Genée winners in 2011, the last year of the RAD reign of Dame Antoinette

Three silver medals but no gold were awarded on Sunday at the Royal Academy of Dance’s Genée International Ballet Competition finals held in Cape Town.

All silver medallists were from Asian nations – Mana Ogawa from Japan and Si Jia Miao and Jin Hao Zhang, both from China.

The two Bronze medallists, Ashley Scott and Mlindi Kulashe are both South African.

Among the 12 finalists, four were Australians, Jessica Brown, William Fitzgerald, Simon Jones and Macbeth Kanera and Brown received the Audience Choice Award.

The judges were David Nixon, artistic director for Northern Ballet in the UK, Iain MacDonald, artistic director of the South African Ballet Theatre and Elizabeth Triegaardt, executive director of Cape Town City Ballet.

The Genée awards will be held in Wellington, New Zealand next year.

It will be interesting to see whether Ethan Stiefel, the new artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet is a judge, how many New Zealanders decide to enter and whether the president of the RAD who will succeed Dame Antoinette Sibley in April makes an appearance.

She is only the third president in the RAD’s 91-year history, having succeeded two other Dames, Adeline Genée and Margot Fonteyn.

The academy is changing, not least with its ever-developing syllabi as well as its geographical focus. As two thirds of the RAD’s revenue comes from overseas countries, the Genée is reaching out, with host countries in the last decade including Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Most people who attend ballet competitions remark on how many winners today come from Asian nations.

For example in this year’s Prix de Lausanne, two of the seven scholarships went to Japanese candidates, one to a Korean candidate and one to a Chinese candidate.

Increasingly, soloists and principals in western countries are from Asian countries and of course there’s a thriving ballet scene in Japan where audiences are highly educated. But if the dancers want to stay in Japan, there could be a problem.

Although there are several ballet companies there, professional contracts are limited in comparison with the vast number of ballet dancers being trained.

In some Japanese companies female corps de ballet dancers receive no salary or very little.

Among the more prominent companies are Tadatsugu Sasaki’s Tokyo Ballet and the New National Theatre Ballet of Japan (NNT Ballet), now under the artistic directorship of David Bintley who is a man with two hats, as he has not forgone his artistic directorship of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

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Genee finalists, 2011

Genee 2011 medallists

Antoinette Sibley