Nobody would have envied the judges tasked with choosing the winners in the fourth South African International Ballet Competition. Uniformly stellar performances from Saturday’s awards night finalists made it singularly difficult to identify the best.
In the end, China emerged as the most successful competing nation with no fewer than six medals (five of them gold), and of the several dancers representing China, 14-year-old Yu Hang stood out for her exquisitely musical reading of a solo from La Esmeralda in the “scholar classical” category.
She was also a winner in the contemporary section.
Saturday night’s Grand Pas Classique pas de deux from 21-year-old Anpu Yuan and 19-year-old Yuanyuan Zhang showcased enchanting lines and rigorous discipline; not for nothing was Zhang singled out as gold medalist in the “junior classical” category.
A show-stealer in both classical and contemporary dance was South Africa’s Leroy Mokgatle, who at 14 looks more like a sub-teenager with his slender build and impish personality.
This is a talent worth watch- ing, rewarded with gold in “scholar contemporary” and silver in “scholar classical”.
Another South African entrant honoured for his prowess is previous gold medalist from 2012, Mthuthuzeli November, now aged 20 and winner of “senior contemporary” gold. In addition, this athletic and committed dancer has been awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Ailey School in New York, along with Khanya Mandongana, whose foot injury prevented him from performing on Saturday.
As usual, South Korea and Cuba were not wanting in recognition of their impressive calibre, each scooping their share of gold and silver.
As the judges ruminated once the last competitor left the stage, the audience was entertained by performances from the Eoan Group Theatre Company, the Cape Dance Company, and the Joburg Ballet, a pleasing smorgasbord that ranged from contemporary to classical with the CDC’s feisty Bolero for large ensemble proving a notable crowd-pleaser.
The following day brought another treat for Cape Town’s ballet-lovers: gala performances titled Young Ballet Stars of the World, featuring some of the 2014 award winners as well as pieces from the repertoire of the Korean Youth Ballet Stars and the National Ballet School of Cuba.
Again, the duo of Zhang and Yuan shone in the Pas de Deux, while 16-year-old Lou Spichtig of the Zurich Dance Academy, who won silver in the “junior classical” the previous evening, did a repeat performance of her perfectly honed solo from Giselle.
The depth of talent among the Korean youth ballet stars was apparent in the ethereal work Soaring, danced to the music of Tchaikovsky.
The five offerings from the National Ballet School of Cuba have all the Spanish-accented fire and brio to be expected from their robust nation, and their final pas de huit, Majissimo, rounded off in style what most would describe as a treat for all lovers of dance.