Student diary — 10 days at the Prix de Lausanne
Created in 1973, the Prix de Lausanne is an international ballet competition for young dancers aged 15 to 18 with the goal of discovering, promoting and supporting the finest talents around the world. We’re proud to have been a partner of the Prix de Lausanne since its inception, and were thrilled to have a continued presence this year to celebrate its 50th year.
For the past five years, the competition has run The Partner School Choreographic Project, which is a programme that offers students from the Prix de Lausanne Partner Schools the chance to go to Switzerland and learn and perform a unique and tailor-made choreography with a renowned choreographer.
This workshop takes place during the Prix de Lausanne main competition but is not part of the competition. Each partner school sends along one student who receives a unique collective and educational experience of choreography creation. During the week, they get the chance to meet with young dancers from all over the world and to work with some of the biggest choreographers of our era.
The choreography is set up and staged in only a few days, and is then performed in front of the audience during the Prix de Lausanne Finals.
The Royal Ballet School sent Pre-Professional student, Milda Luckute, who was also a finalist at the competition in 2020 and has shared her special experience of the choreographic project with us in a diary.
Friday 27 January
Today marks the start of my 10-day adventure in Switzerland, participating in the Prix de Lausanne Partner Schools Choreographic Project (PSCP). It is a full circle moment for me as exactly three years ago I was a participant in the Prix de Lausanne competition. It is also the place where I found out that I got invited to join The Royal Ballet School. However, this year it will be a little bit different. In 2020 the competition took place in Montreux due to the renovation of the Beaulieu Theatre in Lausanne, however this year the competition is back in its original location, which will be very new for me.
It’s only been a few hours in Lausanne and I am already in love with the city. The architecture is beautiful and the view of the mountains is breath-taking! The only con is that it is freezing cold and windy outside.
I just got back from the Welcome Dinner for the PSCP participants. Everyone seems so lovely and the time went by so quickly chatting with them. Hearing everyone’s stories about their backgrounds, training, and different styles is truly special. It is interesting how different some things are but we also found so many things that we have the same experience with, which just makes me appreciate the world of dance even more. I am excited to start working with everyone tomorrow and actually bringing all of our prior training and experiences into one piece. I can already sense it will be a very special adventure.
Saturday 28 January
Wow, it’s only the first day and I am already tired! Goyo Montero’s choreography is extremely intense, but I love it! The piece he is creating is called Bold and I can already tell that it will be a powerful dance. The movement style is quite new for me, but I am excited for this challenge!
This morning we had a class with Nicola Biasutti, Teacher at the John Cranko Schule. Afterwards, we had approximately five and a half hours of rehearsals, in which Mr Montero choreographed a big chunk of the final (and most intense) part of the dance and started choreographing the beginning. We were dancing a lot today and I can feel the muscle soreness kicking in, so I will go to bed early.
Sunday 29 January
As expected, this morning I woke up hardly able to move due to extreme muscle soreness.
As expected, this morning I woke up hardly able to move due to extreme muscle soreness. Luckily, the Director of The Australian Ballet, Lisa Pavane’s, class warmed us up well without putting too much strain on our bodies. Today was a bit easier than yesterday since we already knew what kind of movement to expect from Mr Montero. We finished learning the first out of five parts and are almost done with the final part of the whole piece.
Today was the first day for the competition candidates, so in the evening we had a Welcome Dinner. I was so excited to see my very good friend and former classmate Ana Luisa, whom I met at the Prix de Lausanne exactly three years ago. We were competing that year and had no idea that we were soon to become close friends. I will be sending all of my positive energy to her this week and supporting her in her performances as much as I can.
Monday 30 January
This morning we had a very fun class with Claudio Muñoz, Ballet Master of the Houston Ballet II. Today was a very productive day of rehearsals — we finished the final part of the dance before lunch, learned the whole second part and almost finished the third part, all in one day. Mr Montero tore his ankle ligament yesterday while showing a movement, but despite that, he is not stopping and showing as much as he can ‘full out with feeling’, as some teachers in the School say! If we will keep going at this pace, we might actually finish the whole dance tomorrow (also considering that we have nine hours of dancing tomorrow), right in time for the live stream of the rehearsal on Wednesday. I am genuinely so impressed by Mr Montero’s work ethic, imagination, patience and determination, working with 24 students from 24 different schools and backgrounds and bringing it all together in a 10-minute piece. His choreography is incredibly original and interesting — it’s an honour to work with him.
Tuesday 31 January
Tomorrow we have a live stream of the rehearsal, which will be the first time when the public will be able to see what we have been working on for the past few days.
Surprisingly, I survived this very long day of dancing and even have some energy to spare! We started the day early at 8:30 with a class given by Clairemarie Osta, the Head of the Ballet Department at the Royal Swedish Ballet School.
Mr Montero finished choreographing the whole piece! I am so mesmerised by the speed and efficiency of his work, it blows my mind (a little reminder – he did it all with a torn ligament!). Now we will start ‘cleaning’ the dance, which will be easier mentally than learning the choreography, but more difficult physically.
Tomorrow we have a live stream of the rehearsal, which will be the first time that the public will be able to see what we have been working on for the past few days. In the evening we finished rehearsals late, but I still made it to the second half of the Jury Presentation on stage. It was interesting hearing them speak and watching short videos of their dancing or choreographies, some of which I have not seen before.
Wednesday 1 February
Today was officially the first day when other people saw an insight into what we have been working on for the past five days! We started the day with a class given by Julio Bocca, a former Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Then we went straight into rehearsing [see images of the rehearsal here] and cleaning the dance in sections, which was tiring, but very rewarding. After several hours of dancing, we took a little break and went backstage to warm up again and watch the Young Creation Award dances. All five of them were incredibly impressive! While the judges were deciding on the winners, we had a live-streamed rehearsal on stage, which many people were watching in the theatre and all around the world. My mom watched it too! At dinner time we were re-watching the video and it amazes me how the whole piece is coming together so fast. When you are in the centre of the action it is difficult to imagine what it looks like from the audience, which is why everyone was so impressed to see the result of our hard work.
Thursday 2 February
‘…today I had the appropriate amount of control over my body to do the movements that I was not able to do in 2020. It makes me proud of how far I’ve come and so grateful to The Royal Ballet School for giving me the tools to achieve this level of technique.’
This morning we had a class with Élisabeth Platel, the Director of the Paris Opera Ballet School. I had a fun realisation that three years ago she was teaching classes at Prix de Lausanne for me, but I found many combinations really difficult and struggled with them. However today I had the appropriate amount of control over my body to do the movements that I was not able to do in 2020. It makes me proud of how far I’ve come and so grateful to The Royal Ballet School for giving me the tools to achieve this level of technique.
After class, we continued working on the dance. After yesterday’s stage rehearsal, Mr Montero had plenty of feedback for us since he had a better view of how it will look on stage. The rehearsals were also open to Prix de Lausanne Partners, so we had an audience throughout the day.
Friday 3 February
This morning we had a class with Clairemarie Osta again! We were rehearsing less since Mr Montero wanted to save our energy for the shows. Despite that, we had a very late stage run of the Interlude for tomorrow’s finals, which finished at 9.30 pm. All throughout the day everyone was watching the selections, which is an event that dancers rarely miss. I was so happy when I found out that Ana Luisa got into the finals!
Tomorrow is a big day, so I better go to sleep early.
Saturday 4 February
It felt incredible being on stage and performing such a powerful piece. The audience also responded so warmly, it truly felt like a unifying experience.
What a day. We started the morning with a class taught by Sascha Radetsky, Artistic Director of the ABT Studio Company. Everyone had so much fun in that class, it was a great start to an adventurous day. After class, we had our last studio rehearsal with Mr Montero and checked some of the last details before the night’s show.
After lunch, we got ready, had another warm-up barre and went on stage! It felt incredible being on stage and performing such a powerful piece. The audience also responded so warmly, it truly felt like a unifying experience. Afterwards, we stayed backstage while Carlos Acosta was receiving his Lifetime Achievement award and then came the part everyone was waiting for — the prize ceremony!
The day finished with a farewell party, where I got to talk to many like-minded people and share my experience of the week.
Sunday 5 February
It is the last day of Prix de Lausanne 2023, the last day of our Partner Schools Choreographic Project.
In the morning we had a nice and simple class with Cinthia Labaronne. Right after class, we ran to the stage for a run-through of the Gala of Ballet Stars. After lunch, we got ready and performed for the last time together. It felt incredible being among some of the biggest stars of today’s ballet and the audience received us just as well as these established performers. There was a screen backstage, where we could watch other numbers after ours, which was so interesting and captivating, I almost forgot we had bows at the end!
To celebrate the end of our little adventure we had dinner at the Great Escape and then danced some more (don’t ask how we had the energy to spare, I also don’t know!) It was hard saying goodbye to everyone, there were some tears and lots of hugs and promises to stay in touch, which thankfully is easy these days due to social media!
Monday 6 February
Today I am flying back to London. I am on the plane reflecting on this incredible journey.
Over the past week, these wonderful dancers have become my little family. It is mind-blowing when you think that on the first day we did not know each other and we were all from 24 different schools with different training backgrounds. We have never worked with Goyo Montero before, so none of us was familiar with his movement style or work dynamic. He managed to bring us all together, inspire us even through the nine-hour dancing days and transfer his vision to us even with a torn ligament. If a reader of this diary will get to watch our final result, you will see how powerful Bold is. The most interesting thing is that this power is created through being together as one, even with our individual differences. You can also see that it is incredibly physically demanding, which we surprisingly handled very well, even on the toughest days — all because we were inspiring and supporting each other throughout.
This experience made me appreciate the unifying power of dance so much more and I am grateful to everyone who made it so special. I miss my 23 new friends already, but I am sure our paths will cross again. I am so eternally grateful to The Royal Ballet School for letting me relive my Prix de Lausanne experience again, just this time without the pressure of the competition. I will cherish the memories from this week forever.
Thank you Milda, for sharing your experience of the Prix de Lausanne with us.
See Montero’s Bold performed live at the Royal Opera House at our 2023 Summer Performances. Ticket information coming soon.