YAGP: Showcasing the Future of Ballet
Youth America Grand Prix 2017, April 7th - 14th, New York City
When it comes to Ballet competitions, there’s scarcely a more anticipated annual event than that of the Youth America Grand Prix. Representing the crème de la crème of International competitions for young classical dancers, the YAGP upholds a benchmark of technical prestige against which over 5, 000 students aim to test their performance and technical skills on a yearly basis, whilst also embracing the opportunity to meet fellow dancers, teachers and current dance icons that all converge in New York in honour of this renowned event.
Established in 1999 by Larissa Savliev – a former Bolshoi star herself – the YAGP aims to create a platform for talented young individuals to catch the eye of some of the most well regarded professional companies in the world, 30 of which will then select promising candidates for training scholarships that offer a coveted chance to transition from student dancer to professional (a huge drawcard in an industry that trains thousands of hopefuls, but employs only the smallest fraction of them). And with an ever increasing 200 plus alumni dancing in fifty high profile companies around the world (including the American Ballet, New York City Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet) the virtues of the YAGP’s intermediary role are undeniable.
However, much like the Prix de Lausanne, the workshops, scholarship auditions and masterclasses that the event encompasses are an enriching experience regardless of the results; every dancer walks away with a keener insight into the career journey they’re undertaking, and having (hopefully) grown as a dancer, competitor and performer. The annual ‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’ Gala is also an incredible chance for young dancers to watch the icons they aspire to perform firsthand, something that's a rarity - if not a first - for some of the international competitors.
The featured artists for 2017 include YAGP alumni Skylar Brandt (American Ballet Theatre) Cesar Corrales (English National Ballet), and Gabe Stone Shayer (American Ballet Theatre), as well as eminent dancers from the Bavarian State Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet.
Even for those of us not active in the competition arena, the YAGP has received growing attention since the 2011 documentary First Position (by director Bess Kargman) shone a light on an otherwise unexposed arena - the inner circle of the life of a YAGP Finalist, and exactly what kind of strength of character and sheer willpower is required of every candidate. Today the film, like the event itself, has earned a certain reverence both in and outside the dance community, because as trite as it may sound, it's the incredibly rare phenomenon of getting to watch dreams coming true, right before your eyes.
When you're dealing with a high-stakes competition that awards more than $300,000 in scholarships each year, the honour of 'winning' isn't merely a point of pride or bragging rites, it's a life-altering prospect; and you can be certain that this year's candidates will be bringing everything they've got to the table.
To follow the 2017 candidates and this week's results, see the official YAGP FB page, Instagram and Website.
Article by Elly Ford.