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Preview: International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore

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Singapore’s first ever international ballet competition glissades into town with the International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore (IBGPS) this June.Organised by non-profit organisation Singapore Dance Alliance, IBGPS is also the first and only ballet competition supported by the National Arts Council (NAC) and Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT).

Taking place from 12th to 16th June, the IBGPS is open to young ballet dancers aged between seven and 18 years old of all nationalities and skill levels, aiming to be a platform for ballet dancers to explore their potential in dance, inspiring their professional and personal growth. Says Ms Lisa Latip, Chairperson of the IBGPS: “In recent years, the standards of dance students locally have improved and the arts scene in Singapore has gained more recognition internationally. We hope to create a platform where dancers as young as seven years old can boldly pursue their passion and interest in ballet and be recognised for their dedication and efforts. The IBGPS was birthed as a result of wanting to provide a space for aspiring ballet dancers to thrive and grow.”

Lisa continues: “Dance tends to exist in very small, closed off circles, and a lot of students end up never seeing students from alternative circles. It’s so compartmentalized, and what the IBGPS will do is to bring them outside of their usual environment and have them meet and interact with each other. The conferences, you think about how someone does so much research on the best university for them if they’re looking for a general education, but with ballet students, a lot just end up choosing wherever they get accepted. But different personalities must be matched with the right school for the best outcome – I recall this young dancer in Singapore who went to a school with a particularly hard edge. She couldn’t handle the system, and now I think she’ll end up hating ballet for the rest of her life. Parents need to know this, and put their child in the right place so that they can and will thrive to the best of their abilities.”

The IBGPS will comprise three components – workshops, conferences and a competition. By facilitating sharing and exchange between dance students, teachers and schools from all over the world, IBGPS hopes to enrich the local arts scene, providing talented young dancers with networking opportunities for further development and pave the way for talented dancers to embark on a professional career and reach the pinnacle of their development in dance. Personalities set to make an appearance at IBGPS include judges, conference speakers and workshop instructors from the likes of Mr Janek Schergen (Artistic Director of SDT), Ms Joanne Michel (The Australian Ballet School, Ballet Mistress and Level 8 Classical Teacher), Garry Trinder (Artistic Director of New Zealand School of Dance) and Robert Parker (Artistic Director, Elmhurst Ballet School). 

The competition aspect of the IBGPS will comprise a technique class held one day before the actual competition on 14th June, while the semi-finals and finals will be held on 15th and 16th June 2019 respectively. The main objective of the competition is to give recognition to talented young dancers and provide opportunities for future development to promising students. At the workshops, young dancers not in the competition will get a chance to go under the tutelage of experts in the industry, with two workshops (ballet and contemporary) conducted on 12th and 13th June. Finally, the conferences on 12th and 13th June (very affordable, either free or $10 for attendance), will see panels speaking about a range of topics, including dance education and dance as a career, aimed at connecting students and their parents with leaders within these fields, who will provide an insider look at the industry.

Being the first international ballet competition in Singapore, IBGPS is set to elevate the ballet community here to the next level and help establish Singapore as a hub for the arts. Says Mr Janek Schergen, Artistic Director of SDT: “With The Company’s repertoire ranging from classical to contemporary ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre hopes to spread the beauty, passion and discipline of dance to as many individuals as possible. We are proud to be part of IBGPS to develop future generations of dancers capable of bringing the ballet art form to greater heights and in turn, place Singapore in the minds of international dance aficionados.”

On the importance of the IBGPS, Janek continues: “There’s a lot of teachers who go into competitions with the wrong approach, more focused on getting attention and glory for themselves rather than focusing on the student’s experience and education. They’ve got it backwards, and they’re simply not good educators. We need to inspire students to go further, instead of always telling them that they need to be at a certain level before they’re allowed to compete or perform. And I disagree with that approach.”

Janek concludes: “I recall this young man that I was having a class with, he was maybe 15 going on 16, and he took part in this one competition. He wasn’t good enough to beat the other competitors, and in fact, came in completely last. But his love of dance was so evident, that some of the schools in attendance took note, and gave him a scholarship for higher education. He ended up pursuing it at a higher level, and eventually became principal dancer of a company. Knowing this, I changed my approach towards competitions, and I wanted to formulate a new way for ballet to introduce that mindset to other people and change the Singapore landscape.”

The International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore takes place from 12th to 16th June 2019. For more information, visit their website here

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