The final of the international ballet competition was an exciting night for Australians, with five medals going to locals.

The final of the 2016 Genée International Ballet Competition was a night that Joshua Price isn’t likely to forget. Not only was the 16-year old Australian awarded a Gold Medal by the judges, but he also captured the audience’s heart winning the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award.

Joshua Price wins a Gold Medal and the Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award. Photo © Winkipop Media, image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance

Held at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, the final was also live-streamed, with viewers able to vote online as well at the venue.

The Genée doesn’t automatically award a Gold Medal each year, but this year Maeve Nolan, another 16-year old Australian, also won Gold. Silver Medals were awarded to 15-year old Australian Talia Fidra and 17-year old Australian Brayden Gallucci, while Bronze Medals went to Madison Ayton, a 15-year old, also from Australia, and 18-year old Hamish Scott from the UK.

The Gold Medal, which comes with a $10,000 prize, is awarded when a candidate demonstrates “exceptional technical skills, an innate response to music, outstanding performance qualities and charisma”. The Silver Medal is worth $6,000 and the Bronze $4000. The judges may choose to award more than one medal in each category – as they did this year – in which case the prize money is divided between them.

Named after Dame Adeline Genée, the first President of the Royal Academy of Dance, the Genée International Ballet Competition first took place in London in 1931 and has been staged most years since. Now regarded one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world, it is open to dancers aged 15 to 19 from around the world, trained in the RAD syllabus.

In 2002, the Genée was held in Sydney – the first time in its history that the prestigious event had been held outside London, when Sydney dancer Steven McRae, now a Principal at The Royal Ballet, won the coveted Gold Medal. The Genée returned to Sydney this year having since been held in cities around the world. In 2017, it will be hosted in Lisbon.

The winners and judges at the 2016 Genée International Ballet Competition. Photo © Winkipop Media, image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance

This year, 86 dancers from 11 countries competed in the semi-finals, with 12 selected for the final – eight from Australia, three from the UK and one from Japan. The judges were David McAllister, Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet, Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, and Francesco Ventrigilia, Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Candidates competed in three different categories. First, each performed a piece commissioned by the Academy. This year Tim Harbour, Resident Choreographer at the AB, choreographed a work for the female dancers called Velvet Drop, and another for the males called Teak, both to music by Nicole Murphy.

In Dancer’s Own, the candidates perform a variation choreographed by themselves, their teacher or a peer to a piece of music of their own choice. Finally, they perform a 19th- or 20th-century classical variation.

Gold medalist Joshua Price is trained by Janice Heale at The Dance Centre/Amanda Bollinger Dance Academy. He impressed with his performance of Teak and his Dancer’s Own piece – The Story of the Shield, choreographed by Joseph Aitken – but it was his performance of the Act III variation from Le Corsaire, which really brought the house down, when he thrilled with his explosive leaps and spins, and precise landings.

Fellow Gold medalist Maeve Nolan, who is trained by Marie Walton-Mahon at the Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy, proved to be a lyrical dancer with her performance of Velvet Drop, her Dancer’s Own piece Abide, choreographed by Amanda Whittaker, and the Summer Variation from Cinderella.

In 2013, the Academy introduced an Award for Best Choreography in the Dancer’s Own section. Kanon Kondo performed her winning work Canon, choreographed by Yoshiki Noborisaka, at the end of this section.

The evening was also a farewell to Lynn Wallis after 22 years as Artistic Director of the Academy. What’s more, it was her 70th birthday. In recognition of her extraordinary contribution, the RAD Board of Trustees has established a Lynn Wallis Bursary Fund in her honour.

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