Joffrey Ballet School and Complexions Contemporary Ballet – two well-known, reputable dance organizations. Last year, they joined forces and formed Élite Dance Tournament (ÉDT), a competition that centers on professional training and investing in dancers who are keen on seeking a career in concert dance. With such artistic knowledge and professionalism behind this competition, it will be exciting to see where ÉDT goes this new year and beyond.
These days, there seem to be so many dance competitions out there that it becomes almost confusing to tell them apart. A few characteristics make ÉDT different from others out there, however. For one, ÉDT offers a plethora of master classes during each event. Dancers partake in intimately-sized classes and learn from top teachers and choreographers, including Desmond Richardson, Josie Walsh, Dwight Rhoden, Jo Matos, Davis Robertson, Michael Blake and more.
“We offer master classes during the competition event to simulate a more realistic approach to what a day in the life of a dancer looks like,” says Shannon Monticciolo, director of operations.
These classes will have no more than 30 students, allowing more attention for each dancer from the distinguished faculty.
“Our class sizes are on purpose more intimate,” explains Desmond Richardson, co-founder and co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. “To have a one-on-one experience from instructor to the dancer is a great focus for us, and having seen the success of last year’s classes, we noticed the students’ growth.”
When participating in an ÉDT event, dancers will have the option to either only take master classes and not compete, or participate in the classes and compete. This option offers dancers the experience of being in a unique learning environment without the pressure of competing. And for those who do compete, part of their overall score will consist of their score in the master classes.
“Our purpose first and foremost is to educate our dancers in a learning environment,” Monticciolo says.
Josie Walsh, artistic director of Joffrey West (LA) and Joffrey San Francisco, adds, “Competition is a learning experience ultimately, so with that mission, class is just as important. Part of their overall score includes their score in the master classes, as we are judging the whole dancer and his/her ability to absorb new information and not solely based on a piece they’ve been rehearsing repeatedly and polishing. We are fostering artists, which is a life-long process that’s constantly evolving, and one must always learn, grow and strive for the next level. Learning is an art in itself and should be applauded, not just quick results. We are inspiring students beyond the competition, as that’s one of the tools to assist them on their paths as artists.”
ÉDT offers master classes in each of its three tracks – classical ballet, contemporary ballet and jazz/contemporary. That these tracks are unlike the usual competition/convention world demonstrates the commitment that Joffrey Ballet School and Complexions have for the future of their dancers and their potential professional career.
During the competition portion of ÉDT, dancers ages eight through 22 may participate in group or solo categories in either of ÉDT’s three tracks.
“The competition is adjudicated by three to four panelists,” Richardson explains. “The dancers are judged on their articulation, passion, technical prowess and innovativeness. The judges are respected professionals within the dance community. They can offer the dancers their unique prospective of the craft in helping the dancers achieve greatness.”
Another unique feature of ÉDT is that competitors are not just awarded trophies and medals. Instead, prizes include monetary awards and scholarships. Individual dancers and studios have the chance to win $2,500; one competitor will receive a paid apprenticeship with the Joffrey Concert Group, valued at $24,000; Complexions will also offer an apprentice position with its company; and many scholarships to Joffrey Ballet School Summer Programs and its Year-Round Trainee Program will be awarded.
“We wanted to offer money at this time as an incentive for dancers to be able to use these monies toward their studies and along their dance journey,” shares Richardson.
With its eminent faculty and judges, its focus on education and artistic growth, and its commitment to the future generation of dancers, ÉDT promises to be an enriching experience, both to those dancers who wish to compete and those who are just looking for new ways to develop their craft.
“My hope for ÉDT is that dancers take this amazing opportunity and run with it,” Richardson concludes. “We are here to share and give back, and when a dancer comes to me and says, ‘I loved the ÉDT experience,’ I know we are on the right path.”
ÉDT will tour across the United States in 2016, making stops in Queens, New York; Denton, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Miramar, Florida; Valencia, California; and Arlington, Texas.
For full details, including packages available, and for registration information, head to www.elitedancetournament.com/register.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): ÉDT Judges. Photo by Heber Pelayo.