14-year-old Malaysian ballerina wins top prize at the inaugural International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore

Malaysian dancer Cheyenne Lok (right) won the IBGPS Grand Award, and Singaporean Deborah Loh (left) took home the IBGPS Singapore Grand Award.
Malaysian dancer Cheyenne Lok (right) won the IBGPS Grand Award, and Singaporean Deborah Loh (left) took home the IBGPS Singapore Grand Award.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A Malaysian ballerina pipped more than 170 other young dancers to the top prize at an international ballet competition in Singapore on Sunday (June 16).

"I was shocked," said Cheyenne Lok, 14, who lives in Kuala Lumpur and hopes to become a professional ballet dancer one day.

The inaugural competition, known as the International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore (IBGPS), was organised by the Singapore Dance Alliance and is the first and only ballet competition to be supported by the National Arts Council and Singapore Dance Theatre. It is open to ballet dancers aged seven to 18 of all nationalities and skill levels.

The five-day event, which also featured conferences and workshops on ballet and contemporary dance, culminated in an awards gala at the National Library's Drama Centre Theatre, with Education Minister Ong Ye Kung as the guest of honour.

The prizes were given out after performances by dancers from the Singapore Dance Theatre and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

Cheyenne, who attends daily ballet classes and has been learning ballet for a decade, bagged the IBGPS Grand Award - the top award for the competition - as well as the IBGPS first prize for participants aged 13 and 14, and scholarships to ballet programmes at Elmhurst Ballet School, The Australian Ballet School and New Zealand School of Dance.

Taking home another top prize was 16-year-old Singaporean Deborah Loh.

Deborah, a student at the School of the Arts in Singapore, took home the IBGPS Singapore Grand Award, along with the IBGPS first prize for those aged 15 and 16, and a scholarship to a programme at the National Theatre Ballet School in Australia.

"It feels very liberating, very freeing (to dance)," she told The Straits Times.

"It helps me get my mind away from stresses outside of dance... Once I'm on stage, I don't think of anything, I just dance."

A total of 60 awards -including encouragement awards - were given out.

On the jury panel were New Zealand School of Dance's director Garry Trinder, Elmhurst Ballet School's artistic director Robert Parker, and The Australian Ballet School's ballet mistress and level 8 classical teacher Joanne Michel.

About half of the 175 dancers who applied were from Singapore, with the remainder hailing from countries such as Malaysia, China, India, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.

Those who performed well received trophies, medals and certificates on Sunday. A total of 35 scholarships to various local and international ballet programmes were also awarded.

"We are very encouraged by the level of interest shown for the first IBGPS organised in Singapore," said IBGPS chairman Lisa Latip.

"The IBGPS has provided a platform where we could identify the next generation of talented dancers. Because of the competition, we can nurture these dancers and help develop their passion by giving them recognition and opening doors for them through the scholarships offered by the prestigious ballet schools. We look forward to bringing you an even more exciting IBGPS next year."