Ballet Manila’s Katherine Barkman and Nicole Barroso score major triumphs in USA IBC
By Susan A. De Guzman
After two weeks of intense competition and exceptional performances, Ballet Manila scored major triumphs at the USA International Ballet Competition Friday night in Jackson, Mississippi, with resident guest principal artist Katherine Barkman named silver medalist and company artist Nicole Barroso bagging a Jury Encouragement Award.
Barkman – who was coached by Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde – tied for the silver with the Republic of Korea’s Soobin Lee. China’s Yunting Qiu bagged the gold in the competition’s senior women’s division.
The announcement of medal standings was preceded by performances of the competitors who had already been named earlier in the day as recipients of honors and prizes.
Barroso’s prize, however, came as a surprise as she had not been included in the previous announcement.
Senior finalist Veronica Atienza of Philippine Ballet Theater was also given a Jury Encouragement Award.
Barkman, with non-competing partner Joseph Phillips – also Ballet Manila’s resident guest principal – reprised their Grand Pas Classique which they had danced in the third and final round of competition Thursday night.
It was the first time for Ballet Manila dancers to compete in Jackson, with company artists Nicole Barroso and Joshua Enciso – coached by Ballet Manila co-artistic director Osias Barroso – being named among those to have passed the initial round of selection by USA IBC last March.
Macuja-Elizalde, herself a competitor in the USA IBC in 1990, has said this year’s competition was a big win for the Philippines as it drew attention to the quality of dancers working in the country.
Denise Parungao of Ballet Philippines was also a competitor in the senior women’s division.
Only 119 dancers from 19 countries were invited to compete in Jackson, chosen from nearly 300 video submissions. Ninety-nine competitors made it to the actual competition which opened June 10.
After Round I where they danced classical pieces, 44 dancers moved on to Round II to showcase their contemporary pieces. Thirty-one dancers were then selected for Round III where they danced both classical and contemporary numbers.
The Ballet Manila dancers’ performances proved to be consistent head-turners, with local media citing them in various reports. Mississippi Today, for one, noted how: “Nicole Barroso, 16, of the Philippines, whose bold, hypnotic pas de deux with noncompeting partner Joshua Rey Enciso brought down the house Saturday night.” This was when they had danced Gerardo Francisco’s Fuga during Round II.
For Osias Barroso, that the Ballet Manila training was highlighted till the very last round was reason enough to celebrate.
“I’m proud of them, that they were able to tackle whatever obstacle may have surrounded them,” he enthused. “In their adagios, Nicole and Joshua were perfect – they were really a team! Katherine balanced really well in Grand Pas Classique.”
Barroso said the Jackson experience can only be good for the dancers. “All of them will benefit from this.”
Twenty-one-year-old Barkman has been a principal dancer with the company for the past three seasons. This was her first professional stint as a ballerina, during which time she made her debut in full-length classics such as Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote and Swan Lake.
Barkman has a busy schedule ahead of her. From Jackson, she will return to Manila briefly before flying to Chelyabinsk for a guest performance with Joseph Phillips. The two will then return to the Philippines for Ballet Manila’s American Stars Gala on July 7, where they are featured alongside principal dancers from Boston Ballet and Houston Ballet.
In October, Barkman will make her debut in the full-length Le Corsaire with Ballet Manila.
Nicole Barroso first started with Ballet Manila as a four-year-old student in its summer workshop. Since then, she has been taking classes, eventually becoming a company scholar, trainee, and then company artist.
The prima ballerina said prior to the competition that the BM dancers’ edge was that they already had considerable experience as performers. All of them have also won awards in various competitions and represented the company in international festivals. They also dance as part of BM’s regular performance season consisting of four major productions.