Usually in January/Feb each year, a hundred or so aspiring young dancers come together in Switzerland to compete in the Prix de Lausanne, one of the oldest, prestigious and yet most dynamic ballet competitions in the world. That was out of the question this year, due to the global pandemic. Not to be deterred, the Prix went virtual, with dancers competing via video submissions. The competition was as fierce as ever, with a record participation of 399 applicants from 43 countries. Eighty-two were selected for the first round, assessed by a panel of eight judges, overseen by Richard Wherelock, Director and Head Choreographer of the Ballett Basel. This group was then narrowed down to 20 finalists.

Although no Australians were among the winners, one made it through to the final 20 – which is an achievement in itself. She was Charlotte Cohen, from the Melbourne Conservatoire of Ballet (MCB), who, at 15 years old, was the second youngest to make it that far.

Charlotte has been learning since she was four, starting with Gay Wightman and moving to the then Australian Conservatoire of Ballet (now MCB) when she was nine. She has been training full-time for three years, and has completed the school’s Advanced Diploma with distinction, while taking her academic studies via Virtual School Victoria. She is now in Year 10 at school and undertaking her transition year with the MCB (which enables her to take classes while auditioning for companies or international ballet schools).

The Prix de Lausanne required a 15-minute video comprising class work as well as a contemporary solo, which Charlotte prepared during Melbourne's long lockdown, under the tutelage of teachers Christine Walsh and Valmai Roberts. She admits that she is sorry she couldn’t enjoy the experience of a live competition, but is grateful that the event went ahead. “I missed out on the whole experience of meeting the teachers and other candidates, and I did have less time to prepare, but the Prix de Lausanne did everything they could to give us the same experience. They also provided a networking forum so the partner schools or companies could look at all the candidates.”

Certainly the experience was worthwhile – Charlotte has now been offered placements by 12 schools. “They are all such amazing schools,” she says, “I don’t know how I’ll decide!”

The six Prix de Lausanne 2021 prize winners are: Antonio Casalinho (17) Portugal, Luca Abdel-Nour (17) Egypt, Andry Jesus Maciano (16) Brazil, Seojeong Yun (17) South Korea, Shunhei Fuchiyama (18) Japan, and Ashley Coupal (18) Canada.

Other prizes were: Best Young Talent: Andrey Jesus Maciano; Contemporary Dance Award: Antonio Casalinho and Rui Cesar Cruz (18) Brazil; Best Swiss Candidate: Luca Abdel-Nour; Web Audience Favourite Award: Luca Abdel-Nour.

In addition, the Prix established a new Young Creation Award, to identify choreograph talent. Australian Samuel Winkler (now a pupil at the School of the Hamburg Ballet), was one of two winners, the other being US candidate Maya Smallwood. See our earlier article here.

Other Australians to be selected: here.


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