Helsinki Standouts

Published in the October/November 2009 issue.

The sixth Helsinki International Ballet Competition, held this June in Finland, was something of a guy’s show. The most notable of the 70 competitors, who performed over the course of seven evenings in the beautiful Finnish National Opera House, were all men: authoritative, silky Brooklyn Mack, 23, of the United States, who was the Senior Silver medalist; fiercely masculine Jeffrey Cirio, 18, also of the United States, who took home the Junior Gold; and scissors-sharp Xiaoyu He, 21, of China, winner of the Grand Prix.

 

Some of the more intriguing women in the competition—Korean National Ballet Company’s lyrical Seul Ki Park, and the sleek, serene Byelorussian Nadzeya Filipava—did not win medals. Perhaps ballerina moonlight-energy doesn’t fit so well with the flash-boom-bang of competition craft.

 

Nevertheless, the international exposure that young dancers gain in competition is invaluable—particularly at the Helsinki contest. “The city is well-situated between the East and the West,” says Doris Laine-Almi, the former Finnish National Ballet artistic director, who founded HIBC in 1984 to complement the other Inter­national Theatre Institute Competitions in Varna, Jackson and Moscow. “And everyone speaks English!” adds Junior Silver medalist Lonnie Weeks, of Texas Ballet Theater, who is a veteran of the competition scene. “That makes it much easier here.”