The Genée International Ballet Competition
Each year the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) hosts the Genée International Ballet Competition, which is open to dancers aged 15 – 19. Ballet dancers that have passed the RAD Intermediate Advanced 2 examinations in classical ballet with distinction can apply, and 50 dancers are chosen to participate.
During the Genée, dancers undergo a five-day coaching process to polish three routines to perform in front of a judging panel: 19th and 20th century ballet variations, a world-premiere by the commissioned choreographer, and a dancer’s own performance.
Although the Genée International Ballet Competition was traditionally held in London for many years, it now travels annually. The host of the 2018 Genée ballet competition is Hong Kong, where the event will run from 3 – 12 August.
Isabelle Brouwers: English National Ballet
English National Ballet first artist Isabelle Brouwers participated in Glasgow’s 2013 competition, bagging a silver medal in the process. Below, she shares her personal experience of the Genée International Ballet Competition with Up&AtEm Travel – including unique insight about how culture specifically plays into the ballet world. Interestingly, Isabelle has lived in Europe, South East Asia and Mexico, and she speaks five languages!
Culture is a big reason why Up&AtEm Travel features dance.
Isabelle Brouwers Ballet Interview
Up&AtEm Travel: Hi Isabelle, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview about the Genée International Ballet Competition!
During your experience at the competition in 2013, were you able to interact with the other dancers from around the world?
Isabelle Brouwers: I had the chance to meet people from pretty much every continent and I made so many new friends – many of whom I’m still in touch with!
U&T: That’s great you were able to make international friends during the event.
While you saw many dancers from other nations performing from the RAD syllabus at the Genée, did you notice anything about their approach to ballet versus your own?
IB: What’s wonderful about the RAD is that it allows dance students around the globe to follow a structured graded syllabus following a specific style, which creates a harmonious approach to training amongst RAD ballet dancers globally. However each nation and each individual dancer still retains their own unique flair – [and that] is wonderful to see on stage!
U&T: – or did it make you realise anything unique about English ballet?
IB: I’ve definitely come to appreciate the wonderful subtleties and nuances of the English style even more through the years and through my travels. The clean port de bras, sharp precise footwork and use of épaulement is so distinctive!
U&T: That’s really interesting. I’ll definitely watch out for these specific characteristics when watching local ballet companies now.
Do you feel that the location of the Genée – and/ or the nationality of the choreographers and judges – impacts the competition experience?
IB: Although there is always the utmost fairness and equality of judgement in the Genée, I think the location of the competition and the judges’ nationality will naturally impact slightly on the competition experience. Every nation follows different traditions, has different rhythms and norms, which of course influence the schedules and the way in which the competition is organised and laid out!
I trained with many different teachers from many different countries, and I believe this multifaceted approach is so enriching; the dancer is able to immerse into so many different styles and adopt different approaches to the same steps. This can diversify their performances and allow them to discover which nuances best suit their dancing!
U&T: Previously the Genée was only held in London, but now it is hosted in a different world city everywhere. How do you feel this continual change of competition locations is significant?
IB: I believe the yearly change in location for the Genée is an extremely significant step for the growth of the competition, for RAD as an organisation and for dancers worldwide! It allows dancers from so many more nations to participate in the competition, which is important because the RAD syllabus is taught in schools worldwide, and it allows dancers from different corners of the globe to come together and showcase themselves to international audiences.
[The moving competition allows participants to] cultivate knowledge and appreciation for ballet styles around the world. It also multiplies the opportunities for dancers in distant countries to be seen by major dance institutions and kick start their careers!
U&T: When you won The Genee silver medal in 2013, you competed in Glasgow. Do you have any Glasgow travel recommendations?
IB: Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive early enough, and I didn’t have the chance to stay after the competition, to enjoy much sightseeing around Glasgow. However, I have such distinct lovely memories of the opening ceremony with the wonderful bagpipe players! I did manage to see St Andrews Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful – and in terms of food you have to try some delicious and extremely healthy Scottish Smoked Salmon!
The opening ceremony with bagpipes sounds like an incredible welcome. Thank you so much for your time and insight, Isabelle!
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