From living room to hallowed boards

HOME TOWN GIRL: Emma McBeth, 19, competing in the Royal Academy of Dance annual Genee International Ballet Competition in Wellington.
HOME TOWN GIRL: Emma McBeth, 19, competing in the Royal Academy of Dance annual Genee International Ballet Competition in Wellington.

She started as an eight-year-old dancing in a tutu in her living room - and now Wellington ballet dancer Emma McBeth will be pirouetting with the best and brightest.

Seventy young dancers from around the world, including 12 from New Zealand, have descended on Wellington for the prestigious Genee International Ballet Competition.

The Royal Academy of Dance competition is the world's top dancing contest, and gives amateurs the chance to be seen on an international stage.

Ms McBeth, now 18, who grew up in Wellington, and studied at Chilton Saint James School, has been studying fulltime for the past year at Sydney's Alegria Ballet School.

She said competing in Genee was the pinnacle of the year.

"It's an amazing opportunity to be coached and adjudicated by internationally well-known teachers and choreographers. It's going to be fantastic.

"After going overseas to Sydney, coming back home and performing on a home stage in Wellington, it's a fantastic way to end the year."

She began dancing later than many, at age 8.

"I got my initiation dancing around the living room watching productions while wearing tutus."

Her natural musicality and talent helped her excel, winning competitions and championships, and most recently a travel scholarship for the United Kingdom.

"I also play the piano so I have a natural musicality . . . and there's sort of a natural ability in performing. To be eye-catching to the audience, that's what all dancers strive for."

The competition has the ability to open doors for the young ballet dancers, with artist directors from ballet companies from around the world using it to headhunt young talent.

Dancers from Mexico, Japan, Australia, Britain, the United States and the Philippines are competing.

They will spend five days receiving intensive coaching from choreographer Adrian Burnett before performing in two semifinals on Wednesday and Thursday.

A final performance will be held on Saturday, judged by Queensland Ballet artistic director - and author of Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin, Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister, and Scottish Ballet artistic director Christopher Hampson.

Tickets are still available for the semi-finals, but the final has sold out.


The Genee International Ballet Competition began in 1931 as an opportunity for aspiring dancers to work with renowned choreographers and professionals.

It is run by the Royal Academy of Dance, and until 2001 it was held in London. Since then it has been staged in Athens, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Toronto and Cape Town.

This is the first time is has been held in New Zealand. Dancers aged between 15 and 19, who have completed their advanced 2 examination with distinction or Solo Seal exam, are eligible to enter.

Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded during the finals, leading the Genee to be described as the Olympics of dance.

The Dominion Post