MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - One of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions opened in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater on Thursday, with dancers hoping to pirouette their way to fame.
Held every four years since 1969, this is the 11th international Moscow ballet competition and about 120 of the top aspiring ballet dancers from across the world are in competition for the gold medals.
Andrey Pisarev, 23, who dances at Ukraine's national ballet had finished practicing his moves in a rehearsal room.
"For me, this is the biggest and most important ballet competition in the world," he said.
"It's like the World Cup of ballet."
His father, Vadim Pisarev, won the competition in 1985.
"He became famous around the world after that win," Pisarev said.
On Thursday, dancers as young as 14 glided and jumped across the stage of the Bolshoi's second theater -- the New Stage -- where the competition was being judged.
The Bolshoi's main stage, located in a different building, is under long-term renovation.
School children and middle-aged women dominated the audience and clapped intermittently during the performances which lasted a few minutes each.
In the wings, though, the atmosphere was tense. In silence, parents and trainers made last minute adjustments to the dancers' outfits, while the competitors stared stony-faced at the stage as they waited to perform.
During the lunch break, Zoya Danilenko, 22, watched the competition practice on the stage. The Moscow-based Ukrainian was due to dance on Friday.
"I'm nervous, but my parents will be far worse when they are watching," she said.
And standards are high.
Italian ballet dancer Margarita Parrilla, who has danced the lead roles at the Rome Opera House, was one of the judges.
"I'm looking for beautiful dancers, expression and technique," she said.
"They are good but there has been too much technique. Technique is only a method for expression, and I haven't seen enough expression yet."
The final round of the tournament is set for June 18.
Editing by Paul Casciato