The countdown has started for the 4th International Istanbul Ballet Competition and Festival, which will be a platform for dancers from around the world to show their talents. The festival will kick off on June 21 at the Zorlu Center PSM with the ballet rendition of “Count Dracula.” The semifinal of the competition will be held June 24 at the Bakırköy Leyla Gencer Opera Stage with “Bach Ala Turca.” The final competition will be held June 25 and the festival will end June 26 with a Gala Night and an Award Ceremony at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall.
Organized by the State Opera and Ballet (DOB), the competition aims to highlight Turkey’s artistic identity. The event will be organized into two age groups, 15-19 and 20-25 and in male and female categories. The winner of the competition will receive 8,000 euros.
DOB General Director Professor Rengim Gökmen, speaking to Anadolu Agency, said he gave great importance to the competition, adding, “I believe this competition makes great contributions to Turkish ballet in terms of opening it to the world. As of June 21, Istanbul will be the place where the heart of world ballet will beat.”
Gökmen said ballet required passion and working conditions harder than many other sports. “This is why I appreciate the ballet dancers who took ballet classes from the age of 7 to 17 and work as a professional from 18 to 33,” he added.
He said they had worked hard for a ballet competition to be organized in Turkey, especially with the competition aimed at supporting young dancers. “I am happy this competition proved itself and was accepted to the International Ballet Competitions Federation in the first year. Our competition is respected in the ballet world in line with the competitions in New York, Tokyo, Varna and Rome,” he said.
Gökmen noted that the competition gained the status of being a festival this year and important ballet pieces would be staged. “We want to draw the ballet world’s attention and promote the art of Turkish ballet because this is what we can boast about. Our wish is to use the techniques the world uses,” he said.
After DVD eliminations, the competition’s semifinalists were selected. Among 32 dancers, 12 will be competing in the children’s category. The competition has so far hosted world renowned dancers such as Irek Mukhamedov, Julia Bocca, Vladimir Malakhov, Fabiene Cerrutin and Margarita Parilla.
Ballet in Turkey
The first steps toward ballet were first taken in the Ottoman-era with the efforts of Giuseppe Donizetti during the reigns of Mahmud II and Abdulmecid. Donizetti was the instructor general of imperial Ottoman music.
Ballet instructor Lydia Krassa Arzumanova, who came to Turkey after the Russian revolution, opened a ballet studio in Istanbul in 1921 and staged the first performance with her dancers in 1931. Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of the British Royal Ballet and one of the leaders of contemporary ballet, was invited to Turkey in 1947 for the foundation of Turkish ballet. A school was opened in 1948 in Istanbul and enrolled 11 male and 18 female students. The school moved to Ankara in 1950 and became affiliated with the Ankara Conservatory.
Later on, Dame Ninette de Valois sent her assistant Alaine Phillips to Turkey. Phillips reorganized the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti and staged Leo Delibes’s ballet “Coppelia” in 1961. This was the first ballet performed by Turkish ballet dancers.