Dance Competitions are everywhere. From being on television almost every night, to theatres all over the world, there has never been such a range of Competitions for all ages, styles and levels.
The pioneer of dance Competitions for young dancers, the Prix de Lausanne, continues to evolve and adapt with a focus very much on a week of learning where all go home winners. The creation of the choreographic project for the partner schools is a great new development. Seeing that almost all partner schools sent students this year, this demonstrates just how valuable all the School Directors saw this new initiative to be.
There is also a growing number of initiatives between Schools, like the Assemblée Internationale at Canada’s National Ballet School (every three or four years) and the Biennale of the AK|T (AK|T Ausbildungskonferenz Tanz Deutschland) here in Germany that provide combined weeks of classes, performances and workshops. Officially the Biennale of the AK|T is also a competition, but we have managed to shift the focus completely towards having a theme for each Biennale and a creative learning process during the week.
Going to compete must be placed within the global education of the Competitor. Why compete this year, what is the aim or goal? The challenge of preparing should be a huge learning opportunity. To work on a repertoire, and to be prepared to see and take class alongside fellow dancers from all over the world, can be nerve-wracking to say the least. It really is a long-term preparation on many levels.
Based upon my personal contacts and associations, the Competition Directors Larissa Saveliev (YAGP), Shelly Power, Amanda Bennett and Kathryn Bradney (Prix de Lausanne) do all really have the best aims and intentions. Be it that the Competitor leaves with a scholarship to a School, employment, or with going home a stronger dancer, their hearts and intentions are all in the right place.
On the flip side, there has become a whole development of competition circuit dancers who run from one competition to the next, sadly neglecting a well-rounded training. They often wind up either burned out or having great difficulty joining a full time training or company where they are not being permanently coached and singled out as a soloist.
Often such Competitors receive offers to join Schools, but never take them up and return year after year just to compete. I think it is very important to let all know that amongst the associated Schools, of both the Prix and YAGP, there is an open and transparent communication and community spirit. We often meet and speak and share feelings and experiences of various students and studios that do this. Yes, we all understand that when a smaller studio send a competitor who wins, this can really help promote the School, but it must not be done to the negation of the well being of the student.
A young dancer can do a Competition and be seen by over 25 – 30 School Directors at once. But this has also created a “shopping for the best offer” situation. I have spoken with Competitors and Teachers and have been asked point blank “how much will you pay for him/her to come?” I participate on such Juries to talent scout and offer a place to continue their Education, not shopping to buy something. The offers I can make are but the opening of a door that leads down a much longer path and this must be kept in perspective.
I hear amongst the fellow Jury members every year that we are all looking for potential, not accomplishment. There are many different profiles of training on offer, but we are all looking for musicality, coordination, desire, openness in the classes towards new ideas and applying corrections. Usually on the contrary, the negative comments are about how a shame it is to seeing young dancers being pushed to far too young and not having clear solid simple basics. This year YAGP took the younger age categories off pointe and this was a great step towards ensuring healthy training practises.
The best advice I could offer as a Jury Member would be just to remember you are there to learn and grow within yourself, not to compete against anyone else.
Prof. Jason Beechey
Rektor of the Palucca Hochschule für Tanz Dresden