Local ballet school initiated the first online dance competition with surprising results

As with most businesses, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the operations of Mont Royal Ballet Academy, owned and operated by dancers Sandra Castro-Mühlbauer her husband Diego Castro. “Last year, we were two to three weeks into our winter session when everything stopped. We switched right away to online teaching. It worked better than we anticipated, and we had the idea of using online videos to host an international competition.” And the rest – as they say – was history. The little ballet academy in Montreal put on the first international online ballet competition titled Elegance with a high rate of participation and a panel of esteemed dance judges.

“Our mission is to provide exceptional, classical education to serious and talented students seeking a professional career in Ballet.”

Dancer Samael Maurice - Mont Royal Ballet Academy

Dancer Samael Maurice posed for the Elegance online poster that went around the world.
Photo: Damian Siqueiros

Austrian-born Sandra met her husband Diego while they were dancers with Lalala Human Steps; and opened their Mont Royal Ballet Academy in 2017. The school offers two streams of training. Professional level training is offered under the banner of the Mount Royal Ballet Academy, and a recreational program is available with the whimsical name; Tutu Deluxe.

Sandra Lalala Humansteps - Mont Royal Ballet Academy

Sandra performing in Lalala Human Steps
Photo: Nikolay Krusser

Sandra is a multi-faceted professional. She is a principal dancer, international guest artist and choreographer. The Austrian ballerina received her ballet education at the Conservatory in Vienna under the direction of International Ballet Star Karl Musil and Prima Ballerina Evelyn Teri.

Sandra won many prizes at international ballet competitions such as the Nureyev Competition, the Serge Lifar Competition, Prix de Lausanne, ÖTR Contest, Fouette Artek and many more. She worked together with acclaimed artists and choreographers such as Edouard Lock, Vladimir Malakhov, Patricia Neary, Diana Vishneva, Rafael Avnikjan, Renato Zanella and Evelyn Teri.

Sandra has danced for well-known companies such as Lalala Human Steps, the Vienna State Opera Ballet, the Slovak National Theatre and the world-famous Lido in Paris. Her favorite roles include Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Myrta in Giselle and Aegina in Spartacus.

Sandra Castro-Mühlbauer - Mont Royal Ballet Academy

Sandra Castro-Mühlbauer has trained and performed with world renowned dancers and ballet companies
Photo: Raphael Pires

“With ballet training, we also teach our students grace, endurance and discipline.”

She continues to travel internationally as a guest teacher and adjudicator at ballet competitions. “Our ongoing international relationships helped a lot for us to recruit judges and contestants for the Elegance competition. We pulled the whole project together in a few weeks.” The couple was able to engage an international panel of fifteen judges and 150 competitors enrolled in the competition in just three weeks. “We had contestants from twenty countries, including Austria, Japan, Russia, China and Germany.

Each contestant was required to present a 45 to 60 second dance in a small space. This ensured that contestants were on an equal footing in terms of the setting for their dance. The competition offered sixteen categories, with First, Second and Third Prizes for each category. “We were really happy with the results,” stated Sandra. “Two of the dance competitors got jobs directly from the competition, and many others we offered scholarships for their continuing ballet training.”

If there is an aspiring dancer in your household, here is the contact information for Sandra and Diego’s schools. By email: office@montroyalballet.com  Tel: 514-737 7676. Mont Royal Ballet Academy is at 3785 Rue Jean-Talon Ouest, Montreal, H3R 2G4