I’m so excited! Tomorrow, I will be travelling to Lausanne. Late January and Lausanne can only mean one thing for ballet lovers: The Prix de Lausanne!
The Prix de Lausanne is one of the – if not THE – most prestigious student ballet competitions in the world. And it has a special meaning for me. For one, it takes place relatively near where I live. And then, I have been following it for a long time. When I was fourteen (let me count… thirteen years ago) and first became interested in ballet, it was broadcast on television and I videotaped it. I watched that tape so often that the colours faded to black and white, and I knew the music, names of the dancers and comment by heart. Since then, I have watched the finals and videoblogs many times, and last year even went to Lausanne for two days to watch the candidates’ classes and coaching sessions.
I didn’t get tickets for the finals, but managed to get one for the gala performance the following day. There isn’t usually a gala, as the competition seems to rather use the money to give more scholarships, but this was the 40-year anniversary of the Prix. That was the most memorable ballet performance I had ever seen. Countless international stars like Polina Semionova, Laetitia Pujol, Yuhui Choé, Federico Bonelli, Friedmann Vogel etc. danced there. I walked right past Darcey Bussell and even bumped into one of the prize winners. The best performances (for me) were by Nathalie Verspecht, Jirí and Otto Bubenícek and, most of all, Laetitia Pujol. She danced a pas de deux from a ballet called ‘Le Parc’, with Florian Magnenet, and there was a moment when she put her arms around her partner’s neck and kissed him and he, without holding her, began to turn. That part, with the music, moved me to tears.
Incidentally, I’d never seen such a lot of fur outside of a zoo as on that night at the Théâtre de Beaulieu.
The Prix de Lausanne is for ballet students age 15 to 18, and there are only about 80 candidates, who are selected from audition tapes. Each candidate has to dance a classical and a contemporary variation, and there is a very limited choice. Also, they can’t alter the choreography or tempo to suit their strengths, but have to choose an ‘official’ choreography. This, to my mind, effectively stops the purely technical ‘circus tricks’ you so often see in other competitions, for example YAGP. The organisation doesn’t just want to make money, but honestly help students on their way to become professionals. That’s what I love about this competition: it’s pure. Not just those who perform best on stage win, but those who show the greatest potential, versatility and maturity. The competition takes a whole week, during which the candidates get evaluated not only on stage, but in classes and rehearsals. There are special coaches, retired principals, who work one-on-one with every candidate on their variations. On Friday, the candidates dance their variations on stage. After that, the finalists are selected. The finals take place on Saturday afternoon, and there are several scholarships or contracts to be won, and one gold medal.
Anyway, this year, I took the whole week off and planned an exciting ballet holiday in Lausanne. I found a hotel right by the theatre that’s not too expensive, and I’m going to watch all the classes, coaching sessions and performances. I also found a ballet school in Lausanne to take some classes myself. So, now I have to go and pack!