February 4th, 2021
Nope, it’s not the holiday season but today’s image connects with a memory of the past and an event happening in about one hour.
When I was 12 years old, I danced in The Nutcracker with the Colorado Ballet. It was the pinnacle of my young career in dance — a debut on the big stage after years of practice and a love affair with the art. I auditioned with fellow dancers from my studio, awestruck by the entire process and of being in the company of professional dancers also auditioning for parts in the ballet.
It was a long day spent learning and performing combinations in front of dozens of people — instructors, choreographers, fellow dancers and parents hanging around as their children did their best to earn a part in the production. The Nutcracker has many parts for kids, so we were all fortunate in that way. If we didn’t fit the requirements for one role, there was likely another we were suited for. With two casts and two shows every day for two weeks at the Denver Auditorium Theater, more than a hundred dancers were needed.
I walked out of the audition with two parts — one that I loved and one that I loathed.
In the first act, I was a soldier of the Nutcracker in the battle against the Mouse King. With about 20 other kids, we formed the battalion that kills off the enemy. Getting 20 kids to step and dance in sync is nearly impossible. I was never satisfied with our group effort, knowing the whole scene looked messy. I was also unhappy about the masculine soldier costume I had to wear and generally going to battle in the middle of a ballet.
But… in the second act, it was a chance to shine. I was cast with five other female dancers and a professional male dancer for the Russian Candy Cane dance. You know the song that usually comes to mind when you think of the Nutcracker? The really popular, strong part of the score by Tchaikovsky? That’s the song I got to dance to. My high leaps helped me get the part and I was elated to be on stage with a professional dancer in the company. I still remember the leaps and turns and sequences back and forth across the stage. This experience is one of the highlights of my childhood.
So why am I telling you this story? Because the Prix de Lausanne is happening in Switzerland. For young ballet dancers, the Prix presents an opportunity to show the world who you are and get the chance to study with a world-class dance company of your choosing. Dancers between 15 and 18 are invited from all over the world to attend the week-long workshop, learn a classical ballet and a modern dance composition, then perform both pieces for a distinguished audience of professionals. In the world of youth dance, it’s a very big deal.
Of course, Covid has changed this year’s format so dancers haven’t been able to take part in the usual group classes and instruction. But the classical and modern dance performances will proceed as usual, starting about one hour from now, at 9:00 a.m. Friday in Lausanne. From this first group of 82 dancers (everyone attending the Prix), a select group of finalists will perform again on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. to compete for scholarships and the grand prize. Many past winners have gone on to brilliant careers in dance: Diana Vishneva, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes, Maria Kochetkova, Benjamin Millepied and more.
The performances are streamed online and so fun to watch. As each dancer takes the stage, I know they’re feeling the same things I did so long ago — a little bit of nervousness, a lot of love for their art and an intense excitement to take the stage and introduce themselves to the world.
The live stream is here, or you can visit the Prix Facebook and YouTube pages to see the performances, as well as the taped auditions.
Point your toes and dance on!
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.