9 September 2021 08:59
With The Fonteyn International Ballet ompetition (formerly The Genée International Ballet Competition) just around the corner we reached out to previous Gold winner Monet Hewitt to see how she is going and for some of her memories of the competition……….
Monet was just 16 when she competed in the 2018 Genée competition in Hong Kong, she is one of many New Zealanders who have had success at the Genée over the years. This year NZ dancer Alice McArthur has made it to one of the 15 finalists, the final is being screened online this year on the 9th September (10th September NZT). We would like to thank Monet for taking time out of her busy schedule with the RNZB to answer our questions.
What were your memories of performing and winning GOLD at the Genée?
The Genée was an incredible experience! It was so much fun performing in Hong Kong and I was awestruck when I realized I had won. I remember when they were awarding the Gold medal they first stated that it was awarded to contestant number 3. I actually forgot what number I was as they had changed our numbers for the final, so I remember still clapping thinking “I wonder who number 3 is ha-ha.” If they hadn’t followed it with Monet, I probably never would have realized it was me!
Was the Genée everything you expected it to be?
I had competed in lots of ballet competitions growing up so was generally comfortable around the experience of competing, but the Genée definitely had a different feel to it. Given the prestige of the competition I was way more nervous about what to expect. However it exceeded my expectations! Everyone was so supportive and welcoming – I still am in contact with a lot of those dancers who I competed with! Some from as far away as South Africa. They are such gems and it was truly lovely to be beside them all during the course of the week.
How do you deal with nerves?
For me, I really try not to overthink anything. I know that I have done all I can do so I just put on my music and listen to it full volume in the changing room as I’m getting ready. I usually sing as well haha which I find gets rid of any last unwanted nerves or adrenaline!
What is the best part and hardest part of the Genée?
The best part was definitely the support I had. My mum flew with me to Hong Kong and then two of my teachers flew over specially to watch me compete. That made me feel incredibly special and their support really carried me through. The Genée is unique in that it is about the whole experience, not just entering with the mindset of winning the competition so I loved being able to share the little stories and mishaps that happened over the course of the week with them at the end of the day.
The most challenging part for me was learning the new choreography. We are taught a new dance that we are required to dance alongside our set variations. I have never been particularly speedy when learning new combinations or routines so it was definitely challenging! There is not the safety net of knowing that you have weeks to perfect the dance, so the pressure to learn quickly felt magnified. I was extremely blessed as the dance Layla resonated with me really well and almost felt like it was choreographed for me.
Favourite part of the Genée experience?
Most definitely it was the friends I made along the way. Ballet competitions had been quite solitary in the sense that you prepared at home for weeks, then rocked up to a venue, competed and then went home. At the Genée we were all far away from home, living together for an extended period of time and really only having each other to rely on. I remember we used to help each other in the lunch breaks – reviewing what we had learnt and just having a bit of giggle.
What or who inspired you to enter the Genée competition?
It was my mum’s idea to enter the Genée. I had always loved the competition and when I got to the age where I was eligible to enter, she entered me without even asking first haha! She must have believed in me which definitely helped me throughout the competition.
What would you say to Alice McArthur who is about to perform in the final of the 2021 Fonteyn?
I would tell Alice to just cherish every moment of it because no matter what the outcome it will be an experience that she will never forget.
Do you have any tips or tricks to help dancers preparing for a competition?
Make the dance real to you and make it different from everyone else. Give the audience a reason to love watching YOU. & pointe your feet while you’re at it haha!
You are currently dancing with the RNZB, how is that going?
I am loving every moment of being with the RNZB! I love all the tutors and being able to dance choreography I love.
My first performance was Giselle – exactly 10 years earlier I was a child extra in that same version of Giselle. I remember asking every dancer in the company, as well as Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel for their autographs. I still have the programme – so crazy !! I am actually dancing with some of the dancers I looked up to growing up so it’s a real privilege to work alongside them.
If you would like to see Monet dancing at the Genée, here is a link to her commissioned variation