Darya Elmakova wins the Young Ballet of the World International Competition

Darya Elmakova, soloist at the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre, ranked first at the Fifth Yury Grigorovich Young Ballet of the World International Competition, held from June 12 to June 21 at the Sochi Winter Theatre.

Young Ballet of the World is an international ballet completion, supervised by the judging panel chairman, the renowned choreographer Yury Grigorovich — and counted among Sochi's main cultural highlights. The concert and theatre seasons in this city are steeped in age-old, glorious traditions: they feature performances by the most famous opera and drama companies, symphony and chamber orchestras, music bands, dancers and ballet dancers, and other remarkable artists from Russia and elsewhere.

The competition chiefly aims to set young ballet dancers on a successful career path, promote professional and personal connections between performers from across the world, as well as raise awareness of classical dance as an art and hone this art further.

The competition has three stages, and the contestants are tasked with performing various classical ballet excerpts, as well as a jazz dance sketch to classical jazz music, and a unique modern dance sketch, prepared especially for the competition — or part of a modern ballet, which must date no later than 2000.

Darya Elmakova joined the completion with several classical ballet performances: the parts of Odette/Odile (Swan Lake), Giselle (Giselle), Medora (The Corsair), and Gamzatti (La Bayadère) — as well as with two modern dance sketches, which she staged herself: Sakura, based on Japanese folk music, and My Love, based on George Gershwin's Summertime aria.

Celebrating the beauty of Japan, Sakura is Darya's absolute favourite dance. She confesses that it has been close to her heart from the very moment of its creation, like her personal good luck charm. My Love, in turn, is intended to be a true revelation of a soul enamoured with dancing, and was staged especially for the competition in Sochi, where Darya made her début with this dance. My Love's choreography features elements of jazz and gymnastics, as well as the distinctive improvisation peculiar to jazz.

'I am overjoyed that my victory in the Young Ballet of the World International Competition coincided with our theatre's special anniversary,' Darya recollects.  'The competition managers invited me to join by email. That's because once you take part in any international contest, your name gets entered into a special database, and you start receiving notifications of every new contest or festival. I decided to give it a try, especially since I was really eager to see what Sochi looked like after the Olympics. I made up my mind on the spot, practically on the very last day when they were still accepting applications.

My impressions, both of the contest and of Sochi, are radiantly positive! I thank the Lord for the incredible experience He granted to me. I am still very excited after winning the competition, making friends with amazing people, and seeing beautiful sights across the city. I got a chance to take a trip to Krasnaya Polyana and visit the famous Sochi Arboretum, which was founded by  Sergey Nikolaevich Khudekov, a famous ballet historian. Incidentally, this year's Young Ballet of the World competition honoured the memory of this outstanding Russian cultural figure. Among other things, I also managed to catch a few moments of basking in the sun and in the sea and to visit the Olympic venues, and returned home brimming over with positive energy.

As for the performance itself, I was obviously very nervous, since it was my first time at such a high-level competition. Before the event, I told myself, "I am not going to compete with anyone. I am just going to dance, and to enjoy testing out how far my abilities can take me". After all, dance is not a sport. Here, you don't have to worry about being " faster, higher, stronger" — you just have to be full of energy and drive, which will translate to the movements of your body. That said, you certainly do have to perfect your technique and achieve impeccable performance quality, but if your dance lacks substance, you will be unable to grab the audience's attention. The audience is interested in the essence...

For me, this competition was a victory over my own limitations. I sincerely hope that I will be able to build on this experience in the future. Even though I took the journey to Sochi alone, and found it hard to cope with the stress, I still felt the incredible support of my loved ones, teachers, friends, and colleagues, and this gave me more strength and confidence'.

We must also mention that by now Darya Elmakova's collection of trophies has expanded, and her First Prize at the Young Ballet of the World International Competition has been joined by the golden medal she won at the First International Baltic Ballet Competition (Riga), and by a victory in Rieti, Italy.