TAMPA, Fla. — Next Generation Ballet dancer and Clearwater native Christopher McGowan, 18, plans to head to Switzerland later this week to compete in the 50th Prix de Lausanne.
The dance competition draws some of the world's best young dancers between the ages of 15-18 to compete for scholarships to prestigious schools and display their skills.
“I never really thought I would be taking part in it,” said McGowan during practice last week at the Patel Conservatory. “I’ve always watched the videos and seen all the people going, and I thought they were amazing dancers. So, to go is actually kind of weird. It hasn’t hit me yet that I’m actually going to go. So, it’s kind of cool.”
McGowan said he began dancing about 10 years ago after being inspired by his sister, who studied ballet for many years.
“There’s not really a competition in dance,” said McGowan when asked what kept him hooked. “It’s just kind of you versus yourself, and so you just want to try to better yourself every day and try to apply corrections as much as you can. I guess it’s the strive for perfection, almost, that keeps you coming. That’s what it was for me, anyway.”
On the day Spectrum News attended his Prix practice, a teacher watched McGowan perform a contemporary piece while also staring intently at a cell phone.
“They have pre-choreographed pieces for contemporary, and depending on your age and if you’re either a guy or a girl, you have certain choices that you can choose from,” explained McGowan. “They basically want it to be exactly like the video - same timing, same movement, and same intention in your quality of dancing. So, it’s pretty hard, I guess, to get it exactly, but we’re doing the best we can.”
Out of 429 applicants from around the world, 87 were chosen to compete at this year’s event. Just 11 of those are from the United States.
“He deserves it, because he’s been working so hard for this moment,” said NGB Principal Rehearsal Director Ivonne Lemus Mendez. “It’s the dream of all young dancers to go to Prix de Lausanne.”
Mendez said she’s worked with McGowan at NGB for four years, where he’s taken on roles in productions like “The Nutcracker” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
“The whole purpose of the competition is to give the opportunity to young kids that pursue dance as a career, to go out there and try to expose themselves to another environment. Because remember, it can be tough to go there. He goes by himself. So, he has to be really prepared, which he is, in terms, like, he’s got to work with other coaches, other teachers. He’s going to be evaluated in class and on the stage. So, it is a very demanding and rigorous process to be there.”
“Hopefully, with the Prix de Lausanne, I can be more seen by companies and people and hopefully get a scholarship. But we’ll see - we’ll see what happens,” McGowan said.
This year’s competition takes place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5. Next up for Christopher, he’ll appear in NGB’s production of “Don Quixote” in May.