Perspective: Interview with Ava Arbuckle, 15 Year Old Prix de Lausanne Silver Medalist & Young Talent Award Winner

At only fifteen years old, Ava Arbuckle is taking the dance world by storm, one major ballet competition at a time. Among her impressively growing list of medals and awards, Arbuckle was the 2020 Prix de Lausanne Silver Medalist and recipient of the prestigious Young Talent Award. What's next for this young, up and coming Texan talent? Read our interview with Ava to find out!

 Ava Arbuckle Ava Arbuckle © Rachel Neville 

Name: Ava Arbuckle
Age: 15
Where are you from? Frisco, Texas
Where do you currently train? Elite Classical Coaching in Frisco, Texas

Tell us about your dance training and previous awards and accolades!
I started competing when I was eight years old at a competition studio where I trained in all styles. At age twelve, I joined Elite Classical Coaching to focus on my ballet training. In these past three years, I have been awarded the 2019 Gold Medalist at ADCIBC, two-time Regional Youth Grand Prix Award Recipient (2018, 2019), Silver Medalist at the 2019 Youth America Grand Prix Finals in NYC, 2020 Texas Young Masters Winner, and the Silver Medalist and Young Talent and Artistry Award winner at the 2020 Prix de Lausanne.

What was your journey to the 2020 Prix de Lausanne like?
I’ve watched the competition via live-stream for the past few years.  When I was twelve, my coach and I set a goal to be accepted into Prix de Lausanne when I was old enough (fifteen years old). It was a dream come true to be accepted as a 2020 competitor and so exciting to be one of twenty finalists invited to the final round and then to be awarded the silver medal.

When did you start rehearsing?
I started rehearsing my variations as soon as I received my acceptance letter on November 1, 2019. Prior to acceptance, I continually focused on my classical classwork technique.

What was the audition process like?
The audition process required a video submission of classical classwork including; barre, center, jumps, and pointe work, as well as a video submission of a contemporary solo from the prior year.

How did you prepare for the competition?
I rehearsed my classical variation and contemporary solos around five days a week for about an hour a day. I also focused a lot on improving my classwork technique because you are marked equally on classwork and your variations at the Prix de Lausanne. I also took class a couple times a week not facing the mirror to help prepare myself for the circumstances at the competition. This was really challenging for me, but was very helpful in my preparation for Prix.

How did the Prix de Lausanne compare to YAGP?
There are a couple of differences between YAGP and Prix de Lausanne. At YAGP, competitors typically perform a contemporary solo that is specifically choreographed for the dancer. However, at Prix, competitors are required to choose a solo from a list of contemporary variations. I really enjoyed this because it encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone and challenge myself with different movements. Secondly, at Prix, each competitor was given several opportunities to rehearse and run through their variations on stage throughout the week.  Additionally, during the stage run throughs, each competitor was personally coached by the amazing Prix de Lausanne teachers. I definitely liked this aspect of the competition and learned a lot from the one on one coaching.

What did you perform? How did you select those particular pieces?
I performed the variation, ‘Awakening of Flora’ and a contemporary solo called, ‘Abstract’ choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot. My coach and I agreed on both choices. The classical variation was an easy choice because it matched a lot of my strengths. But for the contemporary selection I decided to challenge myself with a solo that included sharp geometrical movements and challenging coordination. 

How do you prepare yourself mentally for competitions? Any pre-performance rituals?
I like to imagine that I’m performing at a gala or showcase with no stress of being critiqued. Before going on stage, I take a minute to clear my mind and fully become my character. I imagine the character’s surroundings, her emotions, and try to focus solely on telling her story while I'm dancing. It sounds a little cheesy, but I promise it helps.

Do you feel like you were able to network with other dancers, teachers, or professionals while you were there?
For sure! I met so many amazing and talented dancers from around the world that I hope to maintain relationships with in the future. 

What did you receive upon winning the Silver Medal and receiving the Young Talent Award?
I was awarded 1,000 Swiss Francs by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation for the Young Talent and Artistry Award, as well as a scholarship of one year’s free tuition and 20,000 Swiss Francs for living expenses to any partner school of my choosing. I’m beyond grateful.

What’s next for Ava? What are your short term and long term goals?
Next year, I plan to move to Stuttgart, Germany to train at the John Cranko School. I’m so excited for the experience and the opportunity to live in Europe. My goal is to improve as much as I possibly can and soak everything up. As far as long term goals, I hope to dance in a prestigious professional ballet company and perform all my dream roles.

Ava Arbuckle by Rhi LeeAva Arbuckle © Rhi Lee

I know you've used Pointe Paint! What do you like best about it?
I love how easy and quick it is! Before using Pointe Paint, I could never get my shoes the right tone to match my skin, and I’d make a huge mess mixing foundation and water. Pointe Paint is super neat and has lots of fun color options.

Have you used it for any performances or photo shoots?
I’ve used Pointe Paint for tons of photo shoots and performed my contemporary ballet solo, ‘The Courante’ choreographed by Former ABT Principal, Marcelo Gomes, in shoes pancaked with Pointe Paint.

What is your favorite shade of Pointe Paint? Is there a color or product you’d like to try next?
My go-to color is always the Macadamia shade. It matches my skin tone perfectly. I’d love to experiment with some bright colors in the future! Also, I can’t wait to try out PointePeople’s new essential oils.

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