Youth America Grand Prix 20th Anniversary

Above photo: Misha Broderick, Master Ballet Academy. Photo courtesy of VAM Productions. Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) held its finals Wednesday at Koch Theater, Lincoln Center celebrating its 20th anniversary. The finals featured 86 dancers in four divisions: Junior Women and Men aged 12-14 and the Senior Women and Men’s 15-18 Division. It can be mind-numbing watching almost 100 dancers in short solos spanning three and a half hours, but it is also exciting given the high level of talent displayed by some of the young dancers. YAGP has a successful track record of identifying young talent, with previous winners including Matthew Golding, Hee Seo, Sarah Lane, Joseph Philips (2002); Isaac Hernandez, Brooklyn Mack (2003); Joseph Gorak (2005); Sergei Polunin, Jeffrey Cirio (2006); Melissa Hamilton (2007); Vadim Muntagirov, Skylar Brandt (2008); Jeffrey Cirio (2009); Kimin Kim (2012), (see my previous article on ballet competitions for more information). These events are a big deal as representatives from ballet companies globally are there to find and evaluate talent for their schools and companies. Most Principal Dancers at major companies have a successful track record at these events.

Dancers selected short solos from classical ballet repertory with excerpts from La Esmeralda, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Paquita dominating. Like most other competitions, some of the solos have an over-rehearsed feel as the dancers have likely gone through the solos hundreds of times in preparation for the big competition. The solos do play to the dancers’ strengths so they don’t give a complete representation of the skills of the dancer. Nonetheless, the short solos provide insight on technical capabilities such as turning ability and elasticity of jumps.

As I was going through my notes from the 86 solos, a theme was outstanding performances from students from the Master Ballet Academy of Scottsdale, Arizona, run by Slawomir and Irena Woźniak. In the Junior Women’s Division, I enjoyed 14-year old Maya Schonbrun in Harlequinade, with nice turns and supple extensions; 14-year old Natalia Chersia in La Esmeralda showing off great extensions, nice back arch, and high leaps. In the Junior Men, 13-year old Misha Broderick (1st place) stood out in a solo from Diana and Acteon with controlled turns in attitude, wide-arm pirouettes, and high multiple double tours. For Senior Women, 16-year old Basia Rhoden (top 12) showed great control and uncanny turning skills, whipping off five effortless pirouettes on pointe in her La Esmeralda solo, all with great stage presence.
Youth America Grand Prix 20th Anniversary

Basia Rhoden, Master Ballet Academy. Photo courtesy of VAM Productions

There was great talent on display Wednesday, although not as deep as in the past several years. More of my favorites from the Wednesday finals:

Summer Dyvestyn, Classical Coaching Australia (Shelly King Award for Excellence). Summer, 12-years of age, delivered a well controlled variation with nice balances and rapid piqué turns from Talisman, one of the more popular choices of the evening.

Rebecca Alexandria Hadibroto,  Marlupi Dance Academy, Indonesia (1st place Junior Women). Rebecca was impressive in her Harlequinade solo with triple pirouettes with hands on her hips.

Elise Cho, Southland Ballet Academy, California danced the Aurora Act I Sleeping Beauty variation with great maturity, with quad pirouettes and innovative turns in second position.

Madison Brown, Lents Dance Company, Florida, (3rd place Junior Women). Madison had great extension in her Talisman solo.

Paloma Sol Livellara Vidart, Instituto Superioir De Arte De Teatro Colon, Argentina (top 12 Junior Women). Paloma is a 13-year old student at the school that produced Herman and Erica Cornejo. She danced the Medora Le Corsaire solo with excellent phrasing and stage presence.

Taeryeong Kim, Sunhwa Arts Middle School, South Korea (top 12 Junior Women). The 13-year old showed substantial energy and extension in the Diana and Acteon solo.

Abra Geiger, Timothy M Draper Center for Dance Education, NY (top 12 Junior Women). The 14-year old showed great stage presence and boldness in La Esmeralda.

Seungmin Lee, Sunhwa Arts Middle School, South Korea (3rd place Junior Men). Seungmin stood out with his turns in his Le Corsaire solo with nice five pirouettes and many “skater” turns with his leg creeping down his supporting leg in retiré.

Ruth Schultz, Ellison Ballet. In the Senior Women’s Division, the 15-year old demonstrated great control and depth in her Dulcinea Act I Don Quixote solo.

Min Young Kim, Korea National University of the Arts, South Korea (top 12 Senior Women). The 18-year old was impressive in the Grand Pas Classique solo with great control on her tricky extensions.

Katherine Ochoa Lipiz, Alma Dance School, Cuba (top 12 Senior Women). The 19-year old is a dynamo, dancing the Odile Act III Swan Lake solo with great energy. Katherine is a talented turner, capable of five turns and innovative turns in second position.

Gabriel Figueredo, John Cranko School, Germany, (Winner of Grand Prix Award, Dance Europe Award). 18-year old Gabriel was smooth in his Raymonda solo, with great feet and line.

Junsu Lee, Korea National University of Arts, (1st place, Senior Men) South Korea and Harold Mendez of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet (3rd place, Senior Men) stood out in the Senior Men’s Division. Junsu performed the Grand Pas Classique well with solid turns in attitude and some razzle dazzle while Harold excelled in the Diana and Acteon solo with large separation cabrioles.

Youth America Grand Prix 20th Anniversary

Katherine Ochoa Lipiz, Alma Dance School, Cuba. Photo courtesy of VAM Productions.

Youth America Grand Prix 20th Anniversary

Ruth Schultz, Ellison Ballet. Photo courtesy of VAM Productions.