A day before the start of the final round of the International Ballet Competition – Varna 2014, the French newspaper Figaro (Le Figaro) published an article under the title “In Bulgaria, Varna Leads the Dance.” In it is said that this year the Competition celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, “127 classic ballet dancers from thirty countries compete for two weeks in the open, in an overgrown with greenery summer theatre, within the framework of a very strong competition that is a true Ballet Olympiad.”
The publication goes on, “Varna. These five letters are a legend and a real treasure in the world of ballet. Patrick Dupond, Sylvie Guillem, Natalia Makarova, Loipa Araujo, Mikhail Barychnikov, Maximiliano Guerra, Vladimir Malakhov, and Yoko Morishita are all holders of prizes from Varna. Go say then the expert jury is not up to the mark! And Varna, after all is neither Moscow nor Paris. This sea city, with a population of 350 000, located on the shores of the Black Sea in Bulgaria historically has no privileged connection with the world of ballet. Until, in 1964, Professor Emil Dimitrov, a conductor, established this Ballet. His flair for success made it possible the Competition to survive the failure of the perestroika when the state withdrew its financing. Today, his children Sonia and Dimitar, continue his work by raising the needed for the holding of the Competition 300 000 to 400 000 euro among patrons such as Societe Generale and Gilles Fuchs, the person who established the Marcel-Duchamp Prize for contemporary art.
Further on, the author Ariane Bavelier presents the memories of Vladimir Vasiliev, a giant of Bolshoi Theatre and Chairman of the Jury this year, about the first edition of the Competition when he won the Grand Prix, as he compares the number of participants then and now. While in the first competition there were 46 competitors from 11 countries, today they are 127 from 30 countries. Professor Vasiliev’s address to the young artists is also quoted, “Varna is the first ballet competition. It has been imitated by many other competitions, yet not one of them has reached its level. “Here, we do not evaluate the candidates within a weekend and by two variations of one minute each. Risk everything without worrying you will fall, the audience will appreciate the way you get up!”
The French newspaper calls the Competition in Varna “An Accelerator of Careers.” It also points out the attitude of the French competitors in Varna 2014 in connection with the growing technical complexity of the performances, Jérémy Loup Quer, Hannah O’Neill and Hugo Marchand, three ballet dancers of the Paris Opera who chose to compete in Varna have remained true to themselves, “It is true we add a bit of technical difficulties, but as far as artistry goes, we remain true to the French school”, they say. “It is a matter of astonishing amount of work, these eight variations, in addition to our schedule as dancers in the Ballet. It is a challenge for us, and it is probably the best way to tame the fear from the inner competition in climbing in the hierarchy within the Opera,” relate the dancers. “This allows one to be noticed by the members of the jury, some of which give master classes in Varna, and most of them hold leading positions in the large theatres in the world. In case we do not succeed in making the career we want in Paris…”
The question of the French journalist is answered by Cyril Atanassoff, a member of the Jury in Varna, and a legend of the Paris Opera of whom she writes he has outshined Nureyev, “One does not come here to make money – the gold medal comes with some 3 000 euro. You come for the time you gain. This competition is an accelerator of careers. It is a stepping-stone for many ballet dancers, especially, for such who are not part of the ensembles of prestigious theatres, and who are rather striving to be admitted there. And this is very important because ballet is an art in which you must develop quickly. But, frankly, no one can predict whether a laureate of a competition, even of the Varna one, will have the stamina to dance through a three acts ballet. There is yet something more to dance.”
The International Ballet Competition – Varna, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, is organized by the “International Ballet Competition – Varna” Foundation, the Varna Municipality is a co-organizer. The forum is held with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria. Patron of the jubilee edition is Margarita Popova, Vice President of Republic of Bulgaria. The Ballet Olympiad is under the patronage of the UNESCO, and Irina Bokova, Director General of the world organization. The Competition is held in support of the candidacy of Varna for European Capital of Culture in 2019. General sponsor of the competition is Societe Generalе Expressbank.