Guest writer: Shelly Power, associate director of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy
My duty today is to transition from Houston Ballet Academy Associate Director to Prix de Lausanne jury member. Now that Claudio Munoz has arrived, my transition should be easier…right Claudio?
Claudio arrived in Lausanne around 8:30 am and made his way to the hotel, and then met HBII’s at 12:15 for the official registration. Claudio will not only observe our students, but he will begin tomorrow to find those he wishes to recruit for Houston Ballet’s summer program and perhaps the year. He will watch select classes and make notes of student numbers, then follow them throughout the weekend. No approaches are made to students until the final round as not to disrupt their concentration on the competition. He will observe classes as well as stage time. Many long hours of sitting, watching and waiting will begin for Claudio.
My day began with a 9:00 am jury meeting to assure that we understand the policies and procedures of the Prix. The Theatre de Beaulieu jury room looks out to Lausanne’s beautiful architecture, giving a sense of solidarity and fortitude. Against the church steeples, the hills and valleys are more beautiful views of the lake outlined with the snow-tipped Alps. The skies are usually clouded over and a bit gray this time of year, and today is no different. Growing up in frigid cold winters, I appreciate having only one week of winter, and that week being in Switzerland (albeit inside) happens to make it all the better.
We begin with observation only today with no scoring. Without the pressure of scoring we are to (hopefully) become better acquainted with all 70 contestants. We all shine in different ways and this is no different. Students must come in ready to show what brought them to the Prix in the first place, whether that means one or several different talents. Artistry, facility, and natural movement are all among those attributes we search for at this competition, along with technical abilities and most important: potential.
At the end of today, we completed four 1 ½ hour classes of observation time. I felt it gave us a good introduction to the overall group. This year the Prix has more boys competing than girls, which marks the first time in Prix history. There were over 220 applicants originally (also a record), which resulted in only 70 acceptances.
I had little, if any, contact with our HBIIs today and of course I am not to comment on any of them. But I think I am safe to say that they were acknowledged as being good candidates (don’t read anything more into this than that). All three appeared to be having fun and ready for the week’s challenge.
Sitting on the other side of the table is definitely different, as you don’t get to feel the pressure-cooking quite the same as you do behind the scenes. Imagine sitting in the pit of the Indy 500 with racecar engines roaring and revving up for the big race. Backstage is much the same.
On this side of the table however, I find myself turning inwards, searching for the most intuitive approach to assessing these young students. Life doesn’t deal anyone a totally fair hand, but in the midst of our imperfections I believe there is a natural order that seems to make it all fall into place and allows each of us to make choices as we gather feedback along the way. So although the engines are a bit quieter for me, the anticipation is perhaps a little more intense knowing that my vote does count this round.
I hope to serve the jury well and to provide each candidate my undivided attention, as they all deserve this moment in time as a fresh new beginning. Wish me luck.
And by the way, the rumors about Swiss chocolate are NOT exaggerated.
P.S. I don’t want to forget a “shout out” to the ladies in the Academy–Liz, Jennifer, Rachel and Lindsey!