Houston Ballet Academy students Tyler Donatelli, who is 17 and from Huntington Beach, California, and Michael Ryan, who is 17 and a native of Plano, Texas, have been accepted into the prestigious international ballet competition Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland January 26 – February 1.
Dancers: Michael Ryan and Tyler Donatelli; Photo by Cameron Durham
They are in Switzerland this week for an once-in-a-lifetime experience: taking classes, being coached by international experts, and networking with other gifted young students from across the world. The public can follow their daily progress and watch the final round of the competition on Saturday morning, February 1, via live streaming at the Prix de Lausanne’s web site, www.prixdelausanne.org
Since 2009, five HoustonBalletAcademy students have won awards at the Prix de Lausanne, with one student, Emanuel Amuchastegui, taking the top prize, and the “Audience Favorite” Award in 2010. Other Houston Ballet dancers who have won awards at Prix de Lausanne include Joel Woellner, Harper Watters, and Aaron Sharatt.
Joel Woellner at Prix 2013; courtesy of Prix de Lausanne
Behind each of these five winners and Tyler and Michael are a superb group of Houston Ballet Academy instructors who spend months preparing, coaching, teaching and nurturing the young dancers to ready them for the rigors of competition – and in the upper levels of the Academy’s professional training program.
Claudio Munoz is ballet master of Houston Ballet II, and has played a major role in producing the stellar crop of gifted young male dancers in the Academy over the last decade. He enjoyed a distinguished career as a principal dancer who performed in Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, and New York. He then went on to serve as an instructor for the Ballet Nacional de Chile, Ballet de Santiago, and Ballet Nacional de Peru. He joined the staff of Houston Ballet Academy in 1999. With his charismatic manner, his exacting standards, and his humorous banter in the studio, he has won the affection and dedication of his male students.
Claudio Munoz teaching Houston Ballet Academy students; Photo by Cameron Durham
“Claudio understands competitions and balances the pace of the students coaching. He knows when to push and when to step back and allow the student room to find his way,” comments Academy Director Shelly Power. “Claudio has a wealth of experience that makes his intuitive approach to coaching unique and nurturing.”
Priscilla Nathan Murphy is principal of Houston Ballet’s Lower School, and typically focuses her attention on the Academy’s youngest students. But recently she has taken a significant role in helping to prepare Tyler and Michael for this year’s Prix de Lausanne. Priscilla has served on the Academy faculty since 1985, having taught creative movement, ballet and modern dance in the pre-professional and professional divisions of the Academy. As a dancer, she has performed in Singapore and the United States with several companies. She has also choreographed extensively in the United States.
Priscilla Nathan Murphy
“Priscilla is an organic mover,” observed Ms. Power. “Although she might not have worked with the contemporary choreographers whose works the students are required to perform at the Prix, she understands the genesis of the movement. She prepares our students who are competing from a technical level, making them open and responsive to the coaching that they will receive at the Prix. We depend on this foundation because the students cannot go to Prix worried about how to do a contraction. Our students need to focus on how the flow of the movement makes them unique, and they need to be sensitive to the feedback from coaches at the Prix that they are expected to embrace.”
Sabrina Lenzi and students of Houston Ballet Academy
A native of Rome, Sabrina Lenzi brings a wealth of international experience to her role as ballet mistress of Houston Ballet II from having danced as a principal at two very prestigious European companies, the Stuttgart Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet in the United Kingdom. “Sabrina’s a great coach; she’s very intuitive. She understands the great classical roles because she’s performed them,” observes Ms. Power, “Because Sabrina has been trained in Pilates, she comprehends the body from many different perspectives — from injury prevention to strengthening. Sabrina understands the many different phases of developing a career in dance: from training to become a professional dancer. And she’s very good at helping her students make that transition. She’s also a mom who has a daughter in the Academy, and being a mother gives her a special understanding of the process.”
A native of Sidney Australia, instructor Andrew Murphy enjoyed a distinguished career as a leading soloist with The Australian Ballet and as a principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet. “Andrew is an excellent male role model. He’s very good at helping the male students (some of whom may have been in a school with a majority of girls) to develop an athletic approach with strong attack when they come to Houston Ballet Academy,” commented Ms. Power. “Being very well travelled as a dancer, he brings many experiences from a lifetime of dance in Australia, the United Kingdom, and in America. He started studying ballet very early, and joined a professional company at age 16, which is quite young. Having danced all of the principal roles with companies across the world, he brings a wealth of experience to his coaching. Andrew is an excellent turner, and he has a superb understanding of the nuances of male dancers executing turns.”
Andrew Murphy and students of Houston Ballet Academy; Photo by Nerio Photography