China's Chang and Canada's Xuan win top prizes at Ballet Olympiade in Varna

Chinese dancer Sinuo Chang and Canadian ballerina Yuan Zhe Zi Xuan, also known as Jessica Xuan, won the top prizes at the Varna International Ballet Competition, the oldest ballet competition in world, on 29 July. Held every two years since 1964, this was the 28th competition held in the Black Sea city of Varna with more than 120 top aspiring dancers from 34 countries aiming for glory at the event, known in the ballet community as the Ballet Olympiade. Many of the biggest names in ballet gained their first international recognition at the competition, held in Bulgaria’s “seaside capital”.

Dancers, separated into two age groups - seniors and juniors, participated in the competition rounds on the floor at the Open-Air Theatre either in couples or as soloists.

China-born Xuan, an elegant dancer with the Dutch National Ballet, won the women’s senior division with 21-year American ballerina Katherine Barkman, who is currently a guest principal dancer for Ballet Manila, finishing as runner-up.

The competition in Varna is among the most prestigious ballet events alongside the competitions in Moscow, Helsinki and Jackson. Past winners include Russians Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova and Vladimir Malakhov, Canadian-trained ballerinas Evelyn Hart and Martine van Hamel as well as French dancers Sylvie Guillem and Patrick Dupond. The acclaimed Chang, gold prize winner of the 2017 Vienna International Competition, grabbed the top spot in the senior category for men aged 19 to 26 after advancing through the three rounds of competition.

An International Summer Ballet Academy with the participation of teachers from Bulgaria and overseas has also been organized in Varna in the last two weeks.

A gala concert, devoted to jury president Vladimir Vasiliev, known as “The God of the dance”, who is marking his 60th anniversary on stage, will be held tonight.

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