We wanted to enhance the international image of the Prix and it was therefore essential to take it abroad.
New York in 1985, Tokyo in 1989 and Moscow in 1995: within ten years, the competition experienced three big foreign trips. Each was based on the same formula, with selected rounds for the semi-final held in Lausanne for European candidates, while the same stages took place in parallel in the host cities.
It all started when Harvey Lichtenstein, director of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, opened the doors of his theatre to the Prix. The New York Times devoted a major feature to the visiting competition from Switzerland, and an enthusiastic audience was there to witness it. There were of course some scary moments, due to the difficulties inherent to logistics in such a huge city, such as the finalist’s coach driver who took an overly long nap and arrived at the Finals in the very nick of time.
In scheduling the Tokyo venue in 1989, Philippe Braunschweig had other goals. He had been making annual visits to Japan since 1956 and had even created a Prix de Lausanne office there with Hiroko Yamada in 1980. Young artists involved in Western-influenced arts such as dance had a very tough time in Japan, and holding the Prix de Lausanne in Tokyo was intended to give the Japanese press an opportunity to highlight this difficult situation. Communication with another civilisation required long preparation on the part of organisers, and Hiroko Yamada devoted two years full time to preparing and staging the event.
Organising the Prix in Moscow closely resembled a “mission impossible”. The legendary Bolshoï Theatre, with its immense stage and great performers, is evocative of the entire history of ballet. Nonetheless, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Prix de Lausanne, as a private institution, was unable to welcome candidates from the Soviet Union. From 1992 onwards, Philippe and Elvire Braunschweig attempted to recreate links with Russian ballet, but the distrust Russian ballet schools felt for the Western world made this an extremely difficult task. In order to convey the message that the Prix de Lausanne had great potential to offer youthful talents from Eastern Europe, it was essential to hold the competition in Moscow and to obtain optimal coverage by the Russian press. During the twelve months prior to the event, a representative travelled to Moscow each month to supervise preparations. The lack of organisational coherence in Russia rendered this mission extremely complex, but it was thanks to the determination of Philippe and Elvire Braunschweig and to the efficiency of Patricia Leroy, Secretary General of the Prix, that the project finally reached fruition. The role of Elvire, who was of Russian origin and perfectly bilingual, was particularly significant. In the end, the consistent efforts and travels paid off and the impossible proved possible after all.