Choreographer and host Margo Sappington set the tone for the gala performance of the second Boston International Ballet Competition Sunday evening when she stated, at the outset, that “all the participants have been so giving to each other, so nice to each other.” That fit with founder Valentina Kozlova’s vision for the competition, which is that it should be as much a celebration as a contest. The 2012 edition took place at the Cutler Majestic Theatre; the judging panel was again headed by Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen, and there were some 90 contestants from 16 countries.
The gala showcased winners from each of the three-day competition’s age divisions — student (13-14 years old), junior (15-18), and senior (19-25) — alongside some special guests and 2011 alumni. The highlight of the first half was “Beginning of a Long Journey,” which junior women’s gold medalist Min Jung Kim danced with fellow South Korean Tae Seok Kim; it described a troubled relationship, and the maturity of the choreography was matched by that of the dancers. The first-prize winner in the student division, Ji Min Ahn, is also from South Korea; she contributed a poised, radiant “Giselle” variation.