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Hello everyone. You’re listening to the first episode of the Prix da Lausanne from within podcast. In this podcast, we will talk with some of the key figures of the 50 years of history of the Prix de Lausanne, to have an insight into their professional opinions and shed some light on the most curious, complex, and burning issues in a professional dancer’s career path.
In this first episode, we will tackle one of our top trending questions: how to get selected for the Prix de Lausanne. Naturally, we chose the most expert guest for this first topic: Artistic and Executive Director of the Prix de Lausanne, Kathryn Bradney, former Principal Dancer and Ballet Master with the Béjart Ballet Lausanne.
– Hi Kathy.
– Hi Jennifer.
So the next competition, which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Prix de Lausanne, is getting closer. How does it make you feel? What are you looking forward to?
I’m very excited about this 50th year anniversary. Imagine 50 years of a ballet competition that started so small and has become so big and so important in the world. So, I’m looking forward to greeting our Finalists, our Prize Winners from the past and to celebrate this great anniversary.
So, tell us, how do you get into the competition? How do you select the candidates?
Well, we have a preselection by video in the month of October, where we have a nine-member Jury watching over 400 videos in four days, so we have square eyes. Meaning that we watch every video which is from 10 to 15 minutes long, and we judge individually without a discussion, as the Prix de Lausanne does, because every jury member has their own background and their own taste. We have our criteria for talent, artistry, technique, physique. So, everything is evaluated and controlled very closely.
Are there any quotas, such as nationality?
No, there are no quotas at all. We see each video anonymously, so we don’t see the candidate’s name, we don’t see the country and we don’t see the school. So, every candidate is really judged for their own talent and especially potential.
Why are there so few participants from the Middle East or from Africa? Ann Wixley became a Prize Winner in 1998, and Leroy Mokgatle in 2016, both South African dancers. And in 2021, Egyptian dancer Luca Abdel Nour has also become a Prize Winner. There is obviously no lack of talent in these parts of the world. So why are there so few participants from there?
Well, I think there are few participants because there are few ballet schools in Africa and the Middle East. Probably, one reason is financial difficulties. Sometimes countries have financial problems, and classical ballet can be very expensive if you don’t have a scholarship. At the Prix de Lausanne, we are lucky to be able to help financially many candidates. We have generous benefactors that help us pay their travels and hotel stay coming to the Prix de Lausanne. We also realize that in some Muslim countries, ballet is not really permitted. I spoke with Luca Abdel Nour, and he said that he had difficulties as a young dancer, finding support, and emotional support actually, to become a dancer. So, it’s really a combat that I wish to have an evolution in for the next 50 years for the Prix de Lausanne and develop more classical ballet in the Middle East and in Africa.
We look forward to seeing this progress. Another burning issue or question is: how do you choose the Jury and are there any quotas around this topic?
Actually, there are quotas for the Jury. We have criteria where we try to get Jury Members from the five continents in the world at least every two years. So different nationalities, division men, women, a balance between Prize Winners and Directors of our partner companies and schools. So, it is a lot of work finding Jury Members and I start actually looking for them even before the Prix [de Lausanne] of the previous year. So, it’s a year-round job.
We look forward to the 2023 Jury announcements, very much so. So how do you make sure that they remain impartial and what happens if one of the Jury Members has a student of his amongst the participants?
Well, actually, I research their background to make sure that their history is a positive one, that they are part of our partner schools and companies that have been evaluated by the Prix de Lausanne, and if they have one of their own students in the present they are not allowed to vote. So, this actually is fair for the candidate, because the vote becomes divided between eight jury members and not nine jury members, so it doesn’t penalize the candidate.
Thank you. You have started your Prix de Lausanne journey about 16 years ago. You must have tons of funny anecdotes and inspiring stories. Would you care to elaborate on one of those today?
Yes, well, left the Béjart Ballet [Lausanne] as a professional dancer, and so I was looking for my next step in my career, and Prix de Lausanne said: well, why don’t you come and be a Jury Member for the preselection videos? And this was the first year that the preselection videos started, and so I said yes, with pleasure. And at that time, we were about 20 Jury Members and divided into groups. And so, we were watching video cassettes of these dancers, and then we preselected, and then we had to see all of the preselected candidates once again with the video cassettes, and so it took days and days. It took over a week, it was quite an experience. Then they asked me to film video blogs at the Prix de Lausanne. And so, I started filming the candidates, edited them all night the videos, and then put them on YouTube the next morning. And that was a first actually in the world of ballet competitions, and it was quite exciting to see how many viewers just boomed at that time.
What future do you see for the next 50 years of the Prix de Lausanne? Big question here.
The future of the Prix de Lausanne is to be visible all year round, which we have already started. We have the European Preselection, which is a Summer Intensive, every summer for the past three years, where we preselect candidates for the next Prix de Lausanne. We have developed workshop projects and master classes, and our goal is to be visible on every continent within the next 50 years. It’s important for me to continue protecting young dancers from physical or psychological trauma by making partnerships only with schools and dance companies that have a healthy learning and working environment.
Wonderful! Thank you, Kathy, for your time, and we look forward to the 50th anniversary of the Prix de Lausanne.
Thank you for having me, Jenifer, and please save the dates: January 29th to February 5th. Our finals are on February 4th and the Gala of the Stars on February 5th, our 50th year celebration. Thank you for having me.
Wonderful, thank you.
Thank you for listening to this episode, we hope you enjoyed it. Don’t hesitate to click like & share. If you have any questions for our future guests, send us a message via our website or our social media. Stay tuned for the next episode.