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Youth America Grand Prix Presents Its New York Finals at David H. Koch Theater

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Youth America Grand Prix
New York Finals 2014: The Final Round

Round 3 – Top Finalists for Junior (ages 12-14)
and Senior (ages 15-19) Categories

David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center

Larissa Saveliev: Founder and Artistic Director
Gennadi Saveliev: President and Founder
Press: Jonathan Marder and Company, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 9, 2014

The annual Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition draws many hundreds, including student competitors, teachers, family, sponsors, and ballet aficionados from New York and well beyond. The final round of competition is held at Koch Theater, with screaming student fans in the upper tiers. Seemingly hundreds of floral bouquets can be seen in the audience, with parents, as well as students, already disqualified from the finals, showing up for support. The spirit and soul of this and the following Galas are ebullient. First we see Junior Women, then Junior Men (ages 12-14), followed by Senior Women, then Senior Men (ages 15-19). Some of these students are already in dance ensembles and receiving school tutoring, while others are in junior or senior high school, practicing and studying dance every other moment. Preparation for dance competition requires dedicating many hours/day to focused and grueling exercises and barre work, plus performance rehearsals.

Over 7,000 students begin the semi-finals rounds in Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Japan, and 15 American cities. Only 350 students are invited to the New York finals. Those who win, and many more, will be awarded scholarships to the world’s top dance schools and contracts to renowned dance companies. There were too many student performance highlights to mention or list all. Some recorded music is heard over and over, as students have learned a variety of male and female solos for this competition, like “Variation from Le Corsaire”, “Variation from Grand Pas Classique”, “Variation from Talisman”, “Variation from La Esmeralda”, “Variation from Don Quixote”, “Variation from Grand Pas Classique”, and “Variation from Paquita”. The Variations have been adapted for the competition, and teachers and judges are chosen from the crème de la crème of the ballet community.

Among tonight’s female competitors, I was drawn to and impressed by numerous young dance enthusiasts. Elena Iseki, 12, of Japan, danced perfectly, with her leg straight up in “Variation from Diana and Acteon”. Aviva Gelfer-Mundi, 12, of USA, had attitude and strength in “Variation from Paquita’. Martina Prefontaine, 12, of Canada, was strong, in “Variation from Paquita”. Yuria Isaka, 13, of Japan, had a tambourine while en pointe, in “Variation from La Esmeralda”. Gabrielle Stilo, 14, of USA, brought her legs up to her head in “Variation from Coppélia”. Natasha Sheehan, 14, of USA, was perky and bright in “Variation from Don Quixote”. Florrie Geller, 14, of USA, showed true emotional exuberance in “Variation from Walpurgisnacht”. Michelle Lemburg, 15, of USA, completed rapid spins in “Variation from Le Corsaire”. Julliane Franzoi Linhares, 16, of Brazil, danced feverishly in “Variation from La Esmeralda”. Promise Smith, 17, of USA, had ultra-strong legs, in “Variation from Grand Pas Classique”. Claire Rathbun, 18, of USA, had attitude and style, in “Variation from La Esmeralda”. Natsuki Yamada, 18, of Japan, was flirting with the audience, spinning with legs out, in “Variation from La Esmeralda”.

Among tonight’s male competitors, I was equally astounded at the ensured future of virtuosic ballet performers. Shale Wagman, 13, of Canada, did multiple twirls in “Variation from Le Corsaire”. Austen Acevedo, 14, of USA, executed high kicks in “Variation from Coppélia”. Theophilus Pilette, 14, of USA, performed incredible kicks and jumps in “Variation from Paquita”. Harrison Lee, 14, of Australia, had attitude and muscular strength in “Variation from Flames of Paris”. Thomas Dilley, 14, of Australia, showcased huge scissors kicks in “Variation from Flames of Paris”. Victor Caixeta, 14, of Brazil, danced a slow turn with personality, in “Variation from Harlequinade”. Rodrigo Pinto, 15, of Portugal, danced lengthy scissors kicks in “Variation from Satanella”. Marcos Vinicius Souza E. Silva, 16, of Brazil, danced rapid spins and muscular leaps in “Variation from La Esmeralda”. Francisco Serrano, 17, of USA, was a dancer with charisma in “Variation from Le Corsaire”. David Fernando Navarro Yudes, 17, of Spain/Monte Carlo, showed charm and talent in slow spins in “Variation from Don Quixote”. Haruo Niyama, 17, of Japan, danced slow-fast in virtuosic demeanor in “Variation from La Bayadere”. Cesar Corrales, 17, of USA/Cuba, danced with sexy maturity in “Variation from Don Quixote”. Sunwoo Lee, 17, of Korea, wowed the audience in “Variation from Paquita”.

Kudos to all of tonight’s Finals competitors, kudos to the teachers and judges, and kudos to YAGP.

Yuki Sugiura
in Variation from "Sleeping Beauty"
Courtesy of Siggul/Visual Arts Masters

Haruo Niyama
in Variation from "La Bayadere"
Courtesy of Siggul/Visual Arts Masters

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at