Meet the 14 Americans Headed to the 2022 Prix de Lausanne

January 28, 2022

Begin your ballet countdown! The 2022 Prix de Lausanne starts on Monday, January 31. After last year’s competition took place completely online, the event is now headed back to Switzerland. The Prix will be livestreamed on ARTE Concert’s channels and replays will then be available on YouTube

Last October, the competition’s jury reviewed video submissions from 376 applications in 39 different countries—next week, 73 selected candidates will spend the week in classes, in coaching sessions and, of course, performing onstage. 

Get to know the 14 U.S. dancers in attendance below: 

Yana Peneva, 15

Yana Peneva jumps in a sissone en avant with her arms in a high arabesque. She's in a brightly-lit hallway that has arches into the outdoors. She wears a red leotard with a short matching skirt.
Michael Cairns, Courtesy Peneva
  • School: Ballet Conservatory at Skyra in Altamonte Springs, FL 
  • Solos: Lilac Fairy variation, from The Sleeping Beauty, and Rain, by Kinsun Chan

Peneva has enjoyed the character-building side of her preparation for both solos, and she’s excited to begin her journey to Switzerland. “Just being able to attend this prestigious competition in person is a dream,” she says. “I am very excited to perform on such a beautiful stage!” 

Nicole Liu, 16

Nicole Liu jumps in an assemblé midair with her arms in open fourth. She wears a two-piece blue tutu.
Star Action Shots, Courtesy Liu
  • School: MorningStar Dance Academy in Johns Creek, GA
  • Solos:  First Girl’s variation, from the Act I pas de trois of Paquita, and Unravel, by Maya Smallwood

This is Liu’s second time at the Prix de Lausanne—she’s the only American in this year’s competition who has participated before—but it will be her first chance to compete in person after last year’s virtual program. “The preparation has definitely been challenging,” says Liu, “but also very rewarding. My teachers have been so supportive in preparing me, especially with the pandemic still going on and being a high school student.” 

Sydney Upchurch, 16

Sydney Upchurch holds her right leg in arabesque with her free left arm in front of her in arabesque. She stands in front of a fenced wooded area and wears a multi-colored leotard.
Ashley Lorraine Baker, Courtesy Upchurch
  • School: Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, NC
  • Solos: Second Shade variation, from La Bayadère, and Unravel, by Maya Smallwood

“This has been such a goal of mine for a while now, so I have really been focused on my training and artistry,” says Upchurch. Now, she’s excited for the competition to finally be here: “You get to meet all these amazing teachers and choreographers from all over the world.” 

Michelle Lin, 16

Michelle Lin poses in attitude derriere on a blank stage with her arms in an upturned fourth position. Her Romantic tutu swooshes around her legs; it is light pink.
LK Studios, Courtesy Lin

“Every day, my teacher and I find something new to make my variations even better and to further improve my movements,” says Lin. On top of being her first time at the competition, this will also be Lin’s first-ever trip to Europe. 

Saela Rivera-Martinez, 16

Saela Rivera-Martinez poses in attitude derriere facing away from the camera. Her arms are in an upturned fourth position. She is in a dance studio and wears a dark leotard with a white Romantic-length practice tutu
Mike Lang, Courtesy Rivera-Martinez

“Since I received the wonderful news, my days have been a whirlwind of activity,” says Rivera-Martinez. “I have been learning to love the euphoric highs and discouraging lows of this artform, and I am grateful for the lessons it continues to teach me.” 

Jacqueline Lane, 16 

Headshot of Jacqueline Lane in a light pink tutu and tiara. She looks sideways into the camera.
Vera Ninkovic, Courtesy Lane

“It has been such a special and humbling experience preparing for this competition,” says Lane. “I’m beyond excited to be coached by the top ballet masters and make new friends during the week.”

Micah Levine, 15 

Mecah Levine jumps in a sissone en avan with his arms in fourth position. The background is blank behind him and he wears gray tights with a decorated long sleeve top.
Anna Ksenzenko, Courtesy Levine
  • School: Ballet Central New Jersey in Hamilton Township, NJ
  • Solos: Franz variation, from Coppélia, and Furia Corporis, by Mauro Bigonzetti

“I enjoy putting in the extra time and effort to perfect every aspect of my training,” says Levine. While he’s looking forward to the performing opportunities at the competition, he’s equally excited to meet the coaches and students and take time to explore a new country. 

Jett Lecamu, 16 

Lecamu has been hard at work on his two solos and says his preparation has been going smoothly. “I love how much the coordinators care about us having the best possible experience onstage,” he says.  

Maya Schonbrun, 17 

Maya Schonburn poses in an attitude derriere on an exterior walkway. She wears a light purple spaghetti strap leotard, with her hair back in a bun and her arms in upturned third.
Jason Lavengood, Courtesy Schonburn
  • School: Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, AZ
  • Solos: Queen of the Dryads, from Don Quixote, and Sarabande, by Goyo Montero

“I’ve been listening to my music for [both solos] every day as well as rehearsing,” says Schonbrun. “I’ve also really enjoyed watching videos from the previous years of Prix de Lausanne to get more comfortable with how it runs and what to expect.”

Benjamin Dunlap, 17

  • School: Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, AZ 
  • Solos: Prince Désiré variation, from Act III of Sleeping Beauty, and Furia Corporis, by Mauro Bigonzetti

“Just from what I’ve seen online it seems like there’s breathtaking talent attending this year, and I can’t wait!” he says. As part of his preparation, Dunlap also had the chance to work on his two solos with teachers at United Ballet Theatre Academy in Orlando, FL. 

Lexi McCloud, 17

Lexi McCloud stands on a blank stage in an attitude derriere with her arms crossed at the elbows in front of her. She wears a pink Romantic-style tutu
Star Action Shots, Courtesy McCloud
  • School: MOGA Conservatory of Dance in North Salt Lake, UT
  • Solos: Swanilda’s Act III variation, from Coppélia, and Rossini Cards, by Mauro Bigonzetti

McCloud has enjoyed the preparation process from the get-go: “I learned so much from preparing the audition video, from watching myself, and from being coached by my teacher,” she says. “I always love the process of preparing and perfecting the details of my dancing.” 

Darrion Sellman, 17 

Courtesy Princess Grace Academy
  • School: Princess Grace Academy in Monaco 
  • Solos: Albrecht variation, from Giselle, and Yugen, by Wayne McGregor

Sellman has watched the Prix’s recordings for years now, finding inspiration in previous competitors’ performances. “To actually be there is such an honor,” he says. His preparation has been as mental as it is physical: “It was very in-depth,” he says. “I needed to get my body into shape, which took many hours of working, but also to put myself in the mindset whenever I am working on my variation or in class that this is my preparation for the performance.” 

Victor Galeana Ruiz, 18 

Black and white photo of Victor Galeana-Ruiz in a tendu effacé derriere. He wears dark leggings and a dark shirt. He's standing on a concrete railing in front of an outdoor background
Greg Baird, Courtesy Galeana-Ruiz
  • School: Ballet West Academy in Salt Lake City, UT
  • Solos: Act II James variation, from La Sylphide, and Desde Otello, by Goyo Montero

“My preparation for this has been a little different from times I’ve prepared for other competitions,” says Galeana Ruiz. “This competition is very specific on what is expected from all the competitors.” Nevertheless, Galeana Ruiz says he’s looking forward to “taking as much wisdom from this experience as I can!” 

Chase Hanson, 18 

Chase Hanson is jumps in a sissone en avant with his arms in fourth position. He wears white tights and no shirt and behind him is a large, foggy body of water
Alejandro Ulloa, Courtesy Hanson

“I have really enjoyed the preparation process for this competition,” says Hanson. “It has been especially interesting to really study the character of such an artistically demanding role as Albrecht,” he adds, “learning to convey the dramatic, as well as romantic, elements of the piece.”