I've never been to the Adeline Genee Awards before. I have never actually been to any dance awards ceremony before come to that. What would it be like? Would there be tears and sneers and fights amongst the parents for example?!
Well it was all a very civilised affair held in the dignified surroundings of Her Majesty's Theatre. Her Majesty's actually has a magnificent Victorian interior and massive roaring lions above the stage. If anything smacked of a time of Empire this was it and the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) whose awards the Adeline Genee are, are clearly strong in the old Empire/Commonwealth. Of the 11 finalists there were 4 from Australia, 2 from New Zealand and 2 from Canada - leaving 2 from England and 1 from Scotland to complete the numbers. All were girls: it was not such a good year for boys perhaps and injury seemed to have taken its toll too.
Proceeding started with class, complete with a pianist squirrelled away in the wings. Anthony Dowson (former RB Principal and now at the ENB School) took the class and they had all run though things a time or two before so their minds were ready - no tricks here. What surprised was the difference in timing and basic musicality in even the elementary positions and movements. All the students are numbered and one starts to think things like "5, 3 and 6 then" as a kind of shorthand for who you like and how they are doing. But come another section other dancers come more into their own and the choice changes. And some contestants fade as time goes on and stamina - physical and emotional - gets sapped.
By the end of class I had been through several clear winners, but 5 and 7 had perhaps featured more.
On to the final section - Variations - where the competitors could dance a piece from Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty or Giselle. They all tackled their roles with clear aplomb but some just have that extra dash of whatever and jump out at you as having no problems getting a job. If they have then God spare us. Again ones view's responded to what one saw and number 2, who seemed to fade at the end of the class section, came right back. In the end I had it as 5, 2 and 7.
Off for an ice cream then back to see Coppelia Act III pas de deux danced by Leanne Benjamin and Johan Kobborg of the Royal Ballet. Leanne had won the Genee in 1980 and was there as positive proof of just how far it can be taken. Getting to Genee or winning something helps open doors but ultimately it's just another start it occurred to me. Benjamin and Kobborg did everybody proud and put us all in a good mood to hear the results and see the awards given.
Antoinette Sibley is the RAD President and was also chief of the judges - the other judges were Monica Mason and Wayne Sleep. I've never heard Sibley speak before and was impressed. There was rightful praise and thanks for all the effort, a lament about the lack of boys and also some real technical critism/advice about getting this or that right. It was above my head but everybody else seemed to appreciate the candour of it.
I'd also been impressed by the RAD Chief Executive's speech at the start of the evening. Somehow Luke Rittner put it all in context by saying something like "and whatever happens do remember that none of us are built to fail". Except he put better than that - sorry.
In the end the judges were split and decided to award 3 Silver prizes rather than a Gold, Silver and Bronze. They went to:
Goh Ballet Academy, Born 1983, Canada
Royal Ballet School, Born 1982, New Zealand
Royal Ballet School, Born 1983, England
But to me they were rather better known on the night as 5, 9 and 2.
Congratulations to them, and all the other competitors, for giving us all so much pleasure - not just at the Genee, but in the years to come as well.