What a week it’s been! Yesterday, the 20 Prix de Lausanne finalists took the stage for a final chance to win scholarships and apprentice contracts with some of the world’s major ballet institutions. Throughout the week, I’ve had the privilege of observing all 67 talented dancers in classes and onstage, and there’s no way I would have been able to make a decision. The talent and determination from these budding young artists is unprecedented. To quote Hamburg Ballet artistic director John Neumeier, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award at last night's awards ceremony, “There are no firsts or seconds in human beings.”
Nevertheless, eight dancers won a scholarship to enter one of the 68 Prix de Lausanne partner schools and companies of their choice.
They are, in order of ranking:
- Michele Esposito, 17, Italy
2. Marina Fernandes de Costa Duarte, 17, Brazil
3. Taisuke Nakao, 17, Japan
4. Koyo Yamamoto, 15, Japan
5. Lauren Hunter, 15, USA
6. Stanislaw Wegrzyn, 18, Poland
7. Diana Georgia Ionescu, 16, Romania
8. Sunu Lim, 17, South Korea
In addition, four other awards were given out:
Contemporary Dance Prize: Michele Esposito, Italy
Audience Favorite Award: Marina Fernandes de Costa Duarte, Brazil
Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Artistic Award: Denilson Almeida, 16, Brazil
Best Swiss Candidate Prize: Michele Esposito of Italy (a student at Tanz Akademie Zurich, in Switzerland)
Over the next month, the winners will work with the Prix de Lausanne to determine which school or company will be the best fit, with their decisions listed on the website.
The Prix's networking forum allows non-finalists, as well as those finalists who didn't receive a scholarship, to be considered by partner schools' teachers and directors. Those results will also be posted to the website later in the year. Congratulations to all!
How does it feel to be a competitor at the Prix de Lausanne? It’s day three of the annual week-long competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the more than 70 dancers are managing long yet exhilarating days full of classes and coaching sessions, while being evaluated by a nine-member jury. On top of that, the students from North and South America, Asia and Australia have a major time difference to contend with. “The jet lag was okay at first, but now it’s starting to get to me,” says Nayeli Paez, 17, from Mexico. “It was so hard to get up this morning!”
And there’s another challenge: The stage is raked, or sloped towards the audience. On Monday, you could see the candidates struggle through their turns and jumps as they tried to adjust. “It’s really steep,” says 17-year-old Houston Ballet II dancer Caroline Perry. She's performing Giselle’s Act I variation, which includes traveling hops on pointe. At the end, she says, “you’re going downstage, so you want to speed up or fall forward. I have to keep my weight back.” Fellow HBII dancer Andrew Vicseri, 17, learned a trick from his teacher: “If you look slightly up whenever you do turns or tours, it will put you on balance because it will help keep your weight back and project more.”
The competition’s week-long format has helped everyone grow more comfortable in class and onstage. This is especially true for the contemporary portion, which is given equal emphasis. By today, many of the boys were looking more confident for the judges in Didy Veldman’s contemporary class. (At one point, they even had to make crazy facial expressions in slow motion.) Each dancer is also receiving private coaching on both their classical and contemporary variation (a piece from John Neumeier’s repertoire). Paez, who moved to the U.S. to dance with HB II, notes that Hamburg Ballet ballet master Laura Cazzaniga helped give her solo from Nocturnes more artistic context. “She told me that I have to create my own story,” she says. “It’s a variation about dreams and memories, so I’m thinking of my home in Mexico and the memories that I’ve had there.”
Everyone I spoke with said that the best part of the Prix so far has been meeting new people from all over the world. “It’s just so magical, the atmosphere,” says 18-year-old Stanislaw Wegryzn of Poland, who hopes the competition will lead to a job offer. “I think in the future all of us will be dancing professionally, and all of us will be friends.”