Koreans shine in USA International Ballet Competition

July 1, 2014

Jeong Hansol become the first Korean Ballerino to win senior division title 
Jung Ga-yeon wins a bronze in senior ladies, Eum Jinsol a silver in junior men’s segment

Senior Men's gold medalist Jeong Hansol of the Republic of Korea performs a solo dance from "Don Quixote, Grand Pas de Deux," during the Awards Gala of the USA International Ballet Competition  in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, June 28, 2014. Dancers from around the world competed in the ballet competition, held every four years. The 2014 competition had 97 competitors vying for medals, scholarships, cash awards and company contracts in the "Olympic-style" competition. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Senior Men’s gold medalist Jeong Hansol of the Republic of Korea performs a solo dance from “Don Quixote, Grand Pas de Deux,” during the Awards Gala of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, June 28, 2014. Dancers from around the world competed in the ballet competition, held every four years. The 2014 competition had 97 competitors vying for medals, scholarships, cash awards and company contracts in the “Olympic-style” competition. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Do Je-hae

Koreans were a dominant force at the USA International Ballet Competition (UIBC), one of the most coveted events of its kind that concluded Sunday after two weeks of intense preliminaries.

For the first time in the event’s near 40-year history, a Korean ballerino, Jeong Hansol, won the senior men’s division, entering a select group of Korean male dancers that have made a mark in international ballet.

The 21-year-old topped 109 contenders from 21 countries. The Joffrey Ballet, under the artistic direction of Ashley Wheater, offered him a position with the company for the 2015-2016 season.

Based in Jackson, Mississippi, the UIBC is the largest ballet competition for dancers under the age of 26 and is held every four years. Besides Jeong, who trains at Seoul’s Sejong University, Yun Byul of the Korea National University of Arts (KNUA) was a silver-medalist in the men’s senior division.

Two other KNUA students also won prizes: Jung Ga-yeon was a bronze-medalist in the senior ladies event and Eum Jin-sol a silver medalist in the junior men’s segment. Jung also won the Best Senior Couple award with her partner Ha Ji-seok, also a KNUA student.

“The Jackson result reflects the level of Korea’s rising status in the international ballet community,” Korea’s top arts academy said in a statement Monday.

The KNUA has produced several medalists at the event since 2006, when Paris Opera Ballet’s Park Se-eun won a silver medal. The best result for a Korean male dancer before Jeong was a 2011 silver medal in the junior event won by Kim Ki-min, a first-soloist at the iconic Marinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Park and Kim are the only Asian soloists in their respective companies.

Widely known as the “Jackson Competition,” the event is among the foremost international ballet competitions besides the Lausanne Competition in Switzerland and Bulgaria’s Varna Competition.

Former Jackson medalists have gone on to major companies and have become some of the most renowned dancers on the stage today.

The 1994 senior gold-medalist Johan Kobborg was a principal at London’s Royal Ballet until his retirement last year. With his partner Alina Cojocaru, he formed one of the most memorable partnerships in the history of the top British company.

Fumi Kaneko, a rising star at the Royal Ballet, was a junior silver-medalist in 2010.

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