Filipina wins first prize at prestigious ballet tilt

Niña Terol
Filipina Candice Adea wins top prize at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition

AMAZING FORM. Power and passion combine in Adea and Cordero’s rendition of the Don Quixote pas de deux, choreographed by the late great French-Russian dancer and choreographer,  Marius Petipa. Photo by Sakari Viika / Helsinki International Ballet Competition

MANILA, Philippines – 25-year-old Candice Adea, a principal dancer of Ballet Philippines, has won First Prize, Senior Women’s Division, at the recently concluded Helsinki International Ballet Competition, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world. The competition drew 69 dancers from 28 countries, including the United States, China, Japan, Finland, Canada, Italy, and Cuba, among others.

Her partner, Jean Marc Cordero, also a principal dancer of Ballet Philippines, was a semi-finalist. He won a Special Jury Award for Best in Pas de Deux Technique (partnering).

Adea’s win makes her the first Filipino ballet dancer, male or female, to ever place first in a prestigious international competition. She beats the records of Lisa Macuja, who placed second at the Asia Pacific International Ballet Competition in 1987, and Christine Rocas, who placed second at the New York International Ballet Competition in 1997.

Prior to this victory, Adea in 2010 won the Silver Medal at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Michigan, touted as “the Olympics of ballet.” In 2011, she won the Maris Liepa Award for Artistry at the Boston International Ballet Competition and Third Prize at the Seoul International Dance Competition. With Cordero, she also won the Lead Role in a Russian Ballet Performance in Boston.

According to information released by Ballet Philippines, prizes in the Helsinki International Ballet Competition amount to over 55,000 euros. “In addition, the judges may grant one or more choreography prizes, worth a total of 6,000 euros. The jury may also at their discretion award prizes not mentioned in the competition rules.”

GRACE. The winning form of Candice Adea. Photo by Sakari Viika / Helsinki International Ballet Competition

Like an “Olympic gold”

Money aside, winning in this competition “is a huge win. It’s like winning an Olympic Gold,” says Rhea Bautista, PR Director of the Ballet Philippines and former principal of the CCP Dance School, as well as a former company member of Ballet Philippines.

She explains, “In the ballet world, the Top 4 ballet competitions (in no particular order) are in Helsinki, Finland; Moscow, Russia; Jackson, Michigan, USA; and Varna, Bulgaria. Candice has placed in two of these competitions: 1st prize in Helsinki and silver medal in Jackson.”

She continues, “JM (Cordero)’s special award was truly special because the judges recognized his extraordinary partnering of Candice, which was a key factor in her success. He was a semi-finalist, and was non-competing in the final round, but his contribution to her success was just that palpable.”

Adea and Cordero are an off-stage pair as well, and have been a couple since their high school years at the Philippine High School for the Arts. In a separate interview with this writer, Adea shared how Cordero, an actor-turned-dancer, has been her “partner in everything.” Their on-stage, off-stage chemistry is undeniable.

HIGH UP. The duo show their strength, power and grace. Photo by Sakari Viika / Helsinki International Ballet Competition

Physical and emotional preparation

Chemistry aside, Adea and Cordero’s preparations for the competition had been “intense,” according to Bautista.

“They’ve been competing intensely since 2010 for the USA IBC, so you can consider them training on and off since 2010…They would sometimes have to come in earlier, before 2 pm (which is the start of class and rehearsals of the company) and stay until 11 pm or [beyond] — after company rehearsals end at 10 pm. It’s really intense. They also go for Pilates (or do it on their own) in the morning on some days. This is after staying up late for rehearsals!”

Bautista, who has been working with Adea and Cordero in Ballet Philippines since 2004, and who has seen Candice “as a kid when she was 10 years old,” shares that the pair’s physical and emotional maturity helped them score these prestigious victories. “I think they have so much more experience in competition this time around… Plus, they went through so many challenges personally in the last few months, so they really had to dig deep to find the strength and focus to prepare for this competition.”

PERFECTION. Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero in stunning form, performing Esméralda’s Grand Pas De Deux, choreographed by their mentor, Victor Ursabia. Photo by Sakari Viika / Helsinki International Ballet Competition

 Crowd favorite

The Helsinki International Ballet Competition consisted of 3 qualifying rounds and a finals round, with dancers having to perform both classical and contemporary numbers.

In the first round, Adea and Cordero performed the classic Don Quixote pas de deux, choreographed by the late great French-Russian dancer and choreographer, Marius Petipa. In the 2nd round, the pair went dark and gritty with Evacuation, a piece choreographed based on music from the movie The Killing Fields, and choreographed by local dance luminary, Augustus Damian III.

In the 3rd round, they performed the Grand Pas de Deux of Esméralda, choreographed by Victor Ursabia, ballet master of Ballet Philippines and CCP Dance School Director, as well as the pair’s coach and mentor through their various competitions.

In the finals, Adea and Cordero performed the Diana and Acteon pas de deux for the classical category, and Aku, choreographed by Alden Lugnasin, for the contemporary category. She was a crowd favorite early on, with bloggers raving about her performances.

The blog “Pointe Til You Drop” says, “Magical was no other than my early favorite, Candice Adea. Again. She danced her Diana and Actéon variation with such technical purity, exquisite expression and warmth. I think most of the audience has already fallen in love with her! Adea and her now non-competing partner had also one of the scariest over-head lifts, which had one of my back-stage friends praying for their safety! If Ms Adea doesn’t place high, I should be very surprised.”

CHEMISTRY. The on-stage and off-stage chemistry between Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero are palpable in Augustus Damian III’s Evacuation, danced to music from the movie The Killing Fields. Photo by Sakari Viika / Helsinki International Ballet Competition

What’s next?

With Helsinki being the pair’s last competition — the age limit for such tilts is 26, and Cordero has just celebrated his 26th birthday while in Finland — their next focus will be on full-length performances.

They will be seen next in Ballet Philippines’ Crisostomo Ibarra, where they will reprise their critically acclaimed roles at the last performance with live music. This takes place on June 24, 2012, 2 pm at the CCP Little Theater. Adea and Cordero will also perform in Songs, running from July 6 to 8, 2012 at the CCP Main Theater, where they will premiere a pas de deux by Augustus Damian III.

It is clear from these historic and prestigious victories that hope shines for Philippine ballet. Whether this fine art form will garner greater support from the government, the private sector, or the artistic community remains to be seen, but for dancers like Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero, the show must go on, with the world taking notice after each riveting, heartfelt performance.

To view the full results of the competition, visit the website of the Helsinki International Ballet Competition.

Click on the links below for more.