Student Opportunities

Student Opportunities: Youth America Grand Prix

Each year, Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet competition, is literally filled with the stars of tomorrow. Some of ballet’s best and brightest have com­peted on the YAGP stage, including New York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dusty Button and American Ballet Theatre’s Sarah Lane, Hee Seo and Cory Stearns. 

YAGP is designed to help talented dancers get into major training centers and companies: Dancers get stage experience, make connections, and are seen by the movers and shakers of ballet. Part of its draw is its high professional placement rate. More than 250 alumni have company contracts around the world. “I wanted to dance professionally and the exposure from YAGP was one way to get there,” says Tyler Gum, who competed in YAGP in 2009. During regionals in Denver, Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute approached Gum and invited him to take company class. Afterward, Sklute offered him a job with Ballet West II.

Jasmine Dwyer saw YAGP as an economical alternative to auditioning for companies one at a time. “I was interested in ballet companies in the USA, but being from Australia meant that it was quite difficult and costly to audition in many cities around such a vast country,” says Dwyer. “YAGP gave me the opportunity to be seen by a number of schools and companies, not only from the U.S. but around the world.” During finals in 2008, Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre offered Dwyer a spot in his Studio Company. Her first reaction, she recalls, was “excitement and relief. All the hard work was finally starting to pay off.”    

Even if a dancer isn’t offered a job, YAGP provides other opportunities that can lead to one down the line. Judges come from ABT, NYCB, the Australian Ballet, The Ailey School and the Paris Opéra Ballet. These directors may remember a dancer at future auditions or recommend one to a colleague. Each year, YAGP also awards more than $250,000 in scholarships to prestigious academies like the ABT’s JKO School, San Francisco Ballet School, La Scala Ballet School, John Cranko Academy of Stuttgart Ballet and more.

YAGP is open to nonprofessional dancers who are 9 to 19. Dancers are selected for the finals in NYC through regional semifinals or video submissions. Participants may choose to compete as soloists, in a pas de deux and/or in an ensemble. Classical var­iations must be chosen from a pre­selected list; contemporary works are open. (Costs range from $35 to $195 depending on the category.) This year’s finals are March 21–25, 2010. Registration forms are due 30 days prior to the date of regionals. Video applications must be submitted by January 1. For dancers headed to YAGP this year, Gum has some advice: “Really perform. Technique is important, but you have one chance to show who you are, and that may be just what a school or company is looking for.” www.yagp.org —Kristin Lewis


Martha Graham School Winter Intensive

Get ready for the upcoming audition season by bursting out of the ballet bubble. Take a crash course in Graham technique with a rigorous three-week winter intensive at The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City. The program provides a solid background in this renowned modern dance style, complete with Graham classes, repertoire and composition courses taught by past and present company members as well as senior faculty of the school and guest alumni. The daily immersion in modern dance will help prepare you for any contemporary movement directors might throw your way at the end of an audition.

The intensive runs from December 28 to January 15 and is open to dancers 18 and older. There was no application deadline set as of press time, but the school recommends applying early to save yourself a spot. www.marthagraham.org
—Amanda Silliker


Dizzy Feet

 “So You Think You Can Dance” pro­ducer Nigel Lythgoe stopped by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School this summer to announce the launch of his Dizzy Feet Foundation. The organization plans to offer annual scholarships to talented students, based on both need and merit. To start off, 10 students from six studios will be chosen by members of the steering committee to receive scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $7,500. Applications and other information will soon be available at www.dizzyfeetfoundation.org. —Jennifer Stahl

 

TIP:How do you deal with rejection from summer programs?
“The summer study process is kind of a dress rehearsal for company auditions. Just because you’re not right for one school doesn’t mean your next audition won’t go well. I actually encourage students to go to auditions where they will probably get rejected. The more it happens, the less you’ll fear it, and the more successful you will be. Rejection is painful but it’s not the end of your career—it’s preparation for life as a dancer.” —Dalia Rawson, ballet mistress at Ballet San Jose School

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less