Earlier this month, American dancer Katherine Higgins took third place in the junior ladies division at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. The prize comes with 1,500 euros and a hefty dose of prestige. Now training at the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp in Belgium, Higgins, 15, will soon head off to her next big challenge: Varna.
How was the Helsinki IBC different from previous competitions, like YAGP and Prix de Lausanne?
It was the first time I had to prepare six variations: four classical and two contemporary. The long span of two weeks of competition was also new. It was a great exercise of endurance!
How much time did you spend preparing?
Each day, I spent about four hours after class working on all the variations. Some days I only worked on details in port de bras or the little in-between steps, other days it was all about run-throughs and stamina.
What was Finland like?
Finland is full of the nicest people. And they speak English! I didn't have much time to explore but there was some beautiful architecture in the center of Helsinki that I saw when we got to meet the mayor, who planned this incredible lunch for HIBC participants.
How do you deal with nerves before competing?
I take some calm time to myself to review corrections and technical aspects, but also decide what I want to bring to the audience with this particular performance. Then, before I go on, I say a quick prayer, think about my family and tell myself to have fun and to dance: I am about to go do what I love most in the world—that's so exciting!
Do you have any competition superstitions?
I used to kiss the center of stage before a show. Now, if I can, I really like to sit onstage all by myself when no one is there. Being all alone there calms me; I feel how it is to be on that particular stage with no pressure at all.
What's the one competition you'd love to win?
I'd love to win anywhere! If I had to choose one, it’d be Varna IBC, because of all the talented people who dance there, and all the factors that play into the performance: the heat, dancing outside, late hours. It takes a strong person to dance well there. And I will have the chance soon: Varna is where I’m headed next—I can't wait!