The Genee International Ballet Competition is one of the most prestigious dance competitions in the world for pre-professionals. Named after Dame Adeline Genée, the first president of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in London, it is now in its 85th year. In 2002, the RAD trialled holding the competition outside London and Sydney was chosen as the inaugural international host; this year the Genee returned to Sydney.
The finals were held at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday December 11, with eight female and four male candidates. Each dancer performed a commissioned variation created by Tim Harbour, choreographer in residence with The Australian Ballet.
The dancers also each performed a freestyle routine showcasing their versatility, imagination and unique personalities. The routines ranged from comical play with stretchy suspenders to modern abstract through to the very traditional. No one envied the judges for their jobs – even the “Audience Choice” vote was a challenge.
But decisions were made and two gold medallists were chosen: Josh Price, 16, for male (he also won the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award – not surprising seeing he had received gasps and applause in the middle of his performance); and Maeve Nolan, 16, for female. The awards will gain the dancers world wide recognition and open the doors to opportunities including the chance to join leading ballet companies.
The Genee Finals was also the last day of work for Lynn Wallis who has counted off 22 years, 5 months and 11 days as Artistic Director for RAD, and who celebrated her 70th birthday on the night.
Asked why she chose now to step down, she said simply: “I think it’s time to hand over to someone else to bring a new artistic vision.”
She describes her time with the RAD as having yielded wonderful experiences and opportunities to work with amazing people: teachers, students, colleagues and people from every part of the globe. Last year, she was awarded the OBE for services to dance.
“That was very exciting for me. I was amazed…that was extremely special,” she said of the honour.
Of the incredible contribution she has made to the RAD and to dance in general, she cites the development of the exam syllabus as one of her key achievements. It has evolved to provide more scope for students to learn advanced techniques, coping mechanisms, backstage etiquette and professionalism – “They’re forever learning new skills in this competition.”
For Ms Wallis, the competition should not be about winning but rather about what the dancers have learned, the people they have met, and what they can use to further their training. She speaks with such warmth and passion that her genuine love of dance is palpable.
As for what’s next, she’s keeping her cards close to her chest, except to admit (somewhat unnecessarily) that it will be associated with dancing.
Of her time with RAD, she reflects with humility:
“I have been very fortunate to have had such a huge amount of support over the years and to be able to do all the things that I’ve really wanted to do on the artistic side, so that’s what I’m really grateful for.”
Undoubtedly, RAD too, has been very fortunate. (RB)
Find out more at www.rad.org.au
BY RITA BRATOVICH