Ballet Stars

Meet Aviva Gelfer-Mundl, the Only American 2018 Prix de Lausanne Prizewinner

Aviva Gelfer-Mundl competing at the 2018 Prix de Lausanne. Photo by Gregory Bartadon, Courtesy Prix de Lausanne.

At the beginning of the month, 74 young dancers from around the world gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland to compete in the 46th Prix de Lausanne. At the end of a packed week, eight candidates were named prizewinners, including 16-year-old California-native Aviva Gelfer-Mundl. One of seven Americans to enter the competition, Gelfer-Mundl—who trains both at V&T Classical Ballet Academy in Laguna Hills, CA and privately with Alla Khaniashvilli and Nazgul Ryskulova Shinn—was the only one to leave as a prizewinner. Pointe caught up with this nascent star to hear about her former career as a rhythmic gymnast, her time at the Prix and her plans to study at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Russia next year.

Before ballet, you were a rhythmic gymnast. Why did you make the switch to ballet?

I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was around six or seven and I competed for several years. I was actually state champion and winner of the Junior Olympics in level 5. However at age 10 I got a really bad hamstring injury, and that caused me to reconsider if I really wanted to continue the sport. I wanted something easier on the body, so I started ballet and immediately fell in love with it.


Do you find that your experience with gymnastics helps with ballet?

Definitely. I learned the essentials in gymnastics, like how to pick movement up quickly and deal with transitions. But in ballet you have to be much more elegant and expressive with the music, where in gymnastics it's more about the tricks.

What were your two variations at the Prix de Lausanne?

One variation was from Paquita. The second was Touch, Feel, Sense by Louise Deleur. They were totally different both in dynamics and artistry. In Paquita I felt I had to be very flirtatious and jumpy, but in Touch, Feel, Sense, like the name suggests, it was really about feeling the music.

What was the highlight of your time at the Prix?

The experience itself was a highlight. Also, working with the choreographers was really incredible because they gave me so many great corrections that I'll forever cherish.

What was the scariest part?

The rake! I fell a few times during the first few days, but as the week progressed it started to get better, and by the end I came to like dancing on it. It helped to adjust to it by keeping my back in place and having a good core.

What was it like to interact with other dancers from around the world?

I made a lot of friendships that I will for sure hold on to. It was really great to be in an environment with so many great dancers at a completely different level than anything I'd ever experienced.


Backstage at the Prix de Lausanne. Photo Courtesy Gelfer-Mundl.

How do you manage your nerves before a competition?

I take three slow deep breaths to calm my heart rate and then I'm ready. Sometimes I also watch meditation videos to relax my brain.

Do you know where the scholarship that you won at the Prix will take you?

Because I'm in eighth place I had to wait for the Prix to accommodate the first seven candidates, but I can now announce that I'll be training at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia next year. I know that I will miss my family and friends back home, but training at the school has been a dream of mine since I started dance. I have never been to Russia and I'm excited to visit the historic landmarks in St. Petersburg.

What's your dream company?

The Mariinsky Ballet.

What's something that you like to do outside of ballet?

I like to cook and spend time my sister and my dog and my whole family, especially my grandparents.

Do you have any advice for dancers entering the competition circuit?

Enjoy every moment of the experience because you ever know if it's going to happen again.

Show Comments ()
Ballet Stars
Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has a good thing going on. Not only is he one of the company's rising young dancers, but he's also a ballet celebrity on social media, where he charts his life on Instagram and on his hugely popular YouTube series, "The Pre Show" (which he describes as "tons of ballet, banter, boys and lots of backstage shenanigans").

The Dover, New Hampshire, native, who seems just as comfortable in a pair of pink heels as he does onstage, trained at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Portsmouth School of Ballet. While a member of Houston Ballet II, he landed an apprenticeship with the company after winning the Contemporary Dance Prize at the 2011 Prix de Lausanne. He joined the main company that same year and was promoted to soloist in December 2017. Known for his big personality, elegantly long lines and sensual flow in contemporary work, Watters, 26, is ready to take on the next phase of his career. He recently spoke with Pointe about his new rank and his mission to help others feel proud of who they are.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Cleaning is a daily procedure. Proper maintenance will help extend the life of your floor and protect its special slip-resistant surface.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Sara Webb and Connor Walsh with Artists of Houston Ballet in "Swan Lake" choreographed by Stanton Welch. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


The Australian Ballet's Triple Bill, Verve, Includes New Work by Company Dancer Alice Topp

Verve, a triple-bill program from The Australian Ballet running June 21-30 in Melbourne, will host revivals of works from resident choreographers Stephen Baynes and Tim Harbour, as well as a world premiere from company coryphée Alice Topp. Topp's Aurum is inspired by kintsugi, a Japanese art in which broken ceramics are mended using lacquer colored with silver or gold, so that the cracks are emphasized, instead of hidden. In Aurum, Topp applies that philosophy to the human ability to find beauty in vulnerability and imperfections. Completing the bill are Baynes's Constant Variants, which pairs neo-classical ballet with a Tchaikovsky score, and Harbour's Filigree and Shadow, a contemporary ballet featuring striking set and lighting design.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
ABT principals Christine Shevchenko and James Whiteside rehearse "Swan Lake" in Singapore.

In the middle of American Ballet Theatre's spring season, principal dancer Christine Shevchenko takes a break from her comedic role of Pierrette in Harlequinade to (briefly) transform into a swan. During the half hour rehearsal, Shevchenko seamlessly transitions from Odette to Odile, running through her various solos without pause—save for the short conferences with ballet mistress Irina Kolpakova, which switch between Russian and English almost as quickly as Shevchenko whips out her fouetté turns (but more on those later).

"The rehearsal process is a lot different right now because every week it's a new ballet," Shevchenko says during a rehearsal break last week. "I'm really trying to squeeze in as many Swan Lake rehearsals as I can, and at the same time, I'm trying to prepare for Don Quixote, which is the week after," she explains of juggling the season's eight programs. "This is my first year as a principal during the Met season, so I'm learning how to figure it out as we keep going. In a way, I'm used to doing parts last minute because that's how I got most of my roles," she says. Ahead, Shevchenko shares exactly how she's gearing up for her Met debut on June 20.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Carla Fracci in "Giselle," via YouTube.

In the late 1950s and 60s, Italian ballerina Carla Fracci won the world over with her definitive interpretations of romantic ballets like La Sylphide, La Sonnambula, and, of course, Giselle. At just 22 years old, she left her home stage at La Scala in Milan to begin guesting internationally, eventually forming a famous partnership with the dashing danseur Erik Bruhn at American Ballet Theatre. The two appear together in this film of ABT's Giselle, in which Fracci's Act I variation is as near to perfection as any Giselle before or after.

Keep reading... Show less
News
David Hallberg in rehearsal. Photo by Kate Longley, Courtesy The Australian Ballet.

Have you ever dreamt of the chance to choreograph for American Ballet Theatre? Thanks to ABT Incubator, the company's newly launched choreographic initiative directed by company principal (and recent author) David Hallberg, that wish could become a reality this fall. The two-week choreographic lab will run from October 31-November 10 at ABT's New York studios and will give both members of the company and freelance choreographers the chance to create new work on dancers from ABT and the ABT Studio Company. Participants will also have access to crucial dance making tools including a stipend, studio space, collaborators, feedback and mentorship from Hallberg and other artists. They'll present their creations in a private showing on November 10. "It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a statement released today. "I am thrilled that Incubator will provide the resources for emerging and established creators to explore movement and new paths in dance."

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande/Unsplash

Most commonly consumed as a powdery spice, turmeric has seen a recent spike in popularity but has been used in Indian and other Asian cuisines and natural medicine for centuries. Today, it's often consumed as a natural anti-inflammatory and a dietary supplement for a variety of medical conditions. Comparable to ginger, turmeric tastes warm and peppery. (It has a slight kick, so a little goes a long way.)

Thinkstock

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!