Maria Semeniachenko, a soloist at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater, won the gold medal.
The competition, which has been held every four years since 1969, finished Saturday and saw dancers from 21 different countries enter the contest as part of either the junior (under 18) or the senior (ages 18 to 26) division. Twenty-four choreographers also competed for the top prize in their category.
Contestants compete as either solo dancers or as part of a pair, going through three grueling elimination rounds and then dancing again at a gala featuring the winners. They performed either several short solos — some lasting for just a minute or two — or much longer duets, almost all of which were excerpts from the usual 19th-century classical or romantic standards.
Dancers from countries such as China, South Korea, Portugal and the United States competed, but the competition was skewed heavily toward Russia and local dancers also had the advantage of performing in front of home crowds who already knew their names.
In the senior division, Russia's Maria Semeniachenko, currently a soloist at Moscow's Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater, won the gold medal in the women's solo category. A tall, striking dancer with impeccable technique, she impressed the jury with her performances of variations from the ballets "Paquita" and "Swan Lake."
The top prize in the men's solo category went to Russia's Vladimir Shklyarov, a soloist at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, and Ukraine's Andrey Pisarev. Both performed the fourth act variation from "Don Quixote" as one of their two solos, and both showed an impressive combination of artistry, technique and virtuosity, although the edge should have gone to Shklyarov, who was the more polished of the two.
A medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow can help launch an illustrious ballet career, especially in Russia, where the contest is well-known and well-respected. Audiences in Europe and the United States tend to be less familiar with, and perhaps less impressed by, the competition itself, but they certainly know the names of many of the past winners, including such dance greats as Mikhail Baryshnikov (1969), Alexander Godunov (1973), Nina Ananiashvili (1985), Julio Bocca (1985) and Nikolai Tsiskaridze (1997). The last two both served as members of this year's international jury, which included leading choreographers, dancers and artistic directors from 11 different countries.
China's Guan Wenting took the gold in the women's duet category despite an anticlimactic ending to her otherwise impressive third act, "Swan Lake" pas de deux. Her partner, Xing Liang, took the silver in the men's category, while the gold went to Russia's Dmitry Zagrebin, who is featured regularly in Bolshoi Theater performances.
In the junior division, the gold medal in the solo category went to Russia's Anastasia Soboleva, a student at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography; no men were deemed good enough to receive this prize. The gold medal for duets went to Russia's Angelina Vorontsova, also a student at the same ballet school; again, no men received this medal. Marcelino Sambe from Portugal received a special prize for artistry, while Artem Ovcharenko from Russia won the prize for Best Partner.
In the choreographers' competition, Mariinsky Theater soloist Yury Smelakov received the first prize, while second and third prizes went to Snezhana Zdor from the Krasnoyarsk Contemporary Dance Theater and Moscow-based choreographer Xenia Oivental, respectively.
Overall, no single dancer was deemed impressive enough to win the Marina Semyonova grand prix — the competition is dedicated to the legendary Russian dancer — and the $10,000 cash prize that goes along with it. This was a prudent decision on the part of the jury, headed by former Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Yury Grigorovich. For the most part, the dancers were certainly talented and well-trained, but not one of them stood out as possessing a true ability to connect with the audience or emanate star quality.