LAUSANNE, Switzerland--With her favorite ballerina looking on from the judges' panel, 17-year-old Madoka Sugai took home first prize in this year's prestigious Prix de Lausanne, a competition for young ballet dancers, on Feb. 4.
Sugai dazzled the judges, who included renowned Japanese ballerina Miyako Yoshida, a past winner of the event, and her idol.
"The consensus decision of all nine judges was that she was outstanding in every element," Yoshida said of Sugai. "She even showed signs of improvement from her performance on the day before the finals. I felt her energy in the contemporary dance section."
This year, 79 individuals participated from 19 nations. Twenty-one of those dancers advanced to the finals. The competition, designed for dancers between 15 and 18, was divided into classical and contemporary dance categories.
Along with Yoshida, Tetsuya Kumakawa, ex-principal at The Royal Ballet, is also a past winner of the Prix de Lausanne.
"I have been able to reach this achievement because of all those people who have supported me until now, including my teachers and father," said Sugai, who resides in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture. "I am full of gratitude. I still cannot believe (I came in first place) and I feel like I am still in a dream of dance. I was able to dance with enthusiasm."
She was also awarded a special prize in the contemporary dance category.
The top eight finishers win scholarships, which allow them to enter dance schools or join ballet companies for free for one year. They also receive 16,000 Swiss francs (about 1.33 million yen, or $17,400) for living expenses.
Sugai said she wanted to enter the Birmingham Royal Ballet in Britain, where Yoshida once performed as principal dancer.
"I want to become a dancer who can move the audience," Sugai said.