Mai Kono, Prix Laureate in 2007 and Demi-Soloist with the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich
I initially came to the Prix de Lausanne when I was 15 years old. I passed the quarter finals but that was it. I wanted to come back to go further, I had been following the competition since I was a child. I watched it every year on TV, had seen videos of young Alina Cojocaru dancing. It was my dream to make it to the finals and receive one of the prizes – ultimately to see if I could have a career in Europe. Even though I didn’t make it all the way that year, I received an offer from the Heinz-Bosl-Stiftung at Ballet Academy Munich to study under Konstanze Vernon.
On Desire and Determination
I wanted to come back to the Prix the following year, but my school didn’t give me permission because we had a performance during Prix week.
I asked a friend to help me make an audition tape anyway and sent it in. I got accepted and went to Konstanze Vernon to ask for permission one more time. This time, the answer was yes!
…going on stage, I reminded myself of what Frau Vernon used to say: “present yourself, give your heart to the audience. Enjoy, because if you do so, the audience will as well.” The atmosphere at competitions is usually very intense. In Lausanne however, I really enjoyed myself throughout the 5 days. I made friends and it was a nice environment. I stayed in touch with some of my fellow Prix candidates via Facebook, some now work in England at ENB and in the U.S.
The Ballet Scene in Germany
Munich was always my first choice, so I didn’t consider any other companies really. The diversity of the repertory was what always fascinated me. After winning a scholarship and the audience prize in 2007, the Bavarian State Ballet offered me a contract. In 2011, I got to dance the Bluebird variation (Princess Florine) in Sleeping Beauty. Our artistic director came on stage after the performance to announce my promotion to demi-soloist. My jaw dropped and all I said to him was: “W-h-a-t?”
Words of Wisdom
I remember being so stunned by the quality of the beautiful dancers around me that I couldn’t focus enough on myself, on being expressive and on enjoying the time spent dancing. I guess my one bit of advice for young dancers entering the Prix de Lausanne would be: don’t compare yourself. Focus on being you.
You get stronger through this experience, just by practicing the variations alone, by navigating the raked stage. Let your dancing come from the inside out and give, give, give!
Mai Kono at Prix 2007 – © Thierry Jayet
Mai Kono and Ilia Sarkisov on tour in Hamburg 2013, rehearsing Jirí Kylian’s Gods and Dogs – © Nicha Rodboon