Ballet Competitions – A View From The Barre

Prix de Lausanne 2017. Photo by Gregory Batardon

As a professional ballet dancer, I know competitions are becoming more and more controversial as the years pass, as both artists and audiences question if they really are worth to participating and watching. You are forever going to encounter two parties discussing their viewpoints on the positives and negatives of competitions.

Of course, competitions are a great experience as as dancer. They offer opportunities you cannot find elsewhere, like exposure to numerous scholarship and job opportunities. Competitions also provide dance students with networking opps at a young age, meeting other dancers their age and master teachers from which they get different feedback.

Personally, I am not against competitions. However – and I do not want to be harsh – I am against the obsession with perfectionism, tricks and winning. These habits of competition dancers are, sadly, guiding them to an incomplete artistic path as they forget what the true art form of ballet really is about.

We need to understand that competitions are not everything ballet is about. Yes, they are now part of our culture, but we need for these to not take over real, full-length performances from both ballet companies and dance schools.

Prix de Lausanne 2017. Photo by Gregory Batardon

If a young student is immersed into the competition world too soon, too often, that student has a risk of not only burning out, but also being obsessed with what he/she is executing onstage for those two minutes.

Moreover, the students are taking ballet to a luxurious, unrealistic path, when it is not really necessary: extremely expensive tutus, five-six pirouettes and kicking the legs when performing variations that do not really include these steps, and lastly, a concentration on the steps rather than the character they are representing.

I went to three ballet competitions myself and had the fortune of winning a silver medal. But I never wanted these to take over my real career goals. I always had a barrier, a wall that helped me separate the experience of a competition and what ballet really is about.

No, let’s not eliminate competitions altogether. Rather, let’s go for a different approach, that’s not obsessed with prizes and perfection, but see them as experiences to improve, be exposed, and gain new opportunities to grow as artists.

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