BWW Dance Review: VKIBC Gala Celebrates the Next Generation of Dancers

Held at the culturally diverse Symphony Space on the Upper West Side on April 30th 2016, the 6th Edition of the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition showcased a bounty of prodigal talent in both classical and contemporary dance. It's encouraging and refreshing to witness such unabashed enthusiasm for the art of movement in young dancers today, especially since this year's installment was dedicated to the unrivaled ballerina Violette Verdy. After a felicitous awards ceremony bestowing medals and scholarships to the competition's most promising dancers, audience members were treated to the very exciting, very real talents of this year's standout competitors in a vibrant gala, with a diverse mix of new choreography and tried-and-true classical favorites.

The performance began on a high note with New York City Ballet guest artists Daniel Ulbricht and Erica Pereira dancing Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Buoyant and powerful as ever, Ulbricht remains a personal favorite; a ballet tour de force gifted with cutting precision and technique. Pereira, long-limbed and fluid, felt like an unusual counterpart to Ulbricht, but nevertheless brought cool composure to the role.

A special tribute to Violette Verdy followed, performed by Kozlova herself in Le Reve d'Isadora. Slender and striking, Kozlova still moves like the prima ballerina she once was, filling the space with undeniable grace and poise. It was an honor to see her completely in her element and witness the true passion from which this competition found its roots.

The night featured many standouts, but those that danced as if refusing to be ignored stood out above the rest with their individual blends of technique and stage presence. Classical Student Division Gold Medalist Eun Soo Lee of South Korea danced the Harlequinade variation with an easy bravado, skipping through the melody with assurance as he nailed complicated leaps with a precision far beyond his years. Contemporary Division III Gold Medalist Yun Ju Lee of South Korea soon followed, dancing Silent Blade with impressive swiftness. Every movement she made had a clear intention and origin; a skill that's often undervalued in today's landscape.

After a brief intermission, classical ballet reigned supreme in Act II. Tall and statuesque, Classical Senior Division Gold Medalist Maria Iliushkina of Russia channeled a young Polina Semionova in the Paquita variation, gracing the stage with her by-the-book technique; she's certainly one to watch out for. But the Gala saved the best for last - the Black Swan Pas de Deux took the cake with its ultimate drama and bravura, danced by South Korea's Soo Bin Lee and Classical Senior Division Gold Medalist Seung Hyun Lee. With uncanny chemistry and charisma, the pair floated across the stage with artistic finesse - she, a mysterious, bewitching swan and he, captivating, matching her every gesture and sustained pirouette with equal clarity.

One sentiment rings as true as ever to sum up this glorious event - Brava.

Photo Credit: J.Curns

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From This Author Christina Pandolfi