Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Luca Masala Princess Grace

The Artistic Director of the Princess Grace Academy, Luca Masala, in his office. Photo Cristian Hillbom

15 nov

The Artistic Director of the Princess Grace Academy: "We take from 10 to 20 students every year".

Monaco has a famous ballet school – Princess Grace Academy. The Academy was founded in 1975 following Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III’s desire to establish a high level dance school in the Principality of Monaco. The Academy 's first director was Marika Besobrasova. Since 2009 Luca Masala is the Artistic Director.

A moment from the morning class with Luca Masala and students. Photo Cristian Hillbom

At your website you write that the students are flowering, cultivated and curious! It’s a wonderful statement. Could you please elaborate?
You can’t today not only teach the students of how to make the steps. You must also give them the rules how to do them. I have the possibility to take students from all over the world. Here they have to show not what they are but what they can learn.

Curiosity is a way for a student to bloom and look further. And the teacher has also the possibility to go further and then we have a flower which blooms.

It is also important for me to see in which direction they go and how they develop their talent. The school is very small so we have the time to work with every single person. And

we have to work out, for every individual, a personal development plan.

Today the school has 43 students from 15 countries, of them we have four recently arrived from Ukraine and attended the school.

M Masala in class

Luca Masala in the morning class at the studio of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. Photo Cristian Hillbom

How do the students manage to find and select this school?
Students send us videos or come for a class, but I also go to different schools and look for dancer with the ability to be developed in our school. I can take a dancer which is very short with not so good feet, or a very tall dancer with great legs and feet. But they are all connected with one ingredient: the love and the respect for our art form.

When they come to the school, they know they have to serve dance and sometimes make sacrifices, in a positive way. In order to be dancer, it’s not just about posting pictures on social media. We find those dancers often in small places, where you meet dancers who are not yet stars.

I prefer someone who is purer, love dance and hasn’t so much knowledge yet. We can then model them better to be a good dancer.

You are travelling around and looking for students?
I see around 4000-10000 students every year and we take from 10 to 20 students. Due to the pandemic, we could not take so many students as we wanted, so therefor we now take around 20 students in order to build up the school again. After a couple a year we will take around 10 students as before the covid broke out.

The students stay for four years at the school, but they can stay one year more or one year less. We have engaged them when they are 14 years, but we want to lower that to 13 years. But today I have a student who is 12 years, but she is extremely talented. I told her parents she could come here one month and then go home and come another month and stay here fulltime from she is 13 years. But after she arrived, she didn’t want to go home.

The students must also be mentally and physically ready for the training. But remember 50-60 years ago the students were in the company already at the age of 15-16 years.

Yuki Nukada Clara Boselli 

Yuki Nukada and Clara Boselli, now with the Royal Swedish Ballet. Photo Cristian Hillbom

Two of your students went to Sweden this autumn?
I am always in contact with many ballet directors. The first was Johannes Öhman who came here and presented The Royal Swedish Ballet for the students and the repertoire and the history of the house. Many students were excited because they had never heard about the company in Stockholm. The first dancer from us to join RSB was a girl from Brazil – Amanda Lana.

When Nicolas Le Riche became ballet director, he came to the school and liked the level of the students so he took two students: Taylor Yanke and Luca Righi.

Two years ago, he saw a girl – Clara – who then was young, but told me to keep an eye on her and how she develops.

She did an audition and after that Clara was accepted by Nicolas Le Riche to be a dancer in the company. Clara Boselli arrived to Stockholm 1 august.

Yuki Nukada was supposed to graduate last year, but he got injured and stayed one more year at the school. I explained for Nicolas he has a good mentality and is strong and works hard, so he can be pushed to do more. He also arrived to Stockholm 1 august.

Masala Yuki Clara

Two new dancers to the Royal Swedish Ballet this autumn: Yuki Nukada and Clara Boselli. Photo Cristian Hillbom

The cost for one term is 6500 euro, how do manage to keep that low price?
Yes, but that is half of the price when I came here 2009. It is very simple, the idea of having a school with certain levels which was my goal. You are looking for students who are good and regardless of their financial situation.

I was in Ballet School at La Scala, and the parents knew if her son/daughter was accepted to be a student at the school, it wouldn’t cost them anything as it was free of charge.

My father worked hard to pay for the private school in Reggio Emilia, and later me and my sister both were accepted as students at La Scala school, which was of course a relief for our parents as the school was free.

I insist that the school can’t only take students if they have money, we must find out how to help those who are talented but cannot pay high fees for a professional school.

We have a very good relation with Le Ballet de Monte Carlo and we are today fully joined together with them. It was their director Jean-Christophe Malliot who asked me to come here.

Luca Masala

Luca Masala, the Artistic Director of the Princess Grace Academy. Photo Cristian Hillbom

Before 2009 there was no contact between Les Ballet de Monte Carlo and our school. I remember when I was a student, we were not allowed to see any performances. It was a decision by the Academy’s first director Marika Besobrasova. She had an idea of creating her own company related to the school. She worked with the Academy from the day it was founded 1975 until she died 2010 at the age of 92 years. Dance – and the Academy – was a real passion for her. I learned too when I was here at 17 years, was the love and passion for dance.

When I came here, we had classes which Besobrasova overviewed from a bed in this room, the door was open to the room beside which at that moment was a ballet class. She asked me if she could continue to have some point class, but I answered her: “I will promise you that I will give my life in the school and show the same love as you have been showing and I will work day and night to make this place as special as it used to be.” I learned from her passion, both the bad and the good side of passion.

In the beginning I went around everywhere to ask for money. I invited people to come and see our school and what they like. People didn’t know much about dance, but they loved the discipline and the respect. And they accepted to donate some money to the school. In 2014 was the fusion between Ballet de Monte Carlo and Princess Grace Academy. We have now a common budget with Ballet de Monte Carlo but we still had a lot of people who supported our school, that’s why the students need to pay only 6000 euro per term for school, training clothes, food and dormitory.

Monaco new studio

M Masala is showing where the new studio is going to be. Just beside the Princess Grace Academy. Photo Cristian Hillbom

You are now building a new studio for the school?
The new third studio will be open around November and it will be a very good for our students. After we opened our new studio in our school it will be a very easy access for our students but it is also important, we can share the big studio of Ballet de Monte Carlo. To mix with the dancers from the company is also a part of the training for our students. And also, for Jean Christophe Malliot a chance to see our students. Their studio is just a 20 minutes’ walk from here. In reality it is situated in France…

I remember when I was at La Scala school, which was in the same building as the Opera, and had the possibility to see Pavarotti and Placido Domingo in the canteen and listen to them. Smelling the culture gave one a different idea about what theatre life should be.

I must tell you about Hiroaki Ishida, now with the Royal Swedish Ballet. At his graduation year, we had sent a video to Prix de Lausanne but they didn’t accept him, and he came to me and was of course sad. In March I had found him a job in Dortmund, and I could see on his face that it was not his first choice. He did two years in Dortmund, and he grow as a dancer, you know where he is today? At the Royal Swedish Ballet where he is 2nd soloist.

Princess Grace

A ballet studio at Academie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace. Photo Cristian Hillbom

What was your most happy moment as a dancer?
Once I was in Germany and someone asked me “if you would take your career and reduce it to one moment, what moment would it be”. It´s a difficult question, but I have a moment when I was dancing Neumeier’s Die Kameliendame at the premiere in Munich. I can say that Armand is the role I have danced most frequently of all ballets. Still there are spectators who write to me when they have Die Kameliendame at the repertoire, and tell me “Oh we still remember when you were dancing this role…”

One evening I came down to my dressing room after we had finished and I met an old man, who approached me and thanked me for the performance and told me “This is the first day I live again after my wife died”. It’s not only the applause we got after the show, but thinking of what the man told me, there is also a basic reason which encourages me to dance.

Today I tell the students to think about what the man told me. If we can use the art form to change their minds for a moment and forget about what’s around them, it is worth what we are doing every day on stage.

Cristian Hillbom

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