Korean dancers make mark at Swiss eventEast Asia is the center for classical ballet in the 21st century, or at least one could believe that after watching the Prix de Lausanne last month.
More than one-third of the 110 candidates from 26 countries who took part in the international dance competition at Theatre de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland came from Japan, South Korea and China. Of the 11 finalists, three were from South Korea, two from Japan and two from China, while only six competitors from Europe, considered the birthplace of ballet, reached the final.
In one week, under the eyes of a jury of nine distinguished teachers and dancers, the candidates, all between 15 and 18 years old, had to train, dance and suffer. They had to prove their abilities in classical as well as contemporary dance.
The selection process is tough and, needless to say, can never be completely fair. That is one of the reasons why the Prix de Lausanne is enhancing some other aspects of its program. In line with a new formula inaugurated in 1999, it is pursuing its evolution toward including contemporary dance and confirming its educational mission.
From the educational perspective, the candidates were able to perform twice in front of the jury before the first selection verdict was announced. Even non-selected candidates could take part in lessons attended by jury members and talk with them on an individual basis to get feedback. Each candidate was also given a chance to work with world-renowned teachers as well as choreographers.
Special attention is also paid to the school careers of young prize-winners. The Prix de Lausanne now supervises, where necessary, the official schooling of those receiving scholarships, since they generally travel to institutions outside their own country and are confronted with a foreign language. Although the host schools offer prize-winners high-quality training (both scholastic and professional), as well as an efficient infrastructure, the young scholarship holders are sometimes faced with a difficult transition from their former schools to their new educational environment.
The quality of this year’s aspirants, especially among finalists and semi-finalists, was indeed high. Many dancers from South Korea have now developed a very creative standard; some years ago, to most Asian dancers artistry came second to mechanical proficiency. This has certainly changed.
The three South Korean dancers left quite an impression in the final. Kim Yu-jin, 16, danced a very subtle and technically fine variation from “Raymonda (Tableau du Reve)”; she danced it with sweetness and an innocent ease, offering wonderful pirouettes and finesse in musical expression. And she was just as convincing and dazzling in her contemporary variation of “Like Leaves” by Nicolo Fonte (music by Arvo Part).
Won Jin-young from Seoul showed the finest interpretation of a contemporary variation. The two Japanese and Chinese finalists had technically high standards but appeared a bit too cold.
The Prix de Lausanne Scholarships at a prestigious ballet school (tuition plus living expenses) were awarded to Ms. Kim, Zherlin Ndudi (Ukraine), Han Seo-hye (South Korea), Karen Azatyan (Armenia) and Adeline Kaiser (France). The Prix de Lausanne Apprentice Scholarship at a major international company (scholarship and living expenses) went to Ms. Won.
by Walter Bruderer