May 17, 2016

Aim High, Enjoy the Ride - Six Alumni of IBC Helsinki 2012 Look Back

Four years ago, I worked as a volunteer at the International Ballet Competition (IBC) Helsinki. It was an exciting experience, to see the inner workings of such a prestigious competition, and most of all, to meet all those talented and hardworking young dancers. I could not help but be drawn in, and keep my fingers crossed for everyone! And while IBC is a competition with a total of 80.000 € in awards, it's not all about taking home places and prize money. There's so much more: learning experiences, performing opportunities, dancing in front of knowledgeable and appreciative audiences, making important contacts, meeting dancers from all over the world, forming new friendships... And let's not forget the joy of dance! Since IBC Helsinki 2012, it's been my pleasure to follow the blossoming careers of many alumni, to see students grow into professional dancers, and competitors into artists.

Before IBC Helsinki 2016 kicks off next week, I interviewed five alumi about their past experiences and how competing affected their career path. Here are their answers:

Candice Adea (Philippines), 1st prize seniors

Candice Adea with Juan Cordero, in the grand pas de deux from Diana and Acteon, at IBC Helsinki 2012.

What did you take home from the competition?

I took home the 1st place, but, more than that, I took home new friends, lessons, and most definitely new experiences.

How did it affect your career?

It opened many doors but, I believe, more than affecting my career, it inspired a lot of young dancers in the Philippines to pursue their dancing dreams. Seeing them gives me so much joy and it inspires me to work even harder.

What are your favorite memories?

My favorite memory was when a Finnish group came to me and said, "Thank you for your performance." I'm used to people saying, "Wonderful," "Beautiful," and "Congratulations." But, up until that point, I had never had an audience member thank me for our performance. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all kinds of compliments but hearing those words affected me. After all of the blood and sweat and late rehearsals for the competition,"Thank you for your performance" acknowledged the hard work we put in to get this far. That it was worth it. It was a moment money could never buy.

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

My advice is to enjoy the whole experience, both the stresses and the triumphs. The experience will be beneficial to your growth towards becoming a better artist.

Photo courtesy of Candice Adea: Dance Page

Candice Adea was Principal Dancer for Ballet Philippines and Soloist for Hong Kong Ballet. Currently, her season with Ballet Met (USA) is coming to a close. She essayed principal roles in Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Amada, among others. Candice Adea was trained in the Philippines at the CCP Dance School, the Philippine High School for the Arts, and earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree Major in Dance, from De La Salle—College of Saint Benilde. She credits her training to Victor Ursabia, Nonoy Froilan, Brezhnev Larlar, Noordin Jumalon and Cecile Sicangco. Adea was the first Filipina to win at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition taking 1st Place, Senior Women’s Division in 2012 and at the USA International Ballet Competition with a Silver finish for the Senior Women’s Division in 2010. In July 2011, she garnered the Third Prize at the 8th Seoul International Dance Competition in South Korea, Senior Women’s Division, among other.

Katherine Higgins (USA), 3rd prize juniors

What did you take home from the competition?

I think the biggest thing I took away from the competition was self awareness. The environment of HIBC that I experienced promoted learning and artistic growth before any prizes or negative competition, and I really felt that I grew through working with new people and performing in such a welcoming place. I met all kinds of artists from all over the world that taught me more about the art form, and in studying that, I learned more about myself. The competition was a big step forward for me in terms of feeling comfortable onstage. It was my first IBC, and of course nerves are a part of such a prestigious institution, but I felt surrounded by such positive energy from all the competitors, teachers, and staff around the opera house that it was so easy to just have fun onstage. The opportunity to perform so many different pieces in a beautiful place, around great people is one I will always cherish.

How did it affect your career?

After my experience at IBC Helsinki, I felt excited to try other competitions and performing opportunities, which have all shaped me into the dancer I am today. The structure of the competition helped me become more comfortable with taking 'risks' onstage, and finding what I wanted to present to the audience. The competition was definitely a springboard for the years to come, and it makes me happy to think about!

What are your favorite memories?

It's so hard to pick a favorite memory! But I would have to choose the master class where I got to see Kenneth Greve and Nina Ananiashvilli try some pas de deux steps together. Seeing such amazing dancers and now teachers together having fun in the studio was fabulous! I also loved the work of the pianists who played each morning in the classes. They played with such heart and chose songs that really inspired me. That is something that really touched me and I won't forget.

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

The only advice I can give to this year's competitors is to keep an open mind and just have fun. Enjoy the incredible people, the setting, and this time to learn and grow. I wish everyone all the best at this year's HIBC and I hope that anyone who is a part of the competition will walk away with a positive experience to cherish, like me!

Photograph (c) Katherine Higgins / facebook

Katherine Higgins was born in Wilton, CT, United States, and began dancing at the age of 3. At 15, she began training at the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp in Belgium, graduating in 2013. Katherine has competed in and earned medals in many international ballet competitions all over the world, including the Prix de Lausanne, the Grand Prix at Youth America Grand Prix, a bronze medal at Helsinki IBC, the prize for promising finalist at Varna IBC, and a bronze medal at Moscow IBC.In August 2014, Katherine joined l’Opera de Paris, earning a lifetime contract in August 2015 and was promoted to coryphée in November 2015. 

Yoshiko Kamikusa
(Japan), finalist, juniors

Yoshiko Kamikusa, taking Nina Ananiashvili's master class at IBC Helsinki 2012. Photo by Johanna Aurava.

What did you take home from the competition?

Competitions are a great place to meet new people and make valuable connections in the dance world. The most important network that I treasure are of the dancers I met there. The majority of them now dance in professional dance companies, and I still keep in touch with them. They continue to inspire me on a daily basis.

How did it affect your career?

Although attending the competition at the time didn't lead to job contracts right away, I believe that having competition experience is an advantage when applying for a job, and even for after you get the job. For one, I personally think it helps during the audition process when you have competition experience in your resume. You need to turn the director's attention towards you when mixed among the thousands of possible applicants. It takes a lot of dedication, potential, versatility, hard work and passion to even be accepted to compete in the first place, and usually companies look for such qualities in a dancer. Competitors who do well are also accustomed to handling high pressure and nerves. They have to prove their best on stage with only one chance in order to make a lasting impression and set themselves apart from the many other talented dancers. This is much the same in a professional dance company. In order to thrive and rise through the ranks, professional dancers must have nerves of steel and strong performances. So, my participation in the HIBC has definitely played a role in helping me get to where I am today - a professional ballet dancer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, having already danced various soloist and principal roles despite my short time in the company :).

What are your favorite memories?

Taking daily ballet classes with the wonderful guest teachers in the beautiful studios at the opera house. Watching the Manon PDD at the gala, performed gorgeously by Barbora Kohoutková. Eating lunch beside the opera house, facing the Töölönlahti Bay on a lovely sunny and warm day.

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

To not stress too much, observe and learn from the other competitors, and to just enjoy every minute of every rehearsal and performance. It's not everyday that you can participate in an amazing opportunity like this and you can gain so much positive things from competitions even if you don't win... don't let it go to waste by letting any kind of negativity into your head!

Yoshiko Kamikusa and Luzemberg Santana in Nutcracker, 2015. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Photo by Rejean Brandt

Yoshiko Kamikusa joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as an Apprentice in 2013 and was promoted into the Corps de Ballet the following year. Since joining the Company, she has performed such leading roles as Odette/Odile (Swan Lake), Clara (Nutcracker), Puck (The Faerie Queen - A Ballet Based On A Midsummer Night’s Dream), among others. Yoshiko Kamikusa began her training in ballet at the age of seven in Hawaii. She later moved to Vancouver to pursue professional training under the tutelage of Vera Solovyeva and Nikolai Levitsky. She has competed at various international ballet competitions, and won First Place in the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition (2013).

Giovanna Lamboglia (
Brazil), junior

Giovanna Lamboglia dancing Kitri's variation at IBC Helsinki 2012

What did you take home from the competition?

It was one of the greatest and best experiences of my life. Interacting with people around the world with different cultures is enriching -  and you learn something different with the dancers and teachers.

How did it affect your career?

In addition to enriching my curriculum, it was my first international competition. I got to see live how the world is working, which level I was in and which I wanted to reach.

What are your favorite memories?

Dancing on stage and to compete with great dancers who were principals and soloists was what I most loved. I have made great friends who I still talk with and meet and each one is dancing in a different place around the world. And, of course, the opportunity to take class with Nina Ananiashvili (one of the judges) and get her advice.

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

Enjoy every single minute in this great competition because they are valuable - and later you will miss it so much! It will be kept in your heart for the rest of your life. The treatment given to the dancers, the competition organization and all volunteers you will never find elsewhere. And give your soul to the audience when on stage, because it is not a competition that will only count your turns, but they want to see art. Good luck everyone!

Giovanna Lamboglia, photo by Rachel Ribeiro

Giovanna Lamboglia has since danced with Ballets de France, and is joining Ballet Jörgen in Toronto next season. Giovanna est née à Goiânia, au Brésil, et commence sa formation de danseuse à Fortaleza. Plus tard, elle étudiera auprès de Ronaldo Martins et Rachel Ribeiro à Rio de Janeiro. En 2012, elle est acceptée à l’école Maria Oleneza et dansera dans les productions du théâtre municipal de Rio de Janeiro avant de sortir diplômée de l’école en 2014. Giovanna est lauréate de nombreuses compétitions : Séminaire internationale de la danse de Brasilia, American Dance Competition et Entreatos Dance Festival, entre autres. Son répertoire inclue les plus grands rôles du répertoire classique : Swanilda dans « Coppélia », Aurore dans « La Belle au bois dormant », ou encore le rôle de Medora dans « Le Corsaire ». (Biography courtesy of Ballets de France)

Václav Lamparter
(Czech Republic), junior

Václav Lamparter, far left, taking Nina Ananiashvili's master class. Photo by Johanna Aurava.

What did you take home from the competition?

I took home many experiences. Helsinki IBC was my first big ballet competition. It was wonderful to meet and to see so many great dancers and their coaches around me. I also liked very much to dance on the stage of the Opera house.

How did it affect your career?

Because I didn't make it to the finals I think it made me definitely a bit stronger and taught me not to give up too early, because later on I got some medals at other international ballet competitions. I think it affected my career in a way of gaining more experience in performing on stage because at that age (I was 16) I hadn't yet danced many times on stage alone, and until then I had never prepared so many pieces at the same time.

What are your favorite memories?

Among competing and ballet classes with such a great teachers like Barbora Kohoutková or Nina Ananiashvili, I also enjoyed sightseeing (there was a cool sightseeing bus organized by the competition) and the reception at the City hall for all the competitors.

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

I would advice to watch as much as possible during the competition. It's an amazing opportunity to learn from other dancers. Most important is to have fun and to enjoy your dancing. Then the audience will enjoy it as well.

Václav Lamparter at The Semperoper Ballet. Photo by Mathieu Rouaux.

Václav Lamparter is currently a member of the corps de ballet at The Semperoper Ballet in Dresden, Germany. He was trained at the American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company at the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis School, USA, and The Dance Conservatory Brno, Czech Republic. Lamparter has won numerous awards: 3rd Place Beijing International Ballet Competition (2013), Placed in the Top 12 Finalists of Youth America Grand Prix (2013), 1st Place Youth America Grand Prix Semi-Finals (2013), 3rd Place International Ballet Competition Prague (2012), 1st Place Istanbul International Ballet Competition (2012), 2nd Place Olomouc Ballet Grand Prix Award (2011), 1st Place Vancliffen International Ballet Competition For Young Talents (2011).

Betsy McBride (USA), senior finalist

Warm-up before class. Betsy McBride (in burgundy hoodie) talking to Simon Wexler. Photo by Johanna Aurava

What did you take home from the competition?

I had the best time at the competition. I learned a lot from the other competitors and also the teachers. I appreciated the fact that a lot of people in the competition had wonderful artistry that I think is usually neglected at competitions. I left feeling enlightened by everyone’s passion and focused energy.

How did it affect your career?

At the time of the competition I was so accustomed to my usual performance routine that the whole experience was so foreign to me. I was used to being rehearsed by my artistic staff and having them encourage me and prepare me along the way. I went to the competition without a coach or teacher (which was very unusual for most of the competitors there) and for the rehearsals I would just run things alone. It was a wonderful growing experience learning to trust in my own dancing and not need validation from others. I think this is a really important aspect in this career because it can be hard to feel confident in yourself or your dancing when you aren’t getting any feedback but chances are most of the time no feedback is good feedback.

What are your favorite memories?

My favorite memory was dancing in the final round. It was just such an exciting show to be a part of. The audience was completely full and so excited to be there!

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

While I was at the competition it definitely had more of a workshop feel to it rather than what most would expect from a competition. I really enjoyed the sense of camaraderie. I would advise this year’s competitors to support each other and create a nicer environment to perform in. Performances are stressful enough without the overly competitive attitudes and a relaxed atmosphere will help prepare everyone to do their best.

Photograph by Ballet Zaida.

Betsy McBride joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in June 2015. Her repertoire with ABT includes Columbine in The Nutcracker, and Fleur de farine (Wheat flower), Silver Fairy and Red Riding Hood in The Sleeping Beauty, as well as roles in all of the Company's full-length ballets. McBride is originally from Coppell, Texas. She began her training at the Ballet Academy of Texas. At age 14, she continued her training at Texas Ballet Theater’s School. She performed Clara in The Nutcracker with Texas Ballet Theater and joined the company under O.B.E. Ben Stevenson at age 15. McBride was an American Ballet Theatre National Training Scholar and performed in George Balanchine’s Mozartiana during ABT’s tour of Texas at age 11. She was awarded the Grand Prix at the 2007 Youth American Grand Prix Regional Competition and was a finalist at the 2012 Helsinki International Ballet Competition. McBride danced for Texas Ballet Theater from 2007 to 2015.  Some of her principal roles include Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and The Nutcracker, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, Svetlana in Stevenson’s Dracula, Green Lady and Solveig in Stevenson’s Peer Gynt, Waltz Girl and Dark Angel in George Balanchine’s Serenade, Solo Girl in Balanchine’s Rubies and the pas de trois in Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, as well as roles in Jiří Kylián's Petite Mort, Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena and Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria. (Bio from ABT)

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