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Natalia

Youth Grand Prix America

58 posts in this topic

Victoria, how did it go? Did you bring back any interesting impressions?

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Some of the teachers and dancers I know who attended said that a lot more work still needs to be done in organizing. Floors also were very slippery - that seems to have been a widespread opinion.

Apparently there was a big contingent of really impressive Asian dancers that swept many of the awards.

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Yes, I was there. I just got home, and I don't think I am ready to post my impressions at this time. They are very negative, but it's not the dancers, it's the organization, or more correctly, the total disorganization of the whole event. I will try to do more on this, but no time right now.

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Thanks, Victoria. Now you've *really* piqued my interest to find out how it went! For the time being, get some rest...

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Okay, I'm going to try and tell you a bit about this competition. Please keep in mind that I was not there in any official capacity. I was just there to observe and experience it. Our school did have two students entered, and our Young Dancers were performing on the Gala, so I had a vested interest, but not a direct need to be there as I do not work on the competition variations, and the Young Dancers ballet was choreographed by Lynn Cote and rehearsed by Lynn and our Associate Director of the school, who also coached the variations. I do teach these dancers, however.

My problems with this particular competition are not about the dancers or the winners. I think I have previously expressed that I am not generally in favor of competitions for young dancers, as I believe they become all about the tricks and not about the art of ballet. The development of an artist is not just about how many pirouettes or fouettés they can do, or how high they can jump. Entering them in competitive events focusses on these things and not on the art. It also promotes very young dancers doing things that they might not be ready to do correctly, which will develop bad habits that are very hard to get rid of. It can be very detrimental to talented young people who don't "win", and it can promote major egos, the "star" syndrome, in those who do. For dancers who are already professional, or ready to be professional and looking for a job, I think they can be valid. For children, I am not convinced that they are a positive thing.

That said, let me now deal with this particular competition. It was the most totally disorganized event of any kind that I think I have ever attended. The schedule kept changing, there were too many contestants, there were massive delays every day including the Gala itself, and the production staff at Alice Tully totally screwed up the Gala by not having a proper rehearsal so that the stage manager (if there was one) and the sound person could have some clue about what they were doing. Not only did the dancers not get to rehearse for the Gala, but the technicians were lost. The sound person either had no communication with the stage manager, or the stage manager had no clue what was going on, or both. Many of the dancers did not know if they were performing on the Gala or not. The sound person was either a moron, or just had not been given the information and the rehearsal time to know that a grand pas de deux has to stop after the pas de deux, before the male variation, and then again before the female variation, and then again before the coda. He also stopped the music in the middle of the ballet that our Young Dancers were performing, and did not restart, even though the dancers kept going. One of the Grand Prix variations was done almost totally in silence after her tape messed up very early in the dance. She kept going, and did a lovely job in spite of this.

But this was NY. It was Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. I thought I was at some obscure performance at an Amateur Night in Dixie. It was unbelievable. It started over an hour late, the sound person wrecked the show in several instances, and the awards ceremony was as disorganized as the rest of the event. The night before we had waited over an hour for the results of the competition for the finalists in the Grand Prix. The students had been going all day, and they were there until midnight two nights in a row. They started at 9:30 in the morning the next day. The Monday competition for the Grand Prix placement was also delayed by an hour. They went from there to Alice Tully, supposedly for a rehearsal, and they did not get to run anything on the stage. They did a light cue and a sound check and that was it. No run through. They got there at 4:30 and were scheduled to perform at 7. It did not start until 8 or after. Their performances that night showed the exhaustion, and probably a total lack of food as well. There was no time between the competition at one venue and the need to be at Alice Tully at 4:30. Another major flaw was the stage. It was filthy. You could see the dust, which made it very slippery. There were slick spots that were visisble from the house. Several dancers fell, including one of the guest artists from ABT.

My other HUGE problem with this competition is that they have 15 year olds in the same category as 19 year olds. This is absurd. You have very talented children competing against young dancers who are company ready, and there were several of those who were indeed ready and quite wonderful. But not fair to the younger dancers to be in the same category. And the "pre-competitve" category is also, IMO, a problem. There were children under 12 years old doing things that just should not be done at that age. On pointe. Even some of the Juniors, who are 12-14, were asked to do work that I feel is beyond most of them. Some were ready, but very few. Other categories were also strange, and the competition in the non Grand Prix events, like Classical Seniors and Contemporary Seniors, is puzzling to me. I did not quite understand and saw a lot of people in the Classical Seniors category who were not anywhere close to the level of the people in the Grand Prix.

Other than that, it was a great weekend ;)

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I have to agree with Victoria, one would think that after a couple of year they would get it right, but it was as badly organized as the first one,I also agree with Victoria with the age problem. It was more than amateurish, it was embarassing, I am sorry that such young dancers had to be exposed to that......:(

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Can anyone explain to me why some students in this competition go through Regionals to get to NY, while others appear to just be entered and accepted directly into the NY finals? The only explanation I can think of is that, by allowing some prestigious schools to just send their students and not do Regionals, it opens up the Regionals for more students to have the chance to "win" and get to NY, thereby increasing the numbers in NY and of course increasing the amount of money that comes in from all the fees the students pay for each category and competition they enter. I understand those who do Regionals do have to pay to enter there, and then pay again to enter NY, except for the one Grand Prix winner in each Regional.

Other things I forgot to mention include the announcer during the events announced the name and age of the student, the teacher and the name and choreographer of the variation. I could never hear what he was saying at all. Then, at the Gala, the "emcee" was a guest star from Broadway, who, though charming and funny, had no clue what she was doing up there and wasted a large amount of time trying to figure out where she was on the page, what she was supposed to do next, etc. She had to keep calling the other announcer over to ask him what she was doing. It got very tedious and added to the length and tedium of the third act of this marathon.

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I attended this competition last year with my daughter and determined at that time to never return because of the disorganization, which caused undue stress to the competitors, coaches and parents. From your description, Victoria, it sounds as if things were even more chaotic this year than last year. It's a shame, because it could be a nice opportunity for students. Even though recreational competitions are not advocated here, I will say this for them - they are highly organized, you can understand the announcers, the rules do not change and the rules apply to EVERYONE. The organizers of Youth Grand Prix could learn alot about this business of showcasing talent in the form of a competition from some of these other events. Frankly, after last year and the problems we saw, I am surprised that they are still attracting competitors. The only conclusion I can come to is that people are not familiar with what a well organized competition can be like, so they put up with the confusion and delays.:confused: We are currently involved with the USAIBC and so far they have been HIGHLY organized and I feel a certain comfort level already about my daughter's participation in this event.:(

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They do indeed have a lot to learn, bhough. And I think that there just may be some major schools not participating in the future. There was one very major school that I know of which won a Major award last year and did not enter this year. My guess is that there will be more next year.

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Victoria - Thanks for posting your candid & honest impressions. WHEW - sounds like a competition from hell! :)

Such disorganization shows a lack of respect for those who worked hard to compete. The YAGP folks could learn a thing or two from the Jackson IBC organizers; now *there's* a group of true professionals who know how to run a competition like clockwork.

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I think to call this "the competition from hell" is an exaggeration. Having attended one of the regional semifinals with my daughter, I can say that most dancers and parents I saw looked perfectly happy. I had never been to a ballet competition before, because our studio discourages them, but I was impressed that the dancers were more than civil to one another and that it was an opportunity for them to really learn and grow. My daughter, along with another 15-year-old competing in the Seniors, won a "special commendation from the judges," which amazed and delighted her; the YAGP people deserve credit for making an effort to recognize the youngest dancers in that age group. Also, their winners include dancers who are not from the biggest-name, big-company schools. And every dancer who competed was invited up to the stage and given a rose during the closing ceremonies. It seems to me that a fledgling operation like this, which is clearly rather understaffed but trying to do something positive for young dancers, ought to be encouraged by people in the dance world.

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Originally posted by Victoria Leigh

Can anyone explain to me why some students in this competition go through Regionals to get to NY, while others appear to just be entered and accepted directly into the NY finals?  

Dancers can audition for NY directly by video.

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Exactly, aubri.

Balletmama, videos are accepted, but there are also some schools who do not have to do anything, just enter for NY.

By the way, I did not call it the competition from hell, however, I don't totally disagree with that terminology :) While I'm sure the people running it are extremely well intentioned, they have a lot to learn about these things if they are going to attract the best students from all over the world to NY for these finals. If you were not at the NY competition, you have no idea what it was like there. This was not a regional, in one city with one group of students. There were 218 of them there, from several countries besides the US. It costs a huge amount of money to travel from foreign countries, and it costs a HUGE amount of money to be in NY for several days in a hotel and eating in restaurants. There were people there from places in the States that are very far away and very expensive to travel from, like Hawaii, for instance. There were 28 dancers from Japan. There was a Ukranian student, an Austrian student, a Swiss student, and a number of Canadians. I just don't think that people are not going to be willing to do this after experiencing this kind of disorganization.

The competition also included very young students, called "pre-competitive", however, they were competing too. It encourages very, very young dancers to take on classical work that just should not be attempted by dancers of this age. Even the junior category pushes the dancers into classical variations that are mostly beyond their abilities. There were some juniors who were well qualified. However, I have to still question the validity of this kind of competition for children of 12 and 13 years old. I think that I would be more comfortable with the juniors being 14-16, and the seniors 17-19. The way it is now there are 15 year olds competing in the same category as 18 and 19 year olds who are looking for company positions.

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Students from my children's ballet school competed the first 2 years of this event, going directly to the finals (although last year one of them chose to travel to a regional, also, winning 2nd place in the contemporary and tying for 1st in the classical in the grand prix category of the junior division).

They were given the privilege of going straight to the finals because their teacher was a judge at the competition as well as the choreographer of the grand defilé (the young dancers ballet) and they trusted her judgement in choosing and coaching students for the event.

The dancer seen all year in the ads in Dance Magazine, Pointe, and Dance Spirit is one of these students.

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Originally posted by aubri

So why bother with regional? :confused:

This might sound corny, but regionals were a wonderful experience for my favorite young dancer. To have the opportunity to prepare a variation and perform it there, to take the workshop classes, to connect with the other dancers...it was well worth doing and totally different from making a video.

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Marga, I find this shocking! That there were students who

were given the privilege of going straight to the finals because their teacher was a judge at the competition as well as the choreographer of the grand defilé (the young dancers ballet) and they trusted her judgment in choosing and coaching students for the event.  

This certainly does not seem "kosher" to me. A competition is a competition...otherwise, why not change the whole program into a "by invitation" only event? I am serious.

In my opinion, it is unbelievable that there were judges judging their own students at the competition - let alone, being allowed to just bring their own students (even one student!) to a "competition" without having to go through the same trials at the regional that everyone else had to go through....even sending a video is better than this. This is beginning to remind me of the Canadian skaters vs. the Russian skaters at the Olympics!;) But seriously, a "competition" is just that, if it is run fairly and well.

I have no doubt that the intentions of the people that started the YAGP were totally above board...and very good. I think it has a great deal of potential but obviously needs some serious organizational work. Lack of organization is one thing, but this double standard of allowing students to "enter" is entirely on another level. If what you are saying is really true, I am really amazed. Aubri's post back in the beginning of this thread were bad enough - this is worse, because, if true it is so obviously wrong.

Balletmama, I have no doubt that there have been many good things that have come out of YAGP, and that many participants have benefited in all sorts of different ways...but the accounts that have been posted on this thread are not to be taken lightly. New events like this take time and fine tuning. If YAGP is to continue, it is my hope that the originators and organizers will be made aware of these disparities and complaints...otherwise it does not bode well.

I urge the participants and their schools and parents to write directly to YAGP to let them know of their concerns - questions, complaints and concerns don't do much good {except for "venting":)} unless they are known by the people who can effect change.

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One point hasn't been addressed headon here, and that is what the competitors from other nations received as an early impression of what ballet is like in the US. It sounds embarrassing, and not the way any production should be shown in any venue (even "amateur night in Dixie"), let alone in a world-class one like New York City. It makes both the town and the country look bad.:)

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Originally posted by BW

I have no doubt that the intentions of the people that started the YAGP were totally above board...and very good. I think it has a great deal of potential but obviously needs some serious organizational work. Lack of organization is one thing, but this double standard of allowing students to "enter" is entirely on another level. Balletmama, I have no doubt that there have been many good things that have come out of YAGP, and that many participants have benefited in all sorts of different ways...but the accounts that have been posted on this thread are not to be taken lightly. New events like this take time and fine tuning. If YAGP is to continue, it is my hope that the originators and organizers will be made aware of these disparities and complaints...otherwise it does not bode well.  [/b]

BW, I think your comments are balanced and constructive. I was taking issue with the "competition from hell" comment. Given the state of the dance world today, I think that it makes sense to try to support efforts to encourage young dancers to flourish (and to help build up an organization whose directors are obviously well-meaning and are running a competition that fills a niche). That includes helping develop more appropriate rules, a less frustrating NY schedule, etc.

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BW, I was afraid someone would assume from my post that a judge was judging his/her own students and I was right. But you are wrong! Of course my daughter's teacher did not judge her own students! She had no influence whatsoever in the judging of the dancers she coached and brought to the competition.

While going directly to the finals may be unorthodox, in this case, I feel I must explain about this particular teacher. She is the artistic director of over 12 international ballet galas, and in her capacity as such, chooses the ballet stars of tomorrow, on occasion propelling them right out of the corps to stardom. She has been presenting ballerinas and danseurs from the top ballet companies in the world annually in Paris, New York (Lincoln Center), Toronto, and several other world-class cities since 1993. Certainly, she knows which students to send to a ballet competition as well.

Since video auditions are allowed from those who can't travel to the semi-finals, then the judgement of an internationally known ballet master teacher should also count. I don't think that this was the only such 'breach' of the usual protocol, either.

That said, even our school didn't participate this year. ;)

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I really wish that one of the founders or top officials from the YAGP would read these posts and respond. Hope springs eternal! :)

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Thought some of you might have missed this in yesterday's (May 13th) paper:

"Promising Young Talent on Display, With or Without Music" by Jack Anderson

Dance Students shared the stage with experienced professionals when Youth America Grand Prix held its 2002 gala and awards ceremony last Monday night at Alice Tully Hall.

The competition, for classical and contemporary ballet students 8 to 19 was founded in 1999 by Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev...

for more read on - and it's worth reading! :)

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/13/arts/dan...nce/13COMP.html

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I was delighted to read in that article that Barry Hughson was honored with a choreography award. I've loved his choreography for many years. Barry is a graduate of Nutmeg Ballet who went on to dance with the Washington Ballet before coming home to the Torrington area where he began what's now a very successful after-school arts program for children. He's now the head of the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT and a frequent teacher/choreographer for Nutmeg Ballet. My daughter's performed in many of his dances over the years.

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Thanks for sharing that article, BW.

Verrrrry interesting....

The full picture becomes a bit clearer, doesn't it? ;)

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Jeannie, I responded to that article on the place where it was originally linked, but not sure what day that was. Anyway, I felt that Anderson was extremely kind, but also inaccurate when he said half an hour. The Gala was scheduled for 7 and it started after 8. And he did not go into the serious problems that really happened there. The sound system damaged one variation. The sound technician damaged two other works, including the grand pas danced by Savaliev and Reyes. Badly. The dancers did indeed do a very good job of carrying on. The awards were, IMO, fair and well deserved. I had no problems with that part of it at all, other than the way they were presented. Lots of talent there from lots of places! But the event, all of it, not just the Gala, was a totally disorganized fiasco. :)

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