Benedict Sabularse in John Neumeier's Vaslaw. Photo by Gregory Batardon, Courtesy Prix de Lausanne.

Inside Prix de Lausanne: From Foster Care to International Stage

It's Thursday morning at the Prix de Lausanne, and San Francisco Ballet School director Patrick Armand is teaching class. In the front row stand John Edmar Sumera, 16, and Benedict Sabularse, 17, two candidates from the Philippines. Each has a juicy plié and strong pirouettes, but what's even more apparent is how eagerly they soak up Armand's corrections--and how quickly they apply them. There's perhaps a reason for their sense of urgency: they've only been training for three years. But there's more to it than that. Both young dancers started ballet classes through the Tuloy Foundation, a nonprofit organization for poor, abandoned and homeless children that works with the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Philippines. Founded in 1993, it provides rehabilitation services, vocational schooling and supervised housing for approximately 200 children.

Tuloy Foundation also has a thriving ballet program through a partnership with Academy One Music and Dance Center, where Sumera and Sabularse receive free training. (It set up a special Facebook page to cheer the boys on.) “We're not a national school, but we're serious about what we do," says Academy director Cherish Garcia. “These two boys took to it quite naturally." So much so that both have attended summer intensives on scholarship at The Royal Ballet School.

John Edmar Sumera dancing a variation from Coppelia. Photo by Gregory Batardon, Courtesy PdL.

While Sumera and Sabularse originally took classes three times a week, their teachers Jeffrey and Pamela Espejo ramped up their training to six days a week to prepare for the Asian Grand Prix last August. “I thought, if they do well, we'll try the Prix de Lausanne," says Garcia. To their surprise, Sumera won silver and Sabularse placed fourth and received a special award.

Both boys dream of dancing professionally with a company like American Ballet Theatre. “I always tell them their future is not in our country," says Garcia. “There's not much in terms of work for a ballet dancer." While neither moved on to Saturday's finals, they hope that their performances at the Prix result in a scholarship offer to a professional ballet school. “We're meeting new teachers and making new friends," says Sabularse. “It's been a very good experience."

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Latest Posts

Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks