Stars in the Making: The 45th Edition of the Prix de Lausanne
THE 45 th PRIX DE LAUSANNE, JANUARY 29TH TO FEBRUARY 5TH 2017
Renowned worldwide for the calibre of dancers that attend and the unparalleled experience that the competition itself offers, the Prix de Lausanne is a pinnacle of excellence in the world of classical dance that many young artists aspire to. The quality of the dancers the Prix boasts amongst it’s ranks of former finalists and winners speak volumes for the judiciousness of the competition’s selection process in discerning not just dancers with good technique, but artistry, and above all the drive to succeed in a field that favours only the elite. However the Prix de Laussanne is more than just a predictor of success, since it’s inception the competition has been the launchpad for many of today’s brightest stars, propelling them into professional careers at some of the most highly reputed international companies including the English National Ballet, Mariinsky Theater, Houston Ballet, Opéra de Paris, Dutch National Ballet and the Royal Ballet, to name but a handful.
2017 marks the 45th year since Philippe and Elvire Braunschweig – a Swisse watch-maker with a passion for ballet and his Russian wife, a professional dancer - met with American Ballerina Rosella Hightower beside a pool in Cannes to discuss an idea for a competition that would help kick-start the careers of fledgling artists through an elite network of partner schools and companies, scholarships and financial patronage in the form of cash prizes. Today that vision is well and truly a reality. Whilst winning is a huge honour for any competitor, you don’t have to come first to walk away with a prize.
All participants, including the dancers eliminated during earlier rounds are encouraged to keep taking classes each morning of the competition and are invited to participate in the final class, where representatives from all the affiliated dance schools can observe dancers and extend training offers at the subsequent Networking Forum. Last year 30 dancers, both finalists and non-finalists, walked away with offers to study at various institutions around the world, half of them receiving either scholarships or apprenticeships on the spot and taking them one step closer to a successful career. You only need to look at the number of previous competitors benefiting from their time at the Prix de Lausanne to see the results; two of Energetiks' own Ambassadors are amongst recent finalists currently overseas training at an international school as a result of the Prix - in an unprecedented move, Bianca Scudamore was offered a place with the official school of the Paris Opera Ballet – a company not formally partnered with the Prix de Lausanne, and arguably the most coveted ballet institution of them all. Meanwhile Ambassador Makensie Henson received a full scholarship with the Royal Ballet School in London, where she now resides.
“What makes the Prix de Lausanne a unique experience is, first and foremost, the dedication to potential over present virtuosity. The Prix has, I feel, the responsibility to support individual talent and encourage young dancers to explore and reflect aspects of the human condition, suggesting in their work the noblest aspirations and possibilities of mankind. This was the defining credo Elvire and Philippe Braunschweig had in mind, I believe, when they established the Prix de Lausanne 44 years ago.”
~ 2017 Prix de Lausanne Guest of Honour, choreographer John Neumeier.
It’s little wonder then that today’s competitors rally at the prospect of joining the ranks of previous Prix competitiors and medalists, many of whom are amongst the most pre-eminent artists in the industry: Alessandra Ferri, Diana Vishneva, Carlos Acosta, Marcelo Gomes, Alina Cojocaru, Maria Kochetkova and Julie Kent make up a talent pool that continues to grow with every passing year. In fact, 2017 has seen a record number of entrants apply to compete at the 45th Prix de Laussanne. 244 girls and 94 boys from 36 different countries submitted their video auditions for judgement last year, and on October 27th the Prix’s eight appointed judges gathered at Le Presbytère (a small house near Switzerland’s Beaulieu Theater which serves as the official HQ of the Prix’s permanent faculty), along with Artistic Director and CEO, Shelley Power, where the panel spent the next four days reviewing the 338 video entries, a number they are required to narrow down to a maximum of 75. After hours of careful deliberation, 72 promising young dancers between the ages of 15-18 were selected as this year’s finalists (including ten young Australians) who begin today with registration at the Théâtre de Beaulieu and a one and a half hour classical class.
Fifteen year old Jessi Seymour is amongst the Australian competitors who flew out to Switzerland last week in preparation for today’s commencement. The New South Wales-born dancer (who trains at Alegria Dance Studios) also competed in the Genée International Ballet Competition in December last year, and spent a week in London at the Royal Ballet School before making the final leg of the journey to Lausanne. Speaking of the submission process Jessi says she was “nervous and excited at the same time. You never know what the judges are looking for, so you just have to wait and hope.” However now that the first hurdle is over, Jessi is looking forward to all the opportunities the Prix will offer, “meeting dancers from around the world, the coaches, performing, it is all so exciting!” And when asked about which company she would most like to dance with, her answer was resolute: “The Royal Ballet, that would be a dream.” With a long history of partnering between the Prix and the Royal Ballet School, and one of this year’s Guest Artists being the Royal Ballet’s Principal dancer Lauren Cuthbertson, it’s a dream that seems to be getting closer by the day, almost close enough to touch.
"Dancing is a challenging art form because you are constantly trying to better yourself from the day before. The reward is looking back and seeing how far you have come."
~ Jessi Seymour, 2017 Prix de Lausanne Candidate
For those of us not fortunate enough to be in the audience this year, dancers and dance-lovers from around the world are invited to watch the competition unfold from the 30th of January along with live audiences thanks to Live Streaming via Arte Concert, which is now in it’s third year and features interviews with candidates, teachers, choreographers and jury members as well as following activities, selections and of course, the greatly anticipated Finals on February 4th (from 2:30pm – 6pm GMT+1). By the end of the week twenty candidates will be selected as the 2017 finalists, and between 6 and 8 will then receive a coveted scholarship, granting them a year of fully-funded training at an institution of their choice, or for some competitors over seventeen, the exciting chance to apprentice with a partner company, and with a record number of entrants already, we’re certain this year’s Prix will continue to distinguish itself as one of extraordinary talent and infinite possibility for the future of dance.