Canadians have won gold and silver in the thrilling conclusion of the Wien Welt Wettbewerb dance competition — one of Europe’s most prestigious dance events. Michelle Khoo and Chihiro Abe conquered the thirteen to fifteen year-old category with a combination of impressive technical skill and breathtaking artistry. As it was the first international competition for both dancers, overcoming the stress and anxiety of performing on the world stage was quite an accomplishment.
Both Khoo and Abe have been training at the prestigious Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver for over ten years; however, the dancers had a mere month to prepare their variations for the competition. Khoo performed excerpts from Flames of Paris and Coppélia to win first place in her ballet category. She was also honoured with the “Most Talented Young Performer” award in the contemporary category, demonstrating the range of her artistic skill. Abe impressed with her performance of the famous Bluebird variation from Sleeping Beauty and a solo from La Fille Mal Gardée, earning her the second prize. Both dancers performed in the grand finale of the competition at the magnificent Viennese Volkstheater, dancing alongside international stars.
“Seeing dancers from around the world was an eye-opening experience, and it really motivated me to work harder,” said Abe. Khoo shares this sentiment, noting that her participation in the competition taught her a great deal about herself. “I gained the ability to control my nerves and keep calm,” she observed. “Possibly the most important thing I learned this week was the discovery that I have the ability to move an audience with my dancing. This is something very special to me.”
Overall, two hundred entrants representing twenty countries shared their dancing at the competition. These two hundred competitors performed for twelve judges, including Chan Hon Goh, who represented Canada, indeed, the whole of North America, with her judging. “I was extremely proud of the Canadian representation here in Vienna,” said Goh. “Their love of dance radiated across to the audience.”
Khoo and Abe are members of the Senior Professional Program at the Goh Ballet Academy. You can see them perform in Goh Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker on December 18 to 22 at the Centre in Vancouver where they will share the stage with Paloma Herrera, a prima ballerina with American Ballet Theatre.