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#TBT: When Ballet Stars Were YAGP Competitors

Michaela De Prince, Photo by Jordi Matas/Polaris/Newscom

It's Youth America Grand Prix time again, and when the competition wraps up this week, we'll meet some of tomorrow's potential stars. YAGP has a track record of predicting some of ballet's biggest names. Take a walk down memory lane with us and see for yourself.


Sarah Lane

Before Sarah Lane earned her soloist spot at American Ballet Theatre (and graced our June/July 2015 cover), she won the senior bronze medal at the 2002 YAGP. Here she is as a poised, expressive 17-year-old, performing a variation from Paquita.

​Michaela DePrince

Michaela DePrince first became a household name after the documentary First Position chronicled her journey at YAGP in 2010. The then-14-year-old ended up winning a scholarship to the JKO School. Now she's developing her artistry at Dutch National Ballet, where she was recently promoted to soloist.

Sergei Polunin

Before developing his "bad boy" reputation, Sergei Polunin was the Grand Prix winner in 2006—and you can see why in this variation, from his onstage charisma to his strong turns and seemingly-effortless jumps. These days, he's exploring new avenues and defying expectations, and is slated to appear in two upcoming Hollywood films.

Melissa Hamilton 

Melissa Hamilton won the Grand Prix in 2007, and joined The Royal Ballet that same year. After taking a leave of absence to stretch her boundaries at Dresden Semperoper Ballett for a year, she's currently back at the Royal, where she's a first soloist.

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Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop chats with Ballet West soloist Chelsea Keefer to hear about how she prepares her pointe shoes. Keefer offers lots of darning tips, and shares all of the unusual ways that she uses rosin.

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At this point, you'd think we'd all be used to the level of technical absurdity Daniil Simkin achieves when he's playing around in the studio. But then he did this:

...and now we're low-key appalled in the absolute best way.

After we picked our jaws up from the floor, we were inspired to dig up clips of some of our other favorite dancers turning like it's no big deal. Here are just a few standouts.

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Natalia Makarova's version of Swan Lake, staged in the 1980s for London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet), incorporates a pas de quatre choreographed by Sir Fredrick Ashton into the ballet's opening act. Leanne Benjamin, then just 24 and a principal with the company, dances among the couples in this clip from a 1988 film of the ballet. The burgeoning ballerina shines in her minute-long solo, tackling intricate footwork with intelligence and spirit that foreshadow her formidable, two-decade career as a principal of The Royal Ballet.

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