Ballet Competitions Compared & Contrasted

The Prix de Lausanne is being broadcasted online currently with the finals running tomorrow. At the same time dancers are currently preparing or competing in the Youth American Grand Prix competition, for which the finals are held in New York City at Lincoln Center in April.  As summer program audition season comes to a close and competition season comes in full swing, every dancer should know the basics of ballet competitions and information about each one.

Today I will be helping compare and contrast the differences between ballet competitions YAGP (Youth American Grand Prix) and PDL (Prix de Lausanne).

Ballet Competition Basics

Competitions have become especially popular over the past few years.  Talent in ballet is being developed in more dancers than ever while the dance feats are becoming more extreme. For this reason it is important that scouts collect this talent in one place where it is easy to compare and contrast dancers and find a fit for a given company.  This is why ballet competitions were invented – both to enrich the dancers’ experiences and to provide insight for scouts and artistic directors of dance companies.

The system of competitions typically holds regional rounds in various cities across the country, and often internationally. In the end, finals are held in a large, central city.  

Two major parts of a dancer’s participation in a competition are the master classes and the scholarship audition, also known as the performance by the dancer.  Most of the time both a classical and contemporary variation is performed at the scholarship audition.

Those are the basics of ballet competitions. Let’s now examine the difference between the YAGP and the Prix de Lausanne.

Chapter 1: The Mission

Both competitions have the same bones, yet slightly different extremities and focal points  used to reveal the potential of participating dancers.  The Youth American Grand Prix, “fulfills its mission in dance education through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances, and films” (Source).  The competition is open for students from a very young age in a pre-competitive division.  There is even a “Hope Award” which is given out at the Youth American Grand Prix finals in New York City. It is designed to give an award acknowledging the potential of younger dancers.  Over 50,000 dancers have participated in YAGP’s scholarship auditions, master classes and performances worldwide.

The Prix de Lausanne is more focused on older aspiring professional dancers and gives them scholarship- and apprentice-contracts with ballet companies.  The Prix de Lausanne’s mission is “to reveal the potential of exceptionally talented young dancers from around the globe by having them perform before a world-renowned jury of dance personalities” (Source).  Only dancers aged 15-18 are allowed to perform.

Another vitally important aspect of the Prix de Lausanne is the health screening that dancers undergo before their qualifying round.  Each dancer receives a consult with a certified physician where multiple health screenings are done and many values are calculated to determine the health of the dancer.  This is not only to determine the student’s potential in a career of dance, but to prevent against eating disorders and unnecessary stress created during competition week.  The goal of this system is to ensure that the strains of competition week do not affect the dancer’s long-term health.

Chapter 2: Master Classes and Performances

Most ballet competitions offer master classes, often taught by the judges of the competition. They aim at enriching the dancer’s training and experience at the competition.  Yet, not only do master classes vary between different ballet competitions, they are also in place for different purposes.

The Youth American Grand Prix master classes are optional, and dancers can register to participate in them even if they are not dancing in the competition.  Master classes are unscored, and while taught by the judges, they do not influence the dancer’s score in the competition.  This is important because it is vital that dancers participate in an unstressed environment to calm them down before their performance on stage.

Participants in YAGP are invited to perform one or multiple classical variations, contemporary solos and repertory group pieces.  I believe that this is a good concept, because it is important that dancers show all aspects of their dancing in order to be judged properly by a jury panel.  While a classical variation with endless turns and sky-high jumps may be good in a soloist or principal company position, or in a competition setting, when the dancer first enters the company they will be in the corps de ballet.  If that dancer does not possess the consciousness of spatial awareness or musicality when dancing in groups, which is expressed in group repertory pieces, they will not bode well in a company setting.

Additionally, contemporary solos are an important part of a dancer’s place in a company.  Even more so now than before, sometimes over half of “classical” ballet companies’ repertory is contemporary.  If a dancer is too stiff to do these movements or unschooled in the artistry involved, they will be unsuccessful in their future company’s contemporary works.

In the Prix de Lausanne, the master classes are judged by the panel, and influence the dancers’ final scholarships and prizes at the competition.  Due to this and health screening, it is evident in this competition that more aspects of the dancer’s day-to-day training are exposed by the judging committee. This leads to a well-rounded outcome in the competition’s results.

If you are interested in The Prix, finals are live-streamed to the public. It began on Monday, January 30th, and will end tomorrow, Saturday, February 4th.  Be sure to tune in here.  The finals feature the dancer’s ultimate classical and contemporary solos.  Detailed results of the competition are also revealed to public, which you can see here.  This feed is updated regularly.

Thanks for reading today’s post!  If you are attending a ballet competiton, comment down below which one and which variation you are doing.  See you this weekend!

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