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Shape shifters

By Cheng Yuezhu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-14 07:54
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Ballerina Zhou Yue of the Affiliated Secondary School of Beijing Dance Academy on stage at the event. [Photo provided to China Daily]

This year's competition received 147 applications from 20 countries. Aged between 14 and 25, the applicants are either students or professional dancers who have been working for less than two years. Among the applicants, 62 of them passed their initial screenings via video submission and were later invited to Beijing to take part in the contest.

Since the competition encompasses both classical ballet and contemporary ballet works, the dancers are tested not only on notable ballet pieces, such as pas de deux from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, but also a series of modern dance works by three renowned contemporary choreographers.

One of the modern pieces, Beyond Mist, was created by the director of Beijing Dance Theater, Wang Yuanyuan, who took inspiration from the eponymous poem by the renowned poet Luo Fu. With its obscure metaphors and melancholic imagery, the poem about unrequited love has been given new life through the form of a modern ballet duo.

"Using the universal body language of ballet, the piece tells a Chinese story," Zou says. "Chinese choreographers often draw inspiration from China's folk tales or classical literature, but on the other hand, the dance style itself could tell a Chinese story with its exquisite expression and reserved movements."

Creating a Chinese ballet and the Chinese method of ballet instruction is what the Beijing Dance Academy aspires to achieve, apart from researching and rehearsing classical and modern ballet pieces, Zou says.

"Although it originated in Europe, ballet has been constantly transformed in different regions. China now has strengths in a variety of aspects. It's time for us to develop a ballet style with a Chinese temperament," Zou says.

At the awards ceremony, Anderson described the overall standards of the competition as remarkable, adding that the competitors were well prepared for the competition.

The competition named five first-prize winners, six second-prize winners, 11 third-prize winners, and offered two special jury prizes.

Han Yufei, one of the first-prize winners and a student of the Beijing Dance Academy, talked about his experience of participating in the competition. "I performed a duet in the competition, which belongs to the Danish Bournonville style," says Han. "Mr Anderson gave us a few detailed suggestions on ways to improve our performance.

"I have made progress in my overall ability and technique over the course of this competition."

However, this year's top award, the Prix de BDA, fell vacant.

According to Anderson, it is fundamental to master the techniques, but not every dancer has acquired artistry.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of dance being incorporated into China's higher education system, when the Beijing Dance School turned into the Beijing Dance Academy in 1978. In tandem with the competition, a series of academic events on dance education were held to promote international discussion about dance education.

"As China's only specialized higher institute in dance education, the Beijing Dance Academy has the responsibility and duty to lead the development of dance education, promote educational exchanges and the international development of dance education," said Guo Lei, president of the Beijing Dance Academy, during a dance education symposium after the competition.

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