When we left off, in Anna Gordeeva’s review of the International Competition of Ballet and Choreography, which just concluded its 13th tournament in Moscow this past week — Anna had pointed out that European artists are not interested in the prize money offered by this Olympics of Ballet. No, what they are truly interested in is the invitation to perform in a theater. That makes sense: Prize money, even the generous prizes offered in Moscow, can support a dancer for maybe a year or so. But steady work is the goal: To get a gig as a permanent member of a theater corps.
In that regard, the Russian theaters are not as enticing as they used to be, to European artists. While still remaining highly enticing to the hordes of young hoofers pouring out of Asia.
Japan, in particular, has produced an entire generation of young artists steeped in Russian classical ballet and fervently wishing to study in “our” (Russian) schools. These eager youth are training in Russian theaters from Petrozavodsk to Vladivostok, and all towns in between, such as Kazan, Ekaterinburg and Krasnoyarsk. In fact, it was a Japanese male, Okawa Koya, who won first prize last week in the category of “Best in a Duet”, while his partner, Terada Midori took the silver. Okawa works in the theater in Kazan. According to his brief bio, which I just linked (and please ignore the gender confusion between “he” and “she” — I think this blurb was crudly translated from Tatar, and Okawa is definitely a boy, despite his pretty looks):
Born in Japan. From the age of 2 she [sic] studied ballet at the Akan Ballet School in the city of Aomori. In 2007 she [sic] entered the Moscow State Academy of Choreography, from which she [sic] graduated in 2011. In 2008 she [sic] won lst prize at an International Competition of Ballet Dancers in Kazakhstan. In 2009 she [sic] won 3rd prize at the International Competition of Ballet Dancers, in Moscow. He won 3rd prize at the Yuri Grigorovich International Young Dancers of the World Competition, in Sochi, 2010. He won lst prize at the Ekaterina Maximova Arabesque International Competition of Ballet Dancers, in Perm, 2012. He is the holder of the special Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev prize (in a duet with Midori Terada). In 2012 he won lst prize at the International Competition of Ballet Dancers in Sochi. From 2011-2013 she [sic] was a soloist at the National Theatre of Ukraine, Odessa. Since September 2014 he has been soloist at the Tatar Musa Jalil State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet [in Tatarstan].
Terada’s bio is similar to that of her partner. Started taking ballet lessons at the age of three. Was accepted into Moscow State Academy of Choreography in 2007 and graduated in 2011. Went on to win prizes. Was soloist at the National Theater of Ukraine, Odessa…. hey wait one cotton-picking minute! This is exactly the same as Okawa’s biography, I think somebody just copied and pasted, including the “she” instead of “he” for Okawa! The main difference is in the roles: Okawa was the Jester in Swan Lake, whereas Terada was a Cygnet. The two young people earned their chops by working up through set “duet” pieces such as the “Chinese dancers” in the Nutcracker. Critics noted that at the Moscow competition, the duo showed good flow and partnering skills, they seemed actually meant for each other, as opposed to some male-female couples who seemed to have been just randomly assigned to each other. As in “Well, here we are: LIFT ME UP!”
Here is how Gordeeva assessed the prize-winning performance of this Japanese duo: “Accurate, literate, able to effectively perform tricks but never resorting to unnecessary risks. Whereas our people [by which she means Russian citizens] at the competition were always trying to perform something super-complicated and kept racking up mistakes. The Japanese earned their medals honestly.”
An ethnic Russian (Evelina Godunova) won the gold in solo dance, but Evelina actually lives and works in Seoul, South Korea, so she doesn’t really count as “one of ours”. The male solo gold prize winner was Bakhtiar Adamzhan from Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan, by the way, is famous for its strong ballet schools, which produce excellent male dancers in particular. Among actual Russian citizens, the best result was a silver medal in the duet — received by the Mariinsky Theater soloist Ernest Latypov, who was born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It was only in the “youth” category that any actual Muscovites were able to take home some hardware: Denis Zakharov took the gold for male in a duet; and Mark Chino took the gold for male soloist. Chino, by the way, was born and bred for ballet: His mom, who is Japanese, danced in the Russian ballet, and Mark has already been accepted into the Bolshoi.
Next: the story of Joy Womack, a young American girl and her dream of dancing at the Bolshoi… Like something from a Hollywood movie!
[to be continued]