Teenage ballerina Hannah O'Neill's win at a prestigious
international competition will serve as inspiration to other
young New Zealander dancers, one of her former teachers said
O'Neill, 16, has taken top prize in the annual Prix de
Lausanne in Switzerland from a field of more than 80.
The competition is for 15- to 18-year-old dancers who have
not been in professional employment and many previous winners
have gone on to star in major companies like the Royal
Aucklander O'Neill began her training at the Mt Eden Ballet
Academy, and director Heather Palmer described her
achievement at Lausanne as "huge".
"What Hannah had done is a great inspiration to a lot of
other young dancers in New Zealand," she said.
"It will certainly give them a goal and make them realise
that these things are possible." Palmer said O'Neill showed
evidence of a budding talent when she started as an
She described her as a popular student, who helped the
younger children, and believed she had the goods to make it
to the top in the ballet world.
"She's always willing to learn and is never too important to
listen to anyone, and that will stand her in good stead," she
"To achieve success in dancing you have to have a good
attitude and quite a bit of inner strength, and she has
that." O'Neill remained at the academy until early last year,
when she moved across the Tasman to join the Australian
The scholarship she was awarded in Lausanne will help towards
her four-year course at the school.
O'Neill is the fourth New Zealander to come away with a prize
during the competition's 36 years.
She is the second to finish in first place, with Tauranga's
Lisa-Maree Cullum also achieving the feat in 1988.
Cullum is now a principal dancer with the Bavarian State
Ballet, having previous been with the English National Ballet
and the Ballet of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.