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
“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