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Natalia

Youth Grand Prix America

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I just finished reading two threads in this section: the one entitled something along the lines of "there are competitions and there are competitions" and then the one about "judging" and I began to wonde what the real value of some of these competitions really is.

I've chosen YGPA as my topic because it's the only one I've ever seen in action. I attended last year, albeit only a small part of the final rounds in NYC....Much of what we saw was pretty bad...then we went out for dinner and later heard that the really good dancers had been scheduled to come on later in the evening... What is the point of having dancers win in the first rounds when they are really not any good? Why bring these people all the way from wherever it is they're from and make them pay for hotels and transportation when they have absolutely no hope??

And Aubri's post on the "judging" thread was nothing if not upsetting!

What value do young dancers really get from this particular competition? I suppose the winners to get offers to various programs and schools... Would they not have gotten these offers if they had auditioned as most people do?

I would love to hear some thoughts on this. Thanks.

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BW, that is one of the questions I had thought of too, about the winners of this particular competition getting summer scholarships. Certainly they are the ones who would get summer scholarship offers anyway! If the scholarships were for the following year, or even half a year of tuition, it would seem to be more valuable. But of course the idea of winning in NYC comes into play here too. Why they bring so many people to NY I don't know. It has to do with points won in the regional competitions.

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I have the understanding that YAGP was originally conceived to allow American dancers the opportunity to be seen on stage annually by highly qualified professionals in a performance setting . As explained to me by Larissa, the year the competition was being planned, it was to be for 12 to 15 year olds only. Somehow it became a competition also for much younger students as well as older students, I think up to age 18.

YAGP has had to face the financial realities attached to doing such a competition annually. It is now being held in Japan and brings in international judges. Frankly, the international judges do give the opportunity for less corruption. Professional contracts have been given out at the Competition, top prize a contract to ABT Studio Company. Students are offered scholarships to various summer courses but as has been stated previously, the ones chosen for scholarship are in deed the same students who have already received scholarships to various other summer courses.

Having served on various small scale competition juries I would have to say the politics of YAGP are no different than other small scale competitions. As AT has stated, yes people do receive prizes because they are 18 and it is their last year, just like students in schools or dancers in companies receive roles because they are older or have a higher ranking. I do not necessarily agree with this, but it is a reality of the Dance World and are we as teachers not responsible also to help our students to be prepared for what they will face in the profession?

The fact that YAGP Finals are held in May does make it difficult for the judges to award the prizes to students who have not already made commitments to summer programs, but when else could it be held? Certainly not in December, no one would participate if it were held before Nutcracker was over. The fact that the prizes do go to the same students and schools, for me is quite normal. We, as teachers, school directors, and company directors are all after the same thing, the best students available. Personally, I think the fact that the same schools are awarded the top prizes could be some politics but not only politics!;)

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It's great that people in Japan are able to participate. I will have to go check out their website to see exactly where the regionals are held there. So this means that the winners over there, must then come to NY in May - which must be terribly expensive!:eek: I know that the cost of just about everything is much more in Japan, so I am guessing that unless there are some really good scholarships offered there, it must really limit the students who choose to dance to those of a very much higher socio-economic level than the students in the USA. There's no argument that ballet and all its trappings is a very expensive pursuit here but for anyone who is not familiar with life and its costs in Japan, there is a world of difference in what the cost of lessons, studio time, stage rentals, etc., are between our two countries!

OK, now that I've digressed(although I do think it's an interesting sub-topic: the whole economic base idea of the competitors), I want to go back to a question that I posed earlier. One that Victoria tried to address: Why are there so many competitors who arrive in NYC for the finals that are really not very good, either technically or artistically? Last year they went on forever!

I also would like to know if you think it is important or even imperative that students who are really aiming for a professional career in ballet compete in these kinds of things...OK, let's limit it to YGPA? What makes a teacher encourage a student to do the YGPA ,anddo you think it is a good experience for anyone to go into this competition - and if not anyone, what is the criteria used to make the decision.

I am not expecting definitive answers but rather hoping to draw out some discussion on the subject if anyone else is interested!:)

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Are competitions necessary? They are if you are a foreigner. Foreigners are not able to secure work in the USA without qualifications which show they are better than the American counterparts. With US Immigration this is done by showing prizes and awards. It is an actual question on the O1 and H1 visa application form.

As for Americans, I personally do not find it important in the least to participate in or win a competition, but it has become a way to find jobs. Companies like to use flashy PR regarding the dancers and winning awards. It is one thing the American mentality understands. Read the bios of the dancers in our companies with the highest professional standards. It always mentions this award or that award. If it were not considered a selling point they would not mention them.

It does not hurt a school either to receive this publicity. To say you have a student who has won such and such or the school has received top honors or the teacher has been awarded. Competition is high and one never knows what attracts various people. Sometimes what attracts some could push others away.

The competitors are numerous in NY because they do not only invite the winners to the Finals in NY. I think it is anyone who scores a 75 or higher. This pays the bills! An example: there are 10 regionals (this is hypothetical), 6 winners, 3 juniors and 3 seniors in each regional. That only makes 60 competitors all together. That will not pay the bills in NYC, for that matter anywhere. Also they accept video entries. People who did not compete in the regionals for some reason or another but are permitted to show themselves in NY. Some schools have open invitation to compete and only show themselves in NY, not in the regionals.

I can only speak for myself, but we have not only sent students to competitions to win an award. We have sent some when younger, to experiemce what it is like so that when they are older and they may be able to win. It will not be their first competition. For example in YAGP they have 15 year olds competing against 18 year olds. In our school there is a vast difference between the two age groups. Our 18 year olds are very, very good artistically and technically. Our 15 year olds may have the technique but not the maturity artistically, therefore the 15 year old is not able to be competitive with the 18 year old. The 15 year old might compete for experience but not to be awarded. The 16 year old however could actually win, beat the 18 year old! this I have seen. I find the age difference in YAGP too vast.

Is it a good experience? Overall I would have to say YAGP, as Prix de Lausanne, has been a good experience for our school and the students. We generally have won what we set out to win or accomplished what we set out to accomplish. Goals must be set for the school and the various students who participate. Not all can win the 4 prizes available in YAGP, but the students can achieve. We take our foreign students and they are seen by the "biggies", the younger ones gain experience in competition (ours are all in the 15 -18 year age group, we do not have students who are not in high school). The older ones win the prizes we set out to win and if they do not win, well they have had an experience being seen also by the "biggies". It has never hurt. The students do not have to participate, it is their choice and believe me there are many sitting at school wishing we had selected them to participate.

As far as I know, we have selected not to participate this year in YAGP. That could change, things always can. Our reasoning...timing. Our performances are just too close to the dates of the finals. It takes a lot of time to prepare the students for competiton and for us it may not be necessary to be seen every year! We will see!

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Vrsfanatic, thank you for your very informative response - it has helped me understand the reasons why various schools and individuals may have chosen to attend. The part about the foreign students was an eye opener for me!

You obviously are with a preprofessional school and it is interesting to hear how it works in that atmosphere... I know that there are also people who enter the competition who are not with such well organized schools or programs, and I wonder if their approach is somewhat less realistic sometimes?

I appreciate your explanation of the finer points - especially the age aspect within the competition as well as your particular program's way of dealing with it.

Many thanks! :)

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Excellent post and explanation, vrs! Thank you. I agree that the age categories should be changed, at least as far as considering a 15 year old a "senior". Do you know what the lowest age is for the Juniors?

BW, our school has also benefitted from sending students to this particular competition, and so far I don't think that it has hurt anyone, although that remains to be seen a bit further on. We had 3 last year and there are three this year, two of them repeats and one new one. All senior category this year, but the 15 year old was a junior competitor last year. It was their own decision to compete. One of them is also on the list for Jackson, a 16 year old.

I am yet to be convinced that all this preparation and emphasis on competing, working on the same variations for a long period of time, sometimes missing classes for rehearsals and coaching sessions, is the way to go. But, that remains to be seen too, and I will try to stay openminded about it. I think the things that create my reservations about these competitions are the politics and judging aspects, the fact that artistry is not something that can be judged like a sport and these things place ballet in the position of being treated like a sport, and the fact that some very young dancers become "stars" way too soon.

And then there is the $$$ factor. The fact that they have to allow non-winners to attend the finals in NY in order to pay the bills, the costs to the entrants themselves as well as the school or teacher, and the way that acceptances to the NY finals vary from being in a regional to just sending a video or even automatic acceptance if you are from a certain school. Somehow this just does not seem quite right to me.

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Victoria, I agree completely with your post. I sit back and watch quietly. We do not cancel regularly scheduled classes however to rehearse the variations thank goodness, but I know we are very lucky to have the availablity of the students much more than the schools that work only "after school hours".

I wish you and your school all the best in your efforts this year. I know you and your school were quite successful last year. Merde!:)

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Thanks, vrs. We do not cancel any classes either. However, sometimes the students who are competing miss their classes in order to rehearse. Not all the time, but any time taken from classes is not good, IMO :)

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I do not know the youngest age for competitors. Maybe 12. I know in the regionals there are a lot of really little ones running around, but they do not all compete. Yet again another way to make money. Let the little ones "get experience" I think is the idea. Since we do not even have juniors I cannot even comment on the little ones from first hand experience.

This one is for BW: Yes, I am fortunate enough to be teaching in a professional program. If you do not mind may I please suggest that you note, I said professional program. We are all professional teachers/former professional dancers working in a professional school. There is nothing pre-professional about what we do. I hope I may speak also for all of the other professional schools that are out there. Just because a school trains minors, it should not be called pre-professional. We all work our hardest and with our hearts, very professionally. We come from professional backgrounds and get professional results! A school that trains students on track for a profession career should be considered a Professional School! We certainly expect professional standards from our students.:)

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Bravo, vrs!!! I have always disliked the term pre-professional, and you are absolutely right! :)

My question about the lower age limit, having never been to one of these competitions, is based on concern that very young dancers are doing variations on pointe from the classical repertoire. I don't know if this is the case, but if it is, I don't think I want to see it. Seeing 11, 12, or even 13 year olds doing variations that were created for professional ballerinas and soloists is not my idea of a good time. :(

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I must agree with you Victoria, it can be rather frightening to see 11 and 12 year olds on pointe doing adult variations. But then again, sometimes quite interesting, as was the case about 12 years ago when Vanessa Zahorian, SFB soloist I believe, was a 9 year olds doing triple pirouettes on pointe in a variation she had prepared at CPYB for a performance at a summer program in Michigan. She was amazing. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. Was she artistically mature, of course not, but she was a knockout technically. I have never seen this technical level from a 9 year old again. Believe me, we all sat there in amazement.

I have sat through the regionals of YAGP. What a long day it can be! Sometimes such horrors, but then again sometimes some delight. As we have discussed privately, I have never been to the finals, had to stay home and teach, but I have heard from others the finals can also not be of the highest level, if one had to discuss the entire program. I hear from good sources though that those students from Washington are very good!:)

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Vrsfanatic,

I stand corrected on the aforesaid misnomer - damn the pre-pros and full speed ahead with "professional"! And I don't mean this sarcastically at all. I beg to say that I was only using the lingo I had picked up in cyberland.

I admire both your directness and Victoria's on this subject, and appreciate the fact that both of your programs do send students to this particular competition - all the more reason for my applauding your comments!

From what both of you have written, it does seem to me a pity that this competition is open to younger students - say below 15 or so. I wonder about the financial side of things myself... Where does the money go? Are the judges paid for their time...and how can anyone not have a vested interest if one of their own students is competing at the very same time they are sitting in judgement? It would be interesting to know how much is spent on PR, rental of space, guest speakers, etc. I do know that fundraising is in there somewhere too - in donations in kind as well as outright gifts of money...but how much is from the fees the competitors pay?

So many questions - so little time!:) Money dealings aside, I am very thankful that you both took the time to post so thoughtfully on this topic. Many thanks!

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Interesting questions BW. These questions are appropriate for most competitions, not just YAGP. I am not really able to answer the questions as they apply this year since I have not judged YAGP since the first year 2000, I think it was. Maybe things have changed and I only did the regional level. My students were not involved, nor did any of the judges have students competing. Yes, I was paid to teach Master classes and judge for the scholarship money available. I did not judge for the prizes since I did have students competing! This took my time and a lot of work believe me. It is not all fun and games. Judges do not always agree and there is a lot of work to be done. It may look like we are having fun, but that probably is because we love what we do, but do not let that fool you. It is hard work.

We are professionals and must get paid for our work. I am a dancer from the 1960's and 1970's when we were just expected to dance because we loved it. It was supposed to be okay to suffer and not make a decent living wage for 12 hours of very difficult, stressful and demanding work. I could never ask anyone to do that nor will I ever allow myself to do it again. It is also a lousy example to set for one's students. It is an unfortunate part of any business, the financial realities, but believe me people who demand to be paid for what they do, get a lot more respect from all including the business world, who in the end, really have a big impact on the not-for-profits such as ballet. YAGP is a not-for-profit organization. No one is making money believe me. The expenses in running a competition are very big. Who knows maybe there is someone on line who knows something about that!

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In total agreement about the need for people to be paid and paid properly!:) Although I've never been involved professionally in the dance world - anyone that knows me could a test to that! - I do take your points seriously about this and the hard work as well!

In regard to funding, I am interested in how it all works because I always find it fascinating to learn how people make a go in the nonprofit world...especially in the arts. I am not the fundraiser type, but I am interested in the "administration" side of things... It's a tough world out there and the arts need all the help we can give them!

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A couple (late) notes/opinions on YAGP:

At the regional level, there are more than 6 "winners". YAGP accepts dancers in the classical division (1st, 2nd, and 3rd in junior, senior, and pre-competative); in the contemporary division (1st, 2nd, and 3rd in junior, senior, and pre-competative); and in the Grand Prix which is a combined score of the dancers' classical and contemporary performances (1st in junior and senior). There is also a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for ensambles.

Youngest age is the "pre-competative" division for 8 to 11 year olds. Juniors are 12 - 14 year olds. Seniors are 15 - 19 year olds.

Concerning 11 and 12 year olds doing adult variations on pointe - that should not be blamed on YAGP or the organizers. Wouldn't that be the fault of the teachers/coaches who are training these dancers?

A note on scholarships - an ABT contract is offered to the Senior Grand Prix winner. Other scholarships are not awarded by the judges, but by representatives of the donating organization, some of which may be judges and some just observers.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards are scored on a point system by the judges. Junior and senior Grand Prix winners are determined by a consensus of judges opinions and not necessarily according to points. In some cases, no Grand Prix award is presented if the judges can't come to an agreement.

G

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G, thank you for the explanation - that does help me understand why there are so many at the NYC finals! And I appreciate the clarification on the judging aspect, as well as, the awarding of the ABT Studio Contract.

If our schedule permits, I hope to stop by for some of the competition. When I last looked, their website said that after April 15, the exact competition schedule will be available.

I appreciate everyone's posts. I do want to point out, that in asking these questions, I did not in any way mean to disparage the competition...I did, however, want to try to clarify some things which you all have helped me do.

Victoria, you mentioned, some returning competitors from your school...I wonder, on the whole, how many competitors return the following year in general... I am sure the organization has grown tremendously in the last two years and that each ensuing year their procedures become more streamlined. It is a huge undertaking.:)

P.S. Would any of you mind enlarging upon your comments about children doing variations that were created for adult dancers? I'm not sure that I understand you - do you mean 11 year olds, 12 year olds? If I recall correctly, the competition does have a list of dances that it suggests, maybe even requires, and if that is so, how can one avoid doing these variations? Or are you meaning that these specific variations can and should be modified for the younger(up to what age?) competitors?

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All I have to say about the Youth Grand Prix is that it is exremely badly organizes.

When one of the participant chose, after looking at the list of the repertoire suggested, a variation pay for a costume and hour of coaching, you cannot go to her after and tell her that she cannot use the solo chosen because of problems with copyrights.

The girl choose to dance "Sylvia" solo from the pas de deux choreographed by Balanchine, just as it is suggested on the list of the repertoire :

:youth grand prix repertoire

Then she reads on her evaluation "wrong Choreography" then told that she couldn't use Balanchine Choreography because of the right problem with the Trust. Well it unadmissible to do that to a young student, that of course was distressed and confuse and needed a lot of guidance after that, without talking about the money spent on a costume and long hour of training.

If the dirgeant of the competiton knew about that ( by the way "Sylvia" is still a choice on the site) they should have noticed all the dancer that decided to dance that choreography or tell them to get the right or to simply find another solo to dance.

:confused: :mad

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My daughter was telling me yesterday that a friend of hers is coming to NYC for a competition in May. She didn't know the name of the competition, but she said that he had won something in LA in order to qualify for this one.

So, I have two questions: is this the right competition, and can we buy a ticket and go along and watch?

Fran

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BW, the age thing is hard to really answer, because there are always rare exceptions to almost everything. However, generally, children of 11, 12, and 13, even those with a great deal of talent, are still not advanced dancers. They are talented potential and should be doing work suited for their physical and technical development at the time. The classical variations were created for professional soloists and principal dancers. They are very difficult.

We have a talented 12 year old who attended another school prior to coming to our school last fall. The other school was big on entering competitions, and the director of that school entered this child in one of the Grand Prix regionals this year, even though she is now a student at our school. The mother called and asked for coaching for her on one of the Paquita variations, one which is difficult for our most advanced 16 and 17 year olds! While this child is very talented, she is absolutely not ready to be doing this kind of work! (Not to mention asking to be coached at our school when we have not entered her in this competition! We do not enter students of this level, even if they are exceptionally talented. But that is beside the point of this topic.)

If they are going to have 12 year olds competing, then they should, IMO, be doing things choreographed for them which are suitable for their technical abilities and physical maturity. Variations on pointe for students who have only been on pointe a year or so are not generally appropriate, in my opinion of course.

Another big problem of this competition is that 15 year olds are in the same category as 18 year olds, and the Juniors range from 12-14. There is a huge difference between those ages, in both categories, in terms of physical maturity and strength.

Just a few more reasons why I don't much like these things ;)

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I so agree with Victoria, unfortunately parents or child wants to got often to fast, but you shouldn't put the carriage before the horses.

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Very good way of putting it, aubri :) Making "stars" out of 12 year olds has nothing at all to do with the making of a dancer/artist.

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What a story Aubri! You're right "Sylvia" with Balanchine's name is still listed!:eek: One would think there would be an explanation.:confused:

In looking over this subject, I think I would like to say "Amen!" to Victoria's comment:

Making "stars" out of 12 year olds has nothing at all to do with the making of a dancer/artist.

Many thanks for your replies.

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Since this weekend YAGP is beginning their final phase, I can't help wondering if anyone will decide to post their impressions of this year's competition. From looking at their website, it certainly does seem more organized this time around.

I am hoping to make it in if I can just to take a look - especially at the senior finalists if possible. I can't help but wonder if Aubri or any of the other posters, or readers, here are having any of their students attend this year... I hope if they do that their experiences this time will be better and that we might hear about them, too.

Archaeo, I just noticed that no one addressed your question about buying tickets! The answer is yes - at the door at Fordham University right next to Lincoln Center. If you go to the YAGP website they have posted the schedule of events. There is also a telephone number and they are quite good about returning phone calls ASAP!

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The School of the Washington Ballet has two students in the Senior Category this year. Also, our Young Dancers will be performing at the Gala. I will be there Sunday and Monday for parts of the competition and for the Gala.

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