Guest writer: Shelly Power, associate director of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy
We entered Switzerland and immediately I remembered that I wish I spoke at least one other language. I am traveling with two of three students who speak two languages, and Emanuel speaks four! Now that my ego is totally destroyed I will attempt to have them get me on the right train to Lausanne!
We arrived in Lausanne and Liao said “Oh this is so much fun! It looks like Beijing!” Not sure what reminded her, but her exuberance is delightful. Aaron has never been on a train and is anxious for a snow storm (something about making snow angels). Emanuel is in his element; he loves to travel and seems to ease into a new climate.
We taxied to our next destination, which is the home of a Houstonian and former Houston Ballet level 8 student Kathleen McClure, who is here studying at the Bejart School. Her family has generously offered a few beds for the week. The Bejart School, by the way, offers a full-on arts program that not only teaches many disciplines of art, but also offers the philosophy of each art form and how it cultivates a dancer’s identity and movement. Kathleen expressed her expanded view of movement and how she is learning to dance from the inside out rather than just the opposite. She is speaking pretty good French now and managed to get us through the grocery store and a 45-minute post office fiasco. She’s definitely given us a better sense of the Suisse way of life! She has been a gracious hostess, and we are so grateful to her family for their generosity.
After you have been in Lausanne even for one hour, it is not hard to hear your conversations reeking of ART! Every nook and cranny has a larger-than-life Prix de Lausanne poster reminding everyone of this fantastic week of dance. If you saw last week’s Houston Chronicle travel section, you may have seen the article on Switzerland. I only wish they had acknowledged this great event!
We stopped by the Theater to get acclimated to what will be our new home for the next few days. The Prix committee is exceptionally organized, and it was evident as soon as we arrived. Packets were assembled; big screen projectors set up for up-and-coming final selection announcements (picture your number up on the board as one of the contestants passing to the next round. It’s very dramatic as the crowd waits with baited breath for results on Saturday); and seminar-like chair groupings for informational sessions on Tuesday, the first day of the Prix.
We toured the theater and studios, then it was time to do some stretching and testing of the new raked studio flooring. The stage being a 5% raked slope may be normal to many European dancers, but for Americans it is quite a change. Imagine dancing and jumping uphill! This year the Prix decided to address our concerns about dancing on such a stage with a little rehearsal time; they managed to turn one of the studios into a raked practice floor. Aaron, Liao and Emanuel all were smiling as they jumped and turned, trying to feel a new sense of balance and muscle connection. Each one seemed to adapt quickly with almost a sense of confidence right away. This too is a wonderful trait of young people; they seem to just roll with the punches and enjoy each new experience and challenge as it comes their way, without overthinking any of it.
By 6:00 pm we were all ready for some shuteye, but I advised them all to stay up a little longer. Aaron decided to sleep for the next 15 hours and forego any worries of a 3 am wake-up (he assures me that he can sleep for days). Emanuel is not going to sleep until his dad arrives, as he is excited that his dad is coming to Lausanne to see him dance. He has not seen his father in over a year! Liao makes me a quick Chinese noodle delight and confesses that her time awake is over as well.
I, on the other hand, will now await the arrival of our HBII Ballet Master Claudio Munoz, who will take over the duties of overseeing our students so I can concentrate on judging. He and HBII Ballet Mistress Sabrina Lenzi have worked long and hard to prepare these three HBIIs for this competition, and I know they are eager to see the week progress.
At the hotel I meet with my fellow jury members for dinner and prepare for tomorrow’s first day, which begins at 9:00 am and ends around 7:00 pm. Should be a fine first day!