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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.

Ballet Stars

English National Ballet star Alina Cojocaru was still a Royal Ballet principal in 2006 when she guest-starred in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty. And as this clip of her Aurora proves, she is indeed a vision in Act II's dream scene. Dancing alongside Andrian Fadeyev and Daria Pavlenko as Prince Désiré and the Lilac Fairy, the Romanian ballerina has an air of otherworldly majesty.

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Ballet Stars

A little over a month ago Roberto Bolle gave his final bow with American Ballet Theatre, though thankfully he's not saying goodbye to ballet altogether. After 10 years dancing as a principal with ABT while guesting around the world and at his home company La Scala Ballet, he's now planning to focus on his own galas and projects in Italy. A frequent face in those galas is Polina Semionova, a principal guest with Staatsballett Berlin (and also a former principal with ABT). Semionova and Bolle have danced together for years, and while Bolle is renown for his partnerships with many ballerinas, the two make an exceptionally elegant duo. Here they dance Vladimir Burmeister's Black Swan Pas de Deux at the 2007 Tchaikovsky Gala in Milan.

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Oh, internet challenges...We don't know who starts them or where they come from, but we definitely love it when dancers get involved.

The past few weeks have seen the rise of the #bottlecapchallenge, which involves someone kicking the top off of a plastic bottle. The slow-motion videos show the cap neatly spinning off. Of course, everyone from dogs to celebs have tried their hand (er, foot?) at the challenge. But ballerinas have taken it to the next level. As far as we can tell, Cuban dancer Marlen Fuerte Castro was the first to add a ballet spin: fouetté turns.

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