For a small competition, Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition is packed with 20 power judges and loads of promising talent. More than 100 serious students ages 11 to 25 gathered in New York to dance at Symphony Space, culminating in a gala Sunday June 10. Judges included top figures like Nina Ananiashvili, director of State Ballet of Georgia; Andris Liepa, People's Artist of Russia; Jeon Mi Sook, faculty of Korea National University of Arts; Victoria Morgan, artistic director of Cincinnati Ballet; choreographer Margo Sappington; and Olga Guardia de Smoak, artistic advisor to the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Panama.


Classical gold medalist Yu Jeong Choi from South Korea

In its seventh year, the talent, according to de Smoak, was outstanding, especially the male contestants. For the first time at VKIBC, two grand prix were awarded: Bakhtiyar Adamzham of Kazakhstan in the senior classical division, and Sungmin Kim of South Korea in the contemporary division.

At the gala, Kozlova, who is a former principal with both the Bolshoi Ballet and New York City Ballet, honored Arthur Mitchell, founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem. The award was accepted by Eddie Shellman, former principal of DTH.

Valentina Kozlova, in her tribute to Arthur Mitchell, all photos by Costas, courtesy VKIBC

Kozlova posted part of her speech on Facebook: "Performing art has no borders, nationalities, color and minorities. We have our love for dance, inspiration, passion. I salute anyone who is not afraid of taking risks and following their vision and their souls."