing how the app works and how to guide yourself through it.

Just one minor sound issue requires mention. The video sound is adjusted using your mobile device’s volume controls. But the ringer/sound effect switch must also be in the ‘on’ position for full audio access to the video excerpts. While this may seem obvious, many programs still run at full volume even when your ringer/sound effect switch is off, so a more pointed reference would have been helpful.

Genée International Ballet Competition

Dance & Technology

This is an exciting time for dance and technology; the relationship between the two is in a constant state of growth, development and innovation.

It would be wonderful to see any number of the international ballet competitions in person, but that’s just not possible for everyone. Modern tools, like the Royal Academy of Dance’s 2013 Genée app, allow broad, general access to these and other types of performing arts events. These new virtual applications bring with them opportunity and possibility; unique and different perspectives. But most important, they offer yet another invitation to connect with dance and choreography.

The 2013 Genée app is currently available for download in the app store of your smart phone or tablet.

Dance Commentary by Heather DesaulniersHeather Desaulniers is a freelance writer, critic and dance historian based in Oakland. Her article “Archiving Dance – The Necessity of Collaboration” was recently published in Bourgeon: Fifty Artists Write About Their Work. She is the dance curator for, a frequent contributor to “In Dance” magazine and the SF/Bay Area columnist for Visit her blog at


Reel Deal: Ace Your Video Audition

Nel Shelby Productions is a New York City videography company with extensive experience in dance-specific video production. In an earlier interview, Nel Shelby gave Dance Advantage readers tips on How To Make a Video to Market A Dance Studio.

In their search to find more ways to help dancers and choreographers, Nel Shelby Productions has discovered there is high demand for filming and editing excellent quality audition videos for dancers looking to attend summer dance intensives, enroll in college dance departments and conservatories, and even send video samples of their dancing to professional performing companies.

So of course, we want to know how to make the best audition video possible and asked Nel Shelby Productions for their best advice.

Making Your Dance Audition Video

Image courtesy M4D Group

Don’t get too fancy with your dance audition video

Most dance schools, programs and companies would prefer to see a one-camera video shoot rather than two-cameras.

Two-camera edits involve putting together multiple angles, and the choices made about showing your dancing from certain angles may seem suspicious… “Why did they cut to a close-up of her torso there?” “Was she off-balance on releve?”

You don’t want to look like you’re hiding something.

Let them see you in the best light

Film the audition material in a relatively clean space with great light.

Nel Shelby Productions brings their own lighting equipment to every studio they film auditions. You never know if you’ll have enough natural light, and it’s very important the dance program or audition judges can see you.

Bring a coach

Shelby always reminds clients who are creating audition reels to bring a teacher or coach. After all, they can make sure you look great on camera, but your videographers don’t know the choreography or variations. Bringing an additional set of eyes, already familiar with the movement material, helps you get the most out of your session.

Practice makes perfect video

Dancers should come fully prepared with all variations, exercises and choreography set and well-rehearsed for their audition video shoot. Warming up and setting hair and make-up before the session is also important.

Talk to your videographer

Many dancers need a quick turnaround in video delivery for auditions and other applications. Nel Shelby Productions says they need to know the application requirements and deadlines before you film your dancing so they can work with clients and plan accordingly to deliver their dance video as fast as possible.

Talk over the dance audition guidelines with your video team, too. Things like: how variations should be ordered on the DVD, or if a menu is necessary to navigate through to specific chapters of your audition.

A Dance Audition Video Example:

Watch an excerpt of Brittany Shinay’s dance audition video made by Nel Shelby Productions.

Nel Shelby Productions

Learn more about Nel Shelby Productions and get occasional video tips by signing up for her newsletter.

3 Keys to Creating a Successful Dance Film

How to Survive Your First Dance Film ProjectYou’ve been choreographing for the stage for some time, but something inside you says it’s time to make a film.  But how?

Boston choreographer Anna Reyes is currently editing her debut film, “the good parts of being alive“.  Inspired by the portraits of painter Egon Schiele, the film explores how relationships are molded by time and space.

The Good Parts of Being AliveReflecting on the production process now, Reyes shares three tips for choreographers embarking on their first film.

1.  Plan as much as you can.

By planning ahead, you can avoid most last-minute adjustments and emergencies, which were the cause of the most stress for Reyes.  “There’s nothing wrong with thinking you might have to shoot in a year or a year and a half, if that means you already have the funds for your dancers and you’ve already secured the location where you’re going to shoot,” she says.  While details like film locations may be difficult to envision when you’ve only just started choreographing, lock down as many arrangements as you can.  When you do start to film, you’ll be glad that you can focus on the dance.

That being said…

2.  Be flexible with what’s available to you.

“It occurred to me that making a film is a lot more ‘control freak’ than making live performance.”  Nevertheless, there were many times when Reyes’ control “flew out the window” – from unexpected rain to conflicting schedules to adjusting choreography to accommodate fit the dancers who were available, Reyes met a number of unpredictable troubles head-on.

“As much as you plan, there are going to be things that are totally unexpected that come up, and you’ll have to make a split-second decision.”  Knowing that things might not go according to plan will prepare you to make those decisions.

3.  Be nice to yourself. 

“The process is going to be really hard, and if you’re beating yourself up while you’re doing it, it’ll make it a lot worse.”  Inner criticisms and self-doubts plague us all, but you can’t afford to disparage yourself for every little imperfection.  If you mess up, or if something doesn’t go the way you thought it would, remember that you are doing the absolute best you can, and cut yourself some slack!

For Reyes, film is the future of dance – most audience members spend more time with YouTube and DVDs than at live performances.  Though she has starred in a handful of films, “the good parts of being alive” is the first production that she has produced herself.

So would she do it again?  Absolutely.

“The majority of my life that I have choreographed, it has all been for stage, and I love that, but for me, film is really exciting.  As much as it can be stress-inducing, I really love it.”

Rachel Elizabeth MaleyRachel Elizabeth Maley is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chicago.  She writes being human today and collaborates with artists to tell their unique stories.  Connect with Rachel on Twitter.

Choreographer, Anna ReyesAnna Reyes is a dancer and choreographer based in Boston. She began her dance training in Austin, Texas, and studied at the Boston Conservatory, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance Performance. Reyes has presented her choreography in both New York City and Boston, where she also founded Synesthetic – a cross-disciplinary improvisation project – with jazz musician Jordan Maley. She has starred in films by Tamara Al-Mashouk and Hubbard/Birchler, and her debut film, “the good parts of being alive”, will be released in Autumn of 2014. Reach out to Anna on Twitter.

The Royal Ballet’s Beauty, Sarah Lamb

The Royal Ballet is bringing The Sleeping Beauty to movie theaters for a single performance on March 20.

The Royal Ballet Cinema Season is a fantastic way to watch your favorite ballets. It’s especially great if you live in an area of the U.S. where world-renown companies rarely visit. Readers so far have told us they love the convenience of this new way to experience ballet.

Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae in the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson/ROH

Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae in the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson/ROH

Dancing the role of Princess Aurora is Sarah Lamb, a Boston native. She was a principal dancer at Boston Ballet before crossing the pond in 2004 to join The Royal Ballet, where she was promoted to principal in 2006.

Sarah speaks with us today about dancing this classical role, her versatility, and taking risks.

DANCE ADVANTAGE: The Rose Adagio sticks out in my mind, but what is the most challenging aspect of dancing the title role in The Sleeping Beauty?

SARAH LAMB: The most challenging part is the entire Act I. Aurora stays onstage after her entrance full of exuberance and effervescence, and goes directly into The Rose Adagio. Her solo follows, which is very technical and has almost all aspects of a ballerina’s technique: pirouettes, balances, hops on pointe, and a manège with jumps.

DA: Five years ago, you came back from a foot injury that took you out of work for several months. Tell us about that time and how you bounced back to your best.

SL: It was incredibly difficult, depressing and frustrating and I’m so lucky that my husband and family helped me through such a dark time. I was so fortunate that Kevin O’Hare, our director and then company manager, allowed me to return to Boston and get therapy and coaching from an incredible man named Igor Burdenko who worked with me in a pool for six months of rehabilitation while I couldn’t bear weight on my foot.

DA: You’ve been overseas for about a decade now but, thinking back, how did it feel making that choice to move from an American ballet company to The Royal Ballet?

SL: It was a leap into the unknown and a risk to do something different, but I thought about the proverb, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived,” so I left and I am so happy I did.

A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.

DA: You are a versatile dancer, moving with ease between classical and contemporary roles. What can you point to in your training background that has helped you become so?

SL: My teacher, Tatiana Nicolaevna Legat, was the most important part of my development as a dancer. Her direct connections to the Vaganova system and her expertise as a teacher formed me into the dancer I am today. I didn’t start training with her until I was twelve so I think certain parts of my own personality had already been established and I think that’s a very good thing! I’m willing to try things and to take risks and that’s attractive to choreographers who are interested in collaboration. Legat also reinforced my own work ethic which means I always push myself harder than anyone else can push me, so I’m always trying to improve.

DA: Does knowing The Sleeping Beauty will be filmed for audiences across the world change your preparations or performance in any way?

SL: Of course there’s more stress and pressure but you cannot change the way you fundamentally dance so I need to remind myself it’s a performance just like all the performances I do – for everyone in the audience. The fact that it is also filmed can’t make me alter my approach, except perhaps less make-up!

DA: What do you enjoy most about portraying Princess Aurora?

SL: I like the challenge and the fulfillment when a performance goes well – I’m critical so I haven’t had many shows that satisfy me, but the rehearsal process is intense so once I’m onstage I need to remember that I’m there to convey a story and bring the audience with me.

Royal Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty in cinema: March 20

Once again, this cinema performance of The Sleeping Beauty will occur one night only on March 20, 2014.

Find out if The Sleeping Beauty is playing at a theater near you: Go to the Fathom Events website, click Buy Tickets and enter your zip code.

Disclosure: Dance Advantage accepts compensation for the promotion of these events

More Classical Ballet on the Big Screen

Last October, we were pleased to share news of The Royal Ballet Cinema Season. Your response to this monthly opportunity to see the work of London’s premiere ballet company in U.S. movie theaters has been extremely positive.

Well, the series continues in 2014!

If you missed Giselle in January, fear not. You can still catch two more classics in February and March.

Click for details about The Royal Ballet Cinema Event, Swan LakeSwan Lake – Thursday, February 20 (click for details)

Anthony Dowell’s romantic interpretation returns the ballet to its 1895 origins by using the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa. Dramatic costumes emphasize the contrast between human and spirit worlds, while glowing lanterns, shimmering fabrics and designs inspired by the work of Carl Fabergé create a magical setting. The twinned role of the pure White Swan and the scheming, duplicitous Black Swan tests the full range of a ballerina’s powers, particularly in the two great pas de deux of Acts II and III. Other highlights include the charming Dance of the Little Swans performed by a moonlit lake and sweeping ballroom waltzes in the splendor of the royal palace

Royal Ballet Cinema Season: Swan Lake

Watch this video on YouTube.


See The Sleeping Beauty (The Royal Ballet) March 20 in cinemasThe Sleeping Beauty – Thursday, March 20 (click for details)

Marius Petipa’s classic 19th-century choreography is combined with newly created sections by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon. First staged in St. Petersburg in 1890, The Sleeping Beauty is the pinnacle of classical ballet: a perfect marriage of Petipa’s choreography and Tchaikovsky’s music and a glorious challenge for every dancer on stage. Today’s The Sleeping Beauty not only captures the mood of the original but shows that this is very much a living work for The Royal Ballet, growing and changing with the Company while celebrating its past.

These special one-night events screen at 7pm (local time) in select theaters nationwide. Follow the links above for more information or to buy tickets.

Many thanks to Fathom Events, Arts Alliance Media, Mr Wolf and the Royal Opera House for making it possible to see world-class ballet on the big screen!

Have you been?

Let us know what you think of the series in our comments below.

Swan Lake: Photograph: Marianela Nuñez as Odette (Johan Persson) and Odile (Dee Conway); background, Act III (Bill Cooper)
The Sleeping Beauty: Photograph: centre, Sarah Lamb as Princess Aurora and Steven McRae as the Prince, Act III (©ROH/Johan Persson, 2011). Image by AKA (©ROH, 2013)

We wish to disclose that Dance Advantage received compensation for the promotion of this series.