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Youth America Grand Prix’s annual Galas have experienced much success over the years at New York City Center. This year, the organization made the leap to the David H. Koch Theater (formerly called the New York State Theater) for its annual “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” Gala and its “Legends in Dance” Gala honoring Natalia Makarova.

Both nights included an impressive cast with dancers from around the world; Alicia Amatriain and Friedemann Vogel (The Stuttgart Ballet) were stand outs in both event in not-your-typical Gala pieces, Pas de Deux from John Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Mirror Pas de Deux from “Onegin”. Their chemistry was magnetic and Vogel shined in his New York debut. Let’s hope New York continues to see more of him.

Tamara Rojo (The Royal Ballet) and Sergei Polunin also made appearances in both events. However, the couple’s performance was stronger in Ms. Makarova’s tribute in Black Swan Pas de Deux from “Swan Lake” than the former night’s Diana and Acteon Pas de Deux. It had been several years since Rojo had performed in New York and perhaps it was the long-anticipated return that jilted her nerves the first night.

YAGP charted unknown territory in the production aspect of Ms. Makarova’s Gala by projecting images from Ms. Makarova’s private collection and excerpts from a documentary about her career in between the dance segments. These videos and photos added warmth to the program allowing audience members to get to know the ballet icon in close and real way. I found myself enjoying this portion of the program more than some of the live performances themselves.

The first Gala also included a video clip of a behind-the-scenes look at the premiere of “Gentle Memories” by Dresden-based choreographer, Jiri Bubenicek. The video painted a vibrant picture of how the organization champions new and upcoming choreographers and creates unique partnerships between artists.

Though the work was too long for this particular program, the energy was superb and it left me wanting more behind-the-scenes videos about the other pieces, in particular the ones from the first act.

The Finalists of the YAGP competition who were featured in the first act of “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” were some of the most exceptional up-and-coming young dancers in the world and certainly did not disappoint. I would like to learn more about these young budding dancers. By incorporating video clips about the dancers in the competition (not necessarily about the dancers only in Act I) would be a perfect way to connect what the competition entails to how it is incorporated into the Gala. One could hope that these videos (filmed and edited by Evan Rosenberg) become a new YAGP tradition.

The tone and pace of the two evenings were very different, but brought the young dance organization to a new exciting level. Meanwhile, fans can get their fill by seeing the documentary “First Position” – featuring past YAGP participants -- coming to theaters this week on May 4.

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