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1st prize winner of Budapest Ballet Grand Prix junior category, Portuguese Núria Fernandes, a student of Annarella Sanchez of the Conservatório Internacional de Ballet e Dança, visited the Hungarian Dance Academy with fellow student Jose Barbeiro, Budapest Ballet Grand Prix Special award-winner, both grantees of the acclamation opportunity to take part and perform in HDU’s graduation performance in June in the Hungarian State Opera. We asked them about the competition, the organisation and their impressions as a participant in this first-time-ever grandiose event.

We were also intrigued by the medallists’ answers, as the prominent ballet event, Grand Audition is attracting more and more young ballet dancers to the soon-to-be 75-year-old Hungarian Dance University, which traditionally has a large number of international students. In the current academic year there are 32 international students from 11 different countries.

What was your overall experience about BBGP 2023, the 1st Budapest Ballet Grand Prix?

(Núria Fernandes) Arrived with no expectations, as David Makhateli who was the one to firstly promote BBGP for us and explained, it is the very first competition, then was so surprising how well-organised, well-managed event it was, in such beautiful venues, also National Dance Theater and Palace of Arts Budapest, and the star jury, such big names of our profession. I really want to come back this year! Specially to pas de deux category, this is one of the most attractive point of BBGP for us.

(José Barbeiro) BBGP is a different experience from other competitions. My expectations was lower than BBGP was, so many good quality dancers came from a lot of countries. By video-round pre-audition it showed it is actually serious and professional, a proof of a higher quality prix.

Normally we have no chance meeting with the judges, talk to them and pose questions and receive answers, get to know their way of thinking about general questions of our profession. Side events made BBGP even more professional.

How did you find the host university, HDU and its campus, what was your first impression about them?

(N.F.) I arrived to Budapest quite sad about missed Grand Audition Budapest of last month, but at my school – Conservatorio de Danca Annarella Sánchez – exams season was on and could have miss and repeat the year if I leave for auditions. HDU campus is bigger than I expected, nice big bright studios you have, furthermore having your own in-house theater is awesome and blessing!

About the preparation work for the HDU graduation exam performance this June (to which Núria Fernandes and José Barberio were invited to perform as BBGP’s high acclamation), it was a new challenge and a fabulous award as part of the prix, it is fun to start work with a new partner. Before I had no experience with unknown partners, there were 2 constant partners at school I knew as we were in the same grade. Nice opportunity! The first rehearsal (day) was a bit more challenging to get used to each-other’s style and methods, then the second day went fluently. I got to know a very nice personality in him: patient, worried and cared about the steps which were not perfectly presented for the first time. I look forward to come back in June for a longer period and it is a great honour to dance again in National Dance Theatre of Budapest and on the stage of the Hungarian State Opera House.

 (J.B.) Really liked the experience, as I missed to visit HDU campus during BBGP2023, I was waiting for coming back and take the chance this time. Expected that HDU is a smaller infrastructure, less buildings, but it is not only huge, but a really well-equipped complex, and the on-site theatre is awesome! To go on stage any time and experience performance-like environment, is such an honour!

About the rehearsals with the graduates, it is our honour to be invited by the directory of HDU. 2 new partners were tried because of unfortunate injury of my original partner. Unwaited situations may be quite usual in professional  dancers life, and we always need to find solution, accomodate well. Nice experience overall. First night we had the chance to go into the city and among such beauties like St. Stephen’s Basilica we saw the Opera House from the outside, can’t wait to work inside!

Would you recommend BBGP and HDU education and to whom?

(N.F.) I consider myself to join Hungarian Dance University, BA and MA degree as classical ballet dancer and pedagogue are a specially great opportunity to receive, if you start in the age of around 16 you may receive a university degree at the age of 19. I will come if I don’t receive any company contracts this summer. Of course, if I can start my dance artist carrier from next September, I will dance for a couple of years and probably after at least 5-6 years would go back to school, to University for a BA/MA degree.

After seeing the campus, I was convinced it is a good opportunity to learn at HDU. I recommend it to everyone who is planning to go for a degree! Had chance to have a look into contemporary and character (Hungarian folk dance) classes. Both was really high-quality, students were older, teacher showed and explained in the meantime, so it seamed a full self- improvement opportunity.

(J.B.) I am having my last year in ballet school but for school has one more, for this reason I would like to stay at my school for one more year, and meanwhile fill the year with auditions to get contract to a ballet company. In Portugal lot of students in ballet education would like to teach from a young age, so a higher education in dance pedagogy and BA/MA degree, about like HDU has, is a great option and there is a need in Portugal for that. I am dedicated to spread the info among my classmates and schoolmates.