By Inessa Pleskachevskaya
Despite her tender age, Yekaterina is a veteran of ballet contests; Beijing is her ninth event. The dancer explains her love of competitions, and yearns to keep learning, understanding her place in the ballet world. “Competitions are extremely important for ballet dancers, enabling them to watch other dancers from all over the globe, viewing different schools and learning from famous masters. If you stay with a single theatre and the same troupe, it can be interesting; a diverse repertoire and performances help artistes develop. However, at competitions, you gain another view and see yourself in relation not only to your own theatre but to the whole world. You can watch Chinese and European schools, comparing them and taking on the best from them,” Yekaterina smiles.
Speaking of the Chinese school, a famous Belarusian ballet master and honourable guest at the Beijing competition, Valentin Yelizariev, notes, “The path which has taken 200 years for the Russian ballet school has taken the Chinese just 50 years.” The Chinese occupy top places at the most prestigious world contests — such as those held in Moscow and American Jackson.
Ms. Oleinik admits that every troupe has outstanding dancers but some troupes stand out more than others. “The opening evening featured a concert of several Chinese troupes. Their training and commitment were amazing. These were large troupes, of 30-40 people, but each danced as if they were a soloist; their mastery was impressive,” she says. With this in mind, it was no surprise that the major award of the Beijing competition went to Chinese artistes, though it may have helped that the event was being hosted by China. In just a short period of time, the Chinese may be acknowledged as worldwide leaders. Meanwhile, they celebrate wins at prestigious contests — not only for their excellent skills but for a large number of entrants. Ms. Oleinik explains that, in recent years, large troupes from China and Korea have been common.
Chinese audiences are as prepared as their performers, loving ballet as much as they do in Korea and Japan. The Chinese are true experts in this art. Accordingly, words of recognition and admiration pronounced by Asian professionals have significance. Reviews of Ms. Oleinik’s performance were full of exclamation, with greatest emphasis on her advanced fouettes. Kenji Usui, the Chairman of the Japan Ballet Association, notes in Russian, “She is wonderful. Not many artistes like her exist.” He adds in English, “This is great. I’ve been attending ballet competitions since 1986 but her standard is rare. She is now among the best ballerinas in the world.”
Actually, the start of the contest was not easy for Yekaterina. On the eve of the event, her Kazakh dance partner was injured. Fortunately, Honoured Artiste of Belarus (and Ms. Oleinik’s theatre mate) Konstantin Kuznetsov offered his help. He greatly impressed the Beijing audiences and, even, the other artistes. Each of his supports was accompanied by loud applause and, after his Don Quixote variation, cries of ‘Bravo!’ were heard. He noted, modestly yet with satisfaction, “Ballet artistes earn respect during their performance but it’s afterwards, when your colleagues offer approval, that you know you’ve done well.”
Ms. Oleinik convinced the jury, who awarded her performance. There were few representatives of the European school in the finals, so a special prize from the National Centre for the Performing Arts was a true success for her. The contest was being held for the first time, so each winner is already part of history.
I sincerely envy all those who attend Belarusian Opera and Ballet Theatre performances this coming season. They’ll undoubtedly admire the ballet and Yekaterina. Meanwhile, I’ll be awaiting the next Beijing competition.