Sheila Chisholm

MOST ballerinas rely on photographs or books to affirm their place in history. Not so Dame Adeline Genée.

The legacy this Danish born English ballerina (1878-1970) left has spread across the globe influencing countless lives and careers. With Phillip Richardson, The Dancing Times magazine editor, Genée co-founded the Association of Operatic Dancing in London in 1920 which, given a Royal Charter became the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) – presently known as The Royal Academy of Dance.

“The association was formed to improve the standard of dancing in the UK through a series of graded examinations and it has never wavered from that mission,” RAD’s artistic director Lynn Wallis explained.

“Our syllabi are taught in over 75 countries and boast over 13 000 members.”

Wallis is visiting Cape Town on two counts. Firstly in association with Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) and UCT’s School of Dance to produce the prestigious RAD Genée International Ballet Competition 2011. This event will be held over a 10 day period with semi-finals and finals on October 6, 7 and 9 at Artscape, which are open to the public.

Secondly, she is here to produce Kenneth MacMillan’s one-act ballet Solitaire (music by Malcolm Arnold) for CTCB’s October season. Established in 1931 – and originally known as The Genée Gold Medal Award – only female competitors were permitted at the event held in London.

“Now the competition is open to both sexes and we’re delighted to welcome six male dancers along with 31 female entrants,” smiled Wallis.

“Candidates must have passed the Academy’s Advanced two examination with distinction or passed the Solo Seal Award, be between 15 and 19 years of age and not dancing professionally.

“A few years ago we started holding this event abroad. This year we are here in this beautiful city.”

Four Capetonians are among those flying in from 15 countries including Malaysia, China, UK and America to receive five days extensive coaching by such eminent personalities as international choreographer Christopher Hampson, Kirsten Isenberg and Wallis.

The adjudicating panel comprises David Nixon OBE, Northern Ballet’s artistic director, Iain McDonald South African Ballet Theatre’s artistic director, and Elizabeth Trigaardt CTCB’s executive director. Over and above performing variations from the 19th and 20th century classical repertoire, candidates dance a commissioned 21st century solo choreographed by Isenberg.

In both male and female categories entrants aim for a Gold medal and £5 000, a Silver medal and £3 000 or a Bronze medal which carries a £2 000 award.

“While it is important to give opportunities to aspiring professional dancers through participation in the Genée International Ballet Competition, it is also necessary not to forget younger dancers,” said Wallis.

“To this end, running concurrently in South Africa’s six RAD regions, is the Genée Dance Challenge. This multi-level competition is open to students up to 17 years of age.

“In their different grades they dance, before an adjudicator, a suitable variation choreographed by their own teacher (who must be a registered RAD member.)

“The winners then compete in Cape Town on October 8 in the National Genée Dance Competition and will be given two tickets to the Genée International Ballet Competition.”

Known for his talent for working with young people Robin van Wyk – CTCB’s artistic director – is responsible for organising the third arm of this exciting 10 day event, Sizodansia – Let’s Dance!

Concludes van Wyk: “Every CTCB member is involved in this project as we are drawing in 100 youngsters from Dance for All, Zama Dance School, Jikaleza and Cecil Jacob’s school of dance. Aged between nine and 18, we’ll divide them into groups, teach them a ballet class, a hip hop dance, mime from Coppélia, stage make up and they’ll get to show off what they’ve learnt at a mini-concert at Artscape on October 5.”

October looks likes being the month for ballet lovers to be in Cape Town.

l For information, call 021 421 7695.