ⓒ Photo: Gregory Batardon / Prix de Lausanne 2017
On these last few years, I have seen the different ballet competitions growing and new ones are created every year in most important cities in the world, cities where ballet is highly developed.
But as they become bigger and bigger, they are wrapping the ballet students’ perspectives up to a level I see concerning. Although, I have never seen competitions as events that should not happen.
Competition always exists in the ballet world, and not exactly with judges in front of the audience. It happens with your peers, the mirror, and most commonly, with yourself. As we seek for perfection and improvement of our technique, we tend to compare ourselves to others and to the person we were yesterday.
Ballet competitions are carefully designed to compare yourself with other dancers your age, and that is good! You should watch them, analyze how they do the steps, get inspiration from their performance, see where you are standing and conclude on what you should improve or work on the most.
Although, as a ballet history lover and seeker of the correct technique (that one that does not go lower or higher than what the book says), I definitely think that the students are going beyond my last statements.
Yes, ballet technique has evolved on a huge level. But competitors are sometimes going beyond what ballet actually is and detach themselves from the character, original choreographies, and clean technique. Instead, they look for tricks, for who can do more pirouettes on the Odalisque variation, or who can touch Esmeralda’s tambourine with the opposite leg.
Competitors should, and definitely take advantage of, the experience. You are not there to win a prize. Your prize should be the experience, your goal to become a professional, self-improvement, get seen by schools and companies who might give you a spot (this is huge!) and most importantly, learn.
I am a huge believer on competitions, do not get me wrong. I went to three myself, and the pressure is definitely there, hunting you. But what I am not a fan of is the way students (and especially the very young ones) are taking this exceptional experience into a “I am better than all of you” mindset.
Next time you want to go in front of the judges, just think about breathing, doing your personal best, working professionally, learn and of course, meeting your character (search about the ballet, know your character’s story). If you really want to get noticed by schools or companies, you really have to demonstrate all your professionalism and artistry in those 3 minutes you are provided with.
Competition in ballet should be healthy, just as everything in this artistic world…