Forging the dance talents of tomorrow

There is no magic formula to make it to the top in the world of dance. One thing that's for certain, is that it needs innate talent and relentless hard work. The Zurich Dance Academy trains young dancers with an all-round approach that has brought the school international acclaim. (Carlo Pisani, 

This content was published on July 21, 2017 - 17:00

Diana Georgia Ionescu from Romania and Michele Esposito from Italy have a few things in common: they are both 17-year-olds for whom dance is their life, but they don’t have wealthy parents who can afford to support their dreams. The two teenagers were finalists in the 2017 ‘Prix de Lausanne’External link dance competition.

The prestigious Swiss competition was established in 1973, and is a stepping stone for many to a stage career. During the last edition at the beginning of February, out of the 67 candidates from 35 different countries who applied, 20 young talents reached the finals.  

Two young dancers

Among the winners was Diana, who took 7th place in the competition, earning herself a one-year scholarship and a place in the Stuttgart Ballet dance company. 

Michele won first prize, and as a result began a one year scholarship at the junior company of the Het National Ballet in Amsterdam in July. He moved to Zurich when he was 11, from a town near Naples, Italy. He got into dancing when he was three years old, when his mom, a dance lover, chose to leave him in a dance school as an alternative to non-existent day care structures.

The Zurich Dance Academy’s roots

Diana’s and Michele’s successes might not have been possible if it were not for two other dancers.

Steffi Scherzer and Oliver Matz are former solo dancers at the German State Opera in Berlin. In 2005, they were invited to take over the direction of the Zurich Dance Academy.

Their goal is to develop not just dancers, but people, with access to training that looks at their complete personal development. Matz and Scherzer say the reason behind their growing number of successes at international competitions is down to how they “care” for the dancers.

The schoolExternal link, in addition to classical dance training, stresses the importance of learning contemporary techniques, improvisation as well as a comprehensive programme on the theory of dance. The courses are run both in German and English, though English plays a larger role.

The school also provides accommodation in boarding facilities for the first three years, and later in partly-serviced apartments.

Training for the long-term

The objective is to train dancers that are ready to embrace the psychological and physical challenges of a career as professional dancers, while also ensuring the dancers are flexible enough to adapt to the diverse requests of choreographers.

Due to the high demands on the body, dancers are often forced to reinvent themselves professionally when past their prime, and a recognised qualification like the one provided by the school helps them in this adjustment.

The Zurich Dance Academy offers training for children from the age of eleven. The one-year introductory class is followed by a foundation course for 12 to 15 year olds, which is held alongside the compulsory school. This is then followed by the three-year main course, leading to a Swiss Federal Certificate of Proficiency in dance. 

For Diana and Michele, years of hard work have started to pay off. Now they have to put everything they’ve learned into practice with their new dance companies.

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