This year, 71 dancers are competing in the 42nd Prix de Lausanne, 21 of whom are Japanese, a recent trend. Two of them, Kana Arai and Natsuka Abe, aged 16, arrived in Lausanne late on January 24 accompanied by Miwa Horimoto, director of the Acri-Horimoto Ballet Academy. “I’m more excited than tired,” Kana says despite having travelled for 18 hours.
Why are there so many Japanese taking part? “This can be explained by the fact that in Japan there are many high level schools but no dance companies, whereas in Switzerland, the dancers are employed. As the Japanese have to leave their country to become professional, the competition is certainly the best way to break through,” Miwa, who worked at the Basel Theatre in her youth, explains.
Miwa has been bringing her pupils to the Prix de Lausanne for the past ten years, much to her pride. Natsuka, whose mother and grandmother did classic dance, took up ballet at the age of three “quite naturally”, and she has decided to pursue a dance career. “My dream is to go to the Royal Ballet School in London.”
For the competition, Kana has prepared a classic dance and a contemporary dance – “The rite of spring” – where she turns into an animal. “I try to imagine what someone feels at the point of being killed, the fear and the anguish,” she says. Her goal is to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada. “I know it will be very difficult for me to return to Japan if I turn professional but that is what I want to do and I have accepted that.”
“The Prix de Lausanne is also one of the best places to meet a good ballet director,” Miwa says. Natsuka and Kana listen to their teacher, but for now they are only thinking of the competition, which ends on February 1.
(Photos: Thomas Kern, swissinfo.ch; Text: Kuniko Satonobu, swissinfo.ch)