Two teenage Filipino dancers of Ballet Manila have been accepted to compete in the junior division of the prestigious USA International Ballet Competition (USA IBC) to be held in Jackson, Mississippi in June.
This is the first time that dancers from the Philippines have been chosen for the competition’s junior division (14 to 18 age group).
Ballet Manila company artist Nicole Barroso, 16, and junior company artist Joshua Enciso, 18, are among just 53 dancers from around the world selected by the highly competitive USA IBC.
“I feel like a winner already that Ballet Manila has a junior couple in Jackson. It’s a first for our country!” enthused the company’s artistic director, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, who herself was a semi-finalist in the same competition in 1990.
Meanwhile, Ballet Manila principal dancer Katherine Barkman, 21, was accepted into the USA IBC senior category in a field of 65 competitors aged 19 to 28. She will dance with non-competing partner and fellow American Joseph Phillips who is currently a Ballet Manila guest artist.
Barkman is returning to Jackson, having been a semi-finalist in the junior division in 2014.
Held every four years, the USA IBC received over 300 video submissions which the selection committee trimmed down to only 118 dancers whose names were officially announced March 15.
It is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious competitions for its rich history, quality of judging and level of competition. At stake are more than $150,000 in cash prizes, as well as medals, company contracts, apprenticeships and scholarships.
Macuja-Elizalde said the junior competition is tougher than the senior one, but added that Barroso and Enciso could have an edge over their peers.
“Nicole and Joshua have been dancing together for quite some time now whether in competition, festivals or gala performances so they should have relatively more performance experience than their counterparts in their division,” she said.
BM co-artistic director Osias Barroso – who is Nicole’s uncle and mentor – underscored the strengths of the two dancers who will compete as a pair: “Nicole is a turner and her ability to conduct herself on stage is quite impressive. Joshua has high jumps.”
He said Barkman’s ability to analyze herself will serve her well in the competition.
“Katherine is now more experienced and a wiser, more polished performer. I am very sure she will do exceedingly well,” said Macuja-Elizalde of Barkman who, since joining Ballet Manila in 2015, has already danced the lead roles in the full-length classics Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Don Quixote and Swan Lake.
Macuja-Elizalde noted too that Barkman, who is from Pennsylvania, will have a “hometown” advantage as will have her family’s presence and support.
Barkman will have Macuja-Elizalde as her coach, while Enciso and Nicole Barroso will have Osias Barroso as their coach in Jackson.
The three dancers have already had considerable experiences as performers, and have earned awards in various international and national competitions.
Barkman won the top prize at the annual Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in Hong Kong in 2015. She also received the Gold Medal (Women’s Senior Classical Division) at the 2014 Youth American Grand Prix in Philadelphia, and was a finalist at the 2014 Youth American Grand Prix in New York City.
Barroso won first place in the junior category of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Ballet Competition in 2016. She also received back-to-back silver medals in the Asian Grand Prix in 2015 and 2016.
Enciso was a finalist in the 2017 Asian Grand Prix last August, and in the 2016 CCP Ballet Competition. Both he and Nicole Barroso have represented Ballet Manila in the Dance Open International Ballet Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in the Beijing Dance Performance Series for Dance Schools, both in 2016.
Though already seasoned performers, Osias Barroso noted that the three dancers will face even more intense and rigorous training in the next two and a half months in preparation for the USA IBC.
The competition will be held from June 10 to 23.
Two other dancers from the Philippines were named in the official list of competitors released by USA IBC: Veronica Atienza and Denise Parungao, both of whom are in the senior division.