Youth America Grand Prix’s “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” gala makes its Tampa debut January 22 at the David A. Straz, Jr Center for the Performing Arts. Dancers from New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet will dance alongside top-scoring students from YAGP’s 2012 Tampa semi-finals. One of those “Stars of Today” is Boston Ballet soloist Jeffrey Cirio. A former student of Peter Stark, dance chair of the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory, Cirio is a top YAGP vet: He won a gold medal in the junior’s division in 2006 and took home the grand prix in 2009.
What is your favorite memory from YAGP?
Actually, it’s dancing with the professionals in the gala in New York. I particularly remember meeting Marcelo Gomes backstage—he was such a nice guy; he just came up and introduced himself. He was so encouraging and supportive to us kids.
And now you’re one of the professionals!
I know! But because I was one of the competitors, I almost feel like a kid again, like I’m competing. In some ways I feel like I have to do better than I did before. I’m such a competitor at heart.
What was the hardest part of YAGP for you?
YAGP was my entry into competitions. So regionals in Connecticut were actually more nerve-racking than finals because it was my very first competition, so I really didn’t know what it was gonna be like. And I’m such a perfectionist—I didn’t want to lose.
What advice would you give to students who are competing in YAGP for the first time this year?
Just do you. Concentrate on yourself. Remember the performance is a chance just to get onstage and do a variation that you really want to dance. Don’t worry about the other people around you. Try to get in your zone.
How do you get in your zone?
I’m a big music person. I kind of just zone out into whatever I’m listening to. And I don’t look around—I never watch any of the other competitors, unless I’m finished.
How did YAGP help you as a dancer?
The training one-on-one with a coach is probably the most special thing you can get as a student. Plus, meeting so many people through YAGP has helped me throughout my career. With all the different teachers, directors and dancers I’ve met, I’ve been able to call up someone I know when I needed to audition for a company and they've helped me get in a class. I’ve also done different galas through people I met.
How does it feel to go back?
Great! I’ve always really wanted to represent YAGP as a winner. I’m really excited to dance for Larissa [Saviliev, artistic director] and those people who gave me a chance and such great awards.
What will you be dancing?
The Corsaire pas de deux with my sister, and a contemporary piece I choreographed myself.
How do you like choreographing?
I’ve choreographed before (for my solo in Helsinki), but this is harder because I don’t have much time. And I feel like the more influences of different choreographers you have in your body, the harder it gets to choreograph your own movement.
What’s it like dancing with your sister?
Well, she’s a bit taller than me on pointe, so it’s tough. But we know each other so well. I feel less nervous knowing she’ll be there with me.
We’re giving away a pair of tickets to the gala. Enter here!