Perspective: An Interview with The Prix de Lausanne

Cover photo: Prix de Lausanne 2020 by Gregory Batardon 

While the past year and a half has been full of challenges and uncertainties in every way possible, it has also prompted innovation and collaboration unlike any other. One organization that truly met the moment and found a way to continue was the distinguished Prix de Lausanne, which hosted a virtual competition in 2021, allowing participants from across the world to still compete, even during these difficult times.

Though this year was a true test of strength, innovation is nothing new to the Prix de Lausanne. The international ballet competition for young dancers aged fifteen to eighteen has been pushing the competition scene forward since it first began in 1973. Just one year after starting, the Prix de Lausanne became televised - and has been broadcasted or streamed ever since, allowing dancers and dance lovers around the world to experience the talent of the promising dancers the competition attracts.

We sat down with Kathryn Bradney, Prix de Lausanne Artistic & Executive Director, and Pauline Daragon, Communications & Marketing Manager, for a deeper look into the competition, its roots, and its future.

Prix de Lausanne 2020. Photo by Gregory Batardon
Prix de Lausanne 2020, photo by Gregory Batardon
Kathryn Bradney, Artistic & Executive Director (KB)
Pauline Daragon, Communications & Marketing Manager (PD)

Hi Kathryn and Pauline, thanks for joining us! To start, can you share with us some of the fundamental reasons why the Prix de Lausanne is necessary for the world of dance? 

KB: The Prix de Lausanne helps to keep the core values of a dancer’s education and well-being, physically and mentally.  A reminder to all schools, teachers, dancers, and institutions that a ballet competition should be in the best interests for the dancers and their futures.   

What sets PDL apart from other competitions? 

PD: Health policy, values, respect of the dancer, excellence, quality of the teaching, and networking.

Can you describe what the atmosphere is like during the competition week? 

KB: Hospitality and kindness.

PD: Concentration and work. Support between the coaches/teachers and the dancers. Friendship. 

Prix de Lausanne 2020
Prix de Lausanne 2020, photo by Gregory Batardon

Since the contemporary dance category was added to the competition in 1984, how have you seen dancers grow outside of the classical ballet sphere? 

PD: It shows a different side of their artistry, of their talent. 

Do you feel that any additional categories will be added in the future? 

KB: Choreography. We have started the Young Creation Award to talent scout for young talented choreographers. 

I know that you have a panel of nine world-renowned judges for each competition. How do you select this jury and how does the critiquing process work?
KB: The jury is composed of international dance professionals such as the Prix de Lausanne prize winners and/or partner school and company directors that include diversity from different countries and cultures.

The jury is asked to evaluate potential as the most important criteria, among others, and the evaluation process lasts six days. It includes the ballet class, the contemporary class, the classical variation, and the contemporary variation.

What kind of prizes and grants do you provide to winners of the competition? 

KB: Each jury member notes each candidate individually, and the top scores define the prize winners.  There are also discussions about potential between the jury members and the President of the jury before deliberating.

PD:  A year of scholarship or a year of apprenticeship - depending on the age and level.

Prix de Lausanne 2020 Panel
Prix de Lausanne 2020 Panel

How does the Prix de Lausanne help cultivate young artists, both dancers and choreographers?

KB: Young, aspiring dancers and choreographers dream of being selected to participate in the Prix de Lausanne, which requires many hours of training, dedication, and especially passion for ballet and dance. 

Keeping dance alive and evolving, especially during these difficult times, is our ongoing goal.

Can you tell us a bit more about the classes provided to the competitors? 

PD: Classes are for all the participants during the entire week of competition. We ask international dance professionals to come and teach, such as Patrick Armand, Nicolas Le Riche, Monique Loudières, Elisabeth Platel, and Clairemarie Osta. 

KB: There are also coaching sessions with world renowned choreographers and coaches, such as Mauro Bigonzetti, Wayne McGregor, Richard Wherlock, and Goyo Montero.

Why do you think it’s so important to live-stream and broadcast the competition online to any and all who would like to tune in?

PD: To share the experience worldwide and free of charge!

I know that the Prix de Lausanne has grown in size from 30 students to up to 80 now competing. What are some of the other most notable ways that the Prix de Lausanne has changed or evolved since its inception in 1973?

  • Broadcast on TV - Switzerland (1974) 
  • Creation of a Professional Prize (1980)
  • New Contemporary dance lesson (1984)
  • PdL in New York (1985), Tokyo (1989) & Moscou (1995)
  • Contemporary variation (end of the 90s)
  • Creation of a Contemporary Dance Prize (2000)
  • New Individual coaching (2000)
  • Broadcast online (2002)
  • 1st Networking Forum (2004)
  • 1st Video Selection (2006)
  • Raised of the upper age limit for candidates (2007) > division of the candidates in two groups of age
  • 1st Lifetime Achievement Award (2017)
  • 1st Partner School Choreographic Project (2018)
  • 1st Summer Intensive - European Preselection (2019)
  • 1st Young Creation Award (2021)
  • Preselections in Latin/South America (since 2011)

For more information about the competition, visit this link: Our History.

Prix de Lausanne 2020, photo by Gregory Batardon
Prix de Lausanne 2020, photo by Gregory Batardon

Does the PDL continue its connection with winners after the competition ends, and if so, in what ways?

PD: Of course! The Prix de Lausanne Prize Winners, Finalists, and all of the former candidates are part of our community. We follow them and help them as much as we can, if they need. The Networking Forum day, at the end of the competition week where the dancers meet with partner directors, is also part of this process.

What would you tell students who are interested in auditioning for the first time? Any advice or words of wisdom you can share?

KB: I encourage all dancers who dream of becoming a professional dancer and who train intensively to apply. My advice is to listen to your bodies to prevent injuries and to preserve your determination and passion for dance.  

What do you think is the future of classical dance? Where do you see it heading in terms of style, artistry, ability, audience preferences, inclusivity, etc.?

KB: I think that there is a future for classical dance.  There is an evolution in the balance between tradition and innovation with progress in technique yet keeping artistry.  I believe that the current slogan, ‘No culture, no future’ is true and has been confirmed by all dancers and dance lovers around the world.

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