Prix de Lausanne 2023


Celebrating its 50th Anniversary Year, 22 young dancers (selected from the 82 who participated in Lausanne) were chosen to perform in the finals of the Prix de Lausanne held at the Théâtre de Beaulieu. AMANDA JENNINGS reports on the finals and the gala performance featuring many of the competition's former winners along with some of the today's leading dancers. 

The annual Prix de Lausanne is always a highlight of the ballet year; this year was a special one as it was the 50th year of the competition. In addition to the week-long feast of class, coaching, selections and finals, all now streamed online, we were offered a closing gala featuring several previous participants, highlighting the success the competition has achieved in providing a platform for young dancers at the start of their careers.

It was a pleasure to watch the beautiful classes given by Julio Bocca and Elisabeth Platel, both showing their love and care for the art form through their detailed, precise corrections. The young contestants were extremely lucky to receive coaching from Monique Loudières and Nicolas le Riche, both of them utterly charming (nice to see you, said Le Riche to each dancer as he arrived for his session), calm and nurturing, putting the youngsters at ease immediately so that they could get the most out of the sessions. All of this, together with interviews with the Prix artistic staff and with jury members, was ably hosted by Cynthia Harvey and Jason Beechey, who have developed an engaging rapport and kept everything moving along perfectly.

The selection for the finals can never please everyone; it was particularly surprising to me this year that Pedro Marques from the Conservatório Internacional de Ballet e Dança Annarella Sanchez did not make the cut. I am certain we will see and hear more of him in the future.

Each dancer performs a classical solo and a contemporary one. In the final, Alecsia Maria Lazarescu (15, from Romania) and Giuseppe Ventura (18, Italy) both showed an impressively mature feel for the Wayne McGregor style in Chroma, as did Wendel Vieira Teles (15, Brazil) and Fabrizzio Ulloa Cornejo (16, Mexico) in Yugen. Frederick Stuckwisch (18, USA) did well with Bejart’s Les Concours. Sangwon Park (18, S. Korea) and Ana Luisa Negrão (18, Brazil) were particularly expressive in Les Ombres de Temps by Luca Branca, a previous winner of the Young Creator award.

There were several standouts in the classical solos: Sooha Park (15, S. Korea) in one of the Odalisques solos from Le Corsaire, Vieira Teles in one of Franz’s solos from Coppélia, Millán de Benito (15, Spain) and Fabrizzio Ulloa Cornejo in Flames of Paris, Ana Luisa Negrão in Grand pas Classique (although if you have good feet, as she does, you must take care to stretch them when not on pointe!) and Soo Min Kim (18, S. Korea) in a Paquita solo. Best of all I liked Giuseppe Ventura’s Corsaire solo, and the immaculate work of Seehyun Kim (17, S. Korea) in the Esmeralda solo. This is so difficult to get right, and Kim was spot on, adding a great characterisation to her steely technique, with lovely secure turns, long lines and excellent placement throughout. Deservedly, she won the Audience Favourite prize, and the No. 5 scholarship.

The Young Talent prize, awarded by the Nureyev foundation, went to Julie Joyner (17, USA), who had shown total commitment in her contemporary solo, Rossini Cards by Mauro Bigonzetti, and in Grand Pas Classique, where the only slight weakness came in the second round of those devilishly difficult relevés. Joyner also won the No. 4 scholarship. Two contemporary internships went to Alexander Mockrish (16, Sweden) and Ana Luisa Negrão, who also won the No. 7 scholarship. No. 11 went to Soo Min Kim, no. 10 to Ventura, No. 9 to Emily Sprout (16, Australia) No. 8 to Keisuke Miyazaki (15, Japan), No. 6 to Lazarescu and No. 3 to Sangwon Park. Exceptionally, a second prize was not awarded; instead, the judges decided to award two first prizes, to de Benito (who also won the Web Favourite prize) and Ulloa Cornejo, who also won the prize for best Swiss candidate as he trains at Ballettschule Theater Basel in Basel.

The two Young Creator awards were won by Elena Dombrowski (France) from the Pôle National Supérieur de Danse Rosella Hightower for ‘Tout va bien?’ danced by Tom Bellec, and Aleisha Walker of the excellent American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, whose piece Do You Care? was danced superbly by the Studio Company’s lovely Madison Brown. Their two winning choreographies will be added to the Prix de Lausanne 2024 contemporary repertoire, and they will have the chance to coach the candidates who have chosen their variations during the 2024 competition week.

The celebration gala fizzed and thrilled. It was a nice initiative to have a piece created from scratch by Goyo Montero for students from some of the Prix’s partner schools. They had only a few days to prepare it, quite a feat.

Among the Prix prize-winners performing were Alina Cojocaru and Friedemann Vogel in John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias, Laura Fernandez and Xander Parish in Closure by Juliano Nunez, Maria Kochetkova in 27 Zero by Ella Rothschild, Steven McRae dancing his self-choreographed tap solo, Czardas, Mackenzie Brown in Limelight by Katazyna Kozielska, Precious Adams with Eric Snyder in Christopher Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth, and Mizuka Ueno in The Dying Swan. Matthew Ball appeared in Frederick Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits. Marcelino Sambé and Francesca Hayward gave us a beautiful account of the Nocturne from Ashton’s The Dream, and previous winner Mayara Magri shimmered alongside the excellent Victor Caixeta in Don Quixote. Caixeta also danced the beautiful pas de deux from Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Nutcracker, with the luminous Olga Smirnova.

For me there were four standout performances. Previous prize-winner Vadim Muntagirov danced the Black Swan pas de deux with Elisa Badenes; as I have said many times, if you are looking for exemplary classical technique combined with the perfect danseur noble demeanour, look no further than Muntagirov, and here his sleek elegance was very successfully paired with the fiery attack of Badenes, who flirted her way brilliantly through the excellent technical work. Previous prize-winners Madison Young and Julian MacKay gave a beautifully nuanced, emotional reading of the pas de deux from Giselle Act II; this often doesn’t hold up well as a stand-alone piece, but somehow these two excellent young dancers managed to create something of the atmosphere in the theatre, and Young’s delicacy and thistledown lightness brought luminosity to her elegant dancing.

All the superlatives apply to António Casalhino (previous Gold Medal winner) and Margarita Fernandes. The Diana and Actaeon duet is not for the faint-hearted, but it held no fears for either of them as they showed off brilliant technique, excellent use of head, arms, shoulders and eyes, and buckets of sheer charm. Casalhino’s triple tours and virtuoso jumps and turns are only part of the point; he understands what it means to be an artist and to be onstage, and communicates his sense of pride and love of dance in every movement. What stars these two will become.

I have left the best until last. Marcelo Gomes is, surely, the apogee of artistic classicism. His physique, his head carriage and his commitment all speak of pure artistry; the fact that he is a superb dancer is just a lucky added bonus. What a joy it was to see him in a beautiful duet with Alejandro Azorin (a first soloist with the Dresden Semperoper Ballet), Faune(e) by David Dawson. Not only is the piece interesting choreographically, it is highly atmospheric and conveys so much meaning through the movement, vividly brought to life by the two dancers. Seek this out if you get the chance to see it live.


This article will also be published in the April/May 2023 issue of Dance Europe along with an interview with the Prix de Lausanne Artistic & Executive Director Kathryn Bradney