Can art be a competition?

"Competitions are sources of inspiration, networking and friendship, despite their rivalrous setting"

The Helsinki International Ballet Competition will begin on 1 June 2020 for the ninth time. But can art ever be a competition? We posed the question to Minna Tervamäki, a former étoile ballet dancer who currently works as a choreographer and multidisciplinary dance professional. 

Metric or temporal measures, of course, don’t apply to art competitions. This means their results can never represent an absolute truth. Nor does success in a competition necessarily translate into a successful future career. 

– It’s all about a single performance in a single moment in time, not the entire genre of ballet with its myriad roles. A competition obviously gives an idea of the competitor’s skills, but a performance is not quantifiable. Personal likes, dislikes and interpretations are always involved in ballet, just like in ballroom dancing. The judges can choose certain assessment criteria, but it’s still a matter of preferences, Tervamäki muses.









Picture: Susan Tuulosniemi

Still, for a dance professional, competitions are intensely interesting events, as they are full of the explosive energy and enthusiasm of youth.  

For young dancers, competitions provide an excellent opportunity to develop and grow. They require working towards a clear goal and rehearsing major ballet roles that still remain unreachable professionally. 

– As a young competitor I would rehearse key scenes fromThe Sleeping Beautyand Swan Lake. When I got to perform them later on, my body had already memorised them. Competitions were important processes that gave me personal coaching and guidance, Tervamäki says.

Competitions also enable young dancers to observe other competitors’ performances and different approaches to ballet from around the world.

– Competitions are sources of inspiration, networking and friendship, despite their rivalrous setting. 

Written by Marita Kokko

Translated by Anna Kurkijärvi-Willans


The language of dance is universal

There are no linguistic barriers when it comes to dance, as its language is shared by all of humanity. Neither can there be a single correct interpretation of dance, as everyone is free to translate it in their own way.

 – This is exactly why dance is so fascinating, says Minna Tervamäki, a choreographer and multidisciplinary dance professional with a long career as an étoile ballet dancer.

According to Tervamäki, dance as a form of expression and interaction is deeply ingrained in us all. It’s a universal language, one of the oldest in the world. 

She emphasises the positive effect of dance on brain health and physiology. It also improves our ability to focus and handle stress.

Classical ballet is typified by extreme precision of form and movement. It’s fine-tuned to the last detail, and reaching the top requires many years of work. 

– Ballet combines physical and artistic expression, which are in turn fused with music, Tervamäki explains. 

Ballets like The Sleeping Beautyor The Snow Queenhave very clear storylines. However, the more abstract works revolve around a certain ambience or emotion. 

– You can’t put these works into words, just like you can’t always find words to describe your own mood or emotions. That doesn’t make them any less real. 

Tervamäki points out how dance appeals to us on different levels, many of them unconscious. 

– You don’t need to understand every emotional process you go through. Just let it come to you and feel it. You’re close to a magical experience that doesn’t have a rational explanation. 

Minna Tervamäki’s life still revolves around dance and choreography, and the way the two can be combined with other art forms. She has always been fascinated by expression that brings movement and music together. 

– It’s clear that dance is very demanding as a hobby and profession, both mentally and physically. It takes a lot, but it has also given me so many incredible moments and experiences. That’s why I carry on dancing, because I really enjoy it. I enjoy my everyday work and rehearsing.

Dancer and choreographer Minna Tervamäki took part in many ballet competitions in her youth. Today she is the Vice Chair of the Board for the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. Picture: Minna Hatinen






An ambience of passion and excitement

The Helsinki International Ballet Competition will be organised for the ninth time this year, beginning on 1 June. 

Minna Tervamäki sees ballet competitions as an easy introduction to the genre, as performers and works change in quick succession. The excitement and passion in the air remind her of athletics championships. For a first time visitor, a competition can be a revelation that ballet isn’t remote and alien after all. Instead of staying for the duration, it’s possible to just pop in too.

– Ballet isn’t that extraordinary in the end. Ballet competitions radiate with the energy and enthusiasm of extremely skilful young competitors who are really giving their all. I personally love the wow factor that you get in their performances. 

The audience plays an important role in encouraging the young dancers. Without the audience there would be no competitions, and no opportunity for the young people to have their progress evaluated.

The International Ballet Competition will take place at Helsinki’s Opera House. The grandeur of the location is emphasised by the stunning beauty of the Töölönlahti bay and park in the early summer. 

 – Despite its splendour, the Opera House is very welcoming. It’s the ideal setting for rooting for your favourites who perform under intense pressure.

Written by Marita Kokko

Translated by Anna Kurkijärvi-Willans


Application for competitors has started

Registration will be open until 31st of January 2020.

Applicants will have to fill out the online application form, forward all the required pictures and documents and pay the registration fee of €100 before 31st January 2020. The selection will be primarily conducted by video auditioning. All participants will be nominated by the HIBC Selection Committee in early spring of 2020.

Read more about the application procedure and fill out the online application form in


Helsinki International Ballet Competition honours the memory of its founder, Doris Laine

The 9th Helsinki International Ballet Competition to date will take place on the Finnish National Opera and Ballet stage from the 1st to the 8th of June, 2020. The competition was founded in 1984 by professor Doris Laine (1931–2018), whose extensive tenure as the prima ballerina of the Finnish National Ballet was followed by a career as a cultural politician and an advocate of dance. The 31st of October, 2019 would have been Laine’s 88th birthday.

Photo: Roni Rekomaa

Doris Laine first had the idea to establish an international ballet competition in Helsinki while working as a jury member for ballet competitions in Moscow, Jackson and Varna. Thanks to her tenacity, Laine gained the necessary backing from the City of Helsinki as well as various cultural funds and businesses. The 2020 ballet competition honours the heritage of its founder with the new Doris Laine Award, which will be given to a future ballet star with exceptional artistic talent. The winner will be chosen by the competition jury. The 12 000-euro award will be donated by the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation. Read more about the awards. 

Over the years, the Helsinki International Ballet Competition has grown into one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world. Jorma Uotinen, Dinna Björn, Kenneth Greve and Madeleine Onne, Laine’s successors as Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet, have each developed the competition further. With its jury of leading international ballet professionals, the well-organised event provides young talents a week-long learning path towards the top of their genre. Recognition in the Helsinki International Ballet Competition has catapulted several young ballet stars to international fame. These include, for example, Yimeng Sun, Maria Baranova, Iana Salenko and Marian Walter. Read more about the winners of HIBC. 

The dancers accepted into the 2020 competition will be announced in February.

The Chair of the Board of the Helsinki International Ballet Competition is professor Jorma Uotinen, with dancer and choreographer Minna Tervamäki as the Vice Chair. Read more about the association. 

For more information, please contact: Paula Ranto, secretary general of the competition, tel. +358 50 452 2409,

For images of the competition and Doris Laine, please contact: Mila Kajas-Virtanen, tel. +358 40 530 5400,


Tickets to HIBC 2020 are now available

Tickets to Helsinki International Ballet Competition 2020 are sold at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet Box office, their partner Stockmann and web shop.

Ticket prices for single tickets vary between 35 to 85 euros. Under 20-year-olds, students, pensioners, the unemployed as well as military and non-military servicemen are entitled to discounted tickets. Discounted tickets are only available for the first and second round performances at Almi Hall. Availability for discounted tickets is limited. Please also notice the ticket packages. 

See the Opera and Ballet Customer service opening hours and ticket details in 



Jury of HIBC 2020

The jury of Helsinki International Ballet Competition 2020 has been published. 

The jury of Helsinki International Ballet Competition 2020 has been published. President of the jury is Madeleine Onne, Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet. Other jury members are Nina Ananiashvili, Frank Andersen, Patrick Armand, Julio Bocca, Jorma Elo, Cynthia Harvey, Feng Ying and Miyako Yoshida. Please read more about the jury members in Jury page. 


The New Spirit of Helsinki International Ballet Competition 2020

Helsinki International Ballet Competition will be organized for ninth time in The Finnish National Opera and Ballet from the 1st to the 8th of June 2020. HIBC 2020 has a new look and a new strategy.
“All the competitors will represent the generation Z. It is a generation with a highly visual mindset, so it was time to refresh HIBC as well,” says secretary general Paula Ranto.

The new visual identity expresses the energy of movement and the lively spirit of HIBC. “We want to emphasize the beauty and energy of ballet along with bold messages. That’s what ballet is; beauty and perfection combined with strong emotion and the power of expression”, describes visual designer Tessa Helle.



Photographer Ofer Amir captured four young dancers: Yimeng Sun, Benjamin Kuefler, Felipe Domingos and Erika Pastel. Yimeng, Benjamin and Felipe dance in the Finnish National Ballet and Erika just graduated from the Ballet School of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. She has been appointed to Norwegian National Ballet 2 company. Ofer Amir was assisted by star dancer and choreographer Minna Tervamäki

Inspired by the blooming wild dandelions all over Helsinki in the beginning of June, the dancers wear sunshine yellow that draws attention and pops out of the shades of gray in the background, representing the rock-solid organisation behind HIBC.


The HIBC is known as a well-organized competition. “We heard from former competitors that they really appreciate HIBC´s passionate atmosphere, benefits and the culture of winning and learning. The last four years have changed Helsinki into one of the most attractive cultural cities in Europe. This energetic combination creates the new Spirit of HIBC. Our mission is to make everybody a winner”, explains strategy director Marja-Liisa Pollari.

The president of the HIBC 2020 Jury is Madeleine Onne, the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet. “HIBC will gather some of the most prominent leaders of ballet schools and companies from all over the world to participate in the 2020 Jury. With their experience in how to find the best talents I am sure we will all have a good experience together during the 9th HIBC", tells Madeleine Onne. HIBC is organized by the Helsinki International Ballet Competition Association. The chairman of the board is Jorma Uotinen and the deputy chairman is Minna Tervamäki. Application period will start 1 November and the selection will be primarily conducted by video auditioning. Ticket sales begin in the autumn 2019 via the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.

More information:

Secretary General Paula Ranto
+358 50 4522409


President of the Jury – Madeleine Onne

The Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet Madeleine Onne is the President of the HIBC 2020 Jury. The other members of the Jury will be published later.

“As the artistic director of the Finnish National Ballet, I am very pleased for the tight cooperation between the ballet competition and Finnish National Ballet. An international dance event of this level and importance gives indispensable international exposure to dance in Finland”, Madeleine Onne says.

“The impact ballet competitions have on young dancers is significant: they open doors to renowned companies and offer invaluable inspiration to aspiring dancers.”  

“Helsinki International Ballet Competition has during the years assured its place among the most acclaimed international ballet competitions. Since I started working in the Finnish National Ballet, I have received numerous comments from Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Australia when leaders within the ballet world have expressed their admiration for the Helsinki International Ballet Competition and the exemplary way it is organized. “

Among the winners of the Helsinki International Competition are many successful principal dancers, such as Iana Salenko (Berlin State Ballet), Jurgita Dronina (Canada National Ballet), Daniil Simkin (American Ballet theatre and Berlin State Ballet) and Jeffrey Cirio (American Ballet Theatre), among others. 

“I myself was one of the jury members in 2012 and I hired the Senior Gold Medalist Candice Adea to join the Hong Kong Ballet as one of the leading dancers”, Madeleine Onne continues. 

“The mission of the Helsinki International Ballet Competition is not only to serve as stepping stone to young dancers; during the last years the competition has also raised its reputation being an international educational event for all the participants. With the mission of the competition “Turning everyone into a winner”, the organizers want to emphasize the educational aspect of the competition. The young dancers might not always get a prize but the hours they have spent on practicing in preparation for the competition, that itself is usually the biggest gain and something they all will remember as a unique period in their career.”

All competitors also receive top quality training and take part in workshops throughout their stay in Helsinki during the period of the competition.  

“In the world of computers and non-moving activities for children and young adults and in a time when culture is more important than ever I hope this “gem” among ballet competitions in the world will continue its mission”, Madeleine Onne emphasizes.

Read more about Madeleine Onne

Photo: Stefan Bremer



Paula Ranto manages HIBC 2020

Paula Ranto has been nominated as the Coordinator of the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. The next HIBC will take place in the beginning of June 2020.

“Helsinki International Ballet Competition will be one of the most inspiring events during 2020 in the city of Helsinki. Helsinki has become one of the rapidly growing and interesting culture hubs. Globally, ballet and dance are the cultural hot topics. So there will be a unique Spirit of Helsinki during HIBC 2020.”

Paula Ranto is specialized in creative industries and cultural projects. Se has worked with several art and culture festivals as well as the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.
“As an arts and culture enthusiast and a professional communicator I see HIBC as a unique chance to create new Spirit, not only for all the participants, but also for the City of Helsinki as well as our partners. Arts and culture are the next big thing in our society and this trend will only grow stronger ”, Paula says.

Her role is to coordinate the HIBC competition, including the background operations. Paula Ranto is the first contact for any competitor, press, partner and other inquiries. 

Paula Ranto co-operates closely with the HIBC association, HIBC voluntary network, supporting associations and sponsors as well as all the HIBC Spirit creators.

“HIBC is highly valued internationally and a well organized ballet competition with full of magical Nordic summer light. So HIBC, in the heart of Helsinki City, will be the place to be in the beginning of June 2020.”