The Boston International Ballet Competition completed its second edition last week with stunning performances and a surprise award. In case you missed it, here are the highlights:
1. Brooklyn Mack isn’t just a remarkable jumper. He can fly. After spending more time in the air than touching the stage in the Diana and Acteon pas de deux that he danced with junior silver medalist Sarah Steele, Mack went on to inspire a full-blown audience gasp: In his final-round contemporary piece, he catapulted himself horizontally across half the stage (think Superman) before (gasp!) landing upside down on his hands and tucking into a forward roll. The Washington Ballet dancer left with a well-deserved gold medal in the senior men’s division, as well as invitations to perform at the Indianapolis City Ballet “Evening with the Stars” Gala in September and at The Kremlin Ballet Theatre in November.
2. South Korea’s women arrived in full force, sweeping every female gold medal (junior and senior divisions) and first prize (student division). For me, the most memorable performance was junior female gold medalist Min Jung Kim’s contemporary duet (with her non-competing partner), danced to an instrumental version of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. I'd noticed Kim earlier, but the maturity of her stage presence in this piece is what won me. Her passion was understated but undeniable—the emotion was radiating from her movement.
3. When it comes to classical variations, the student division (ages 13–14) made a big impact. Long legs, gorgeous feet, endless turns, the ability to hop on pointe for days. These girls were outstanding. Particularly impressive was Maria Clara Coelho, student third prize winner from Brazil, whose “Harlequinade” music began to skip early on in the final round. But she kept going like a pro, and miraculously, every time her music came back on, she was still right in the pocket of the music (or convinced me she was). Ah, the excitement of live theater!
4. Who knew that a skirt could look so masculine? The male compulsory solo, choreographed by Dai Jian (who assisted Shen Wei with the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics), was a display of powerful masculinity. Competitors had the added challenge of performing intense floor work and rolls while wearing floor-length flowing fabric. (It seems so wrong to call it a “skirt,” since it was anything but feminine.) Brooklyn Mack won the special award for male compulsory performance, but Yukihiro Tamura, senior male silver medalist from The Rock School, was also breathtaking. Both amazed me with their finesse and grace, even within the power-packed, sometimes explosive movement.
5. Two more dancers to watch: Early on in the competition, I noticed a familiar-looking dancer who was not listed in the program, but who repeatedly captivated me with her stage presence. Something about her just sparkled. Turns out, she was Boston Ballet II’s own Lauren Herfindahl, who went on to win a silver medal in the junior division. I also fell in love with the angelic magnetism of Hyunhee Sim, senior silver medalist from South Korea. She may be small, but those lines go on forever.
6. And a surprise: A Boston Ballet company contract. It wasn’t on the roster of contracts to be awarded, but senior female gold medalist Seo Hye Han from South Korea impressed Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen enough that he offered her a spot in the company!