On Tuesday evening, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition – YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX (YAGP), returned to Lincoln Center for the first time since before the Covid pandemic to host its 2023 Stars of Today Meets the Stars of Tomorrow Gala.
Supporters were welcomed back by YAGP Founder Larissa Saveliev and Board Chair Richard Osterweil as well as hosts Paul Arnhold, Elissa Brenner, Lili Buffett, Grace Fuller Marroquin, Wes Gordon, Alyson Gradone, Rebecca Hessel Cohen, Sarah Hoover, Lilli Hymowitz, Marcella Hymowitz, Eve Jobs, Lindsay Kraus, Candice Miller, Colby Mugrabi, Grace Pomeranc, Indre Rockefeller, Daniela Tisch, Virginia W. Tomenson, Lesley Vecsler, and Lina Wallach.
The YAGP’s 2023 competition winners (the stars of tomorrow, aged 9 – 19) shared a stage with ballet superstars of today (many YGP alumni), dancing contemporary and classical ballet favorites. The group of supremely talented young dancers danced in front of top ballet school directors and company heads in hopes of scholarships and job opportunities. Over the past 24 years, YAGP has awarded more than $4.5 million in scholarships for dancers to attend the world’s leading schools
Among the featured dancers were Constantine Allen, Dutch National Ballet, Jacopo Tissi, La Scala Ballet (this marked his New York debut), Roman Meija and Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet; Chloe Misseldine and Christine Shevchenko, American Ballet Theater. 12 year old Kya Massimino, The art of Classical Ballet & Stars Dance Studio, Florida, stole the show performing to Fur Elise, wearing a black turtleneck bodysuit and black socks. She was stunning.
There was an element of surprise as tutus and more formal traditional ballet garb shared the stage with unapologetically plain black maillots, oversized black suits and fedoras, elongated white cotton shirts, nightgowns. Some dancers wore satin ballet slippers while others wore black socks (ankle and knee-high) or went barefoot.
The evening was a tribute to the uplifting, life affirming nature of dance and a testament of what the human body is capable of doing. The nearly two hour performance had the audience mesmerized.
At the end, they were on their feet. It was wonderful in the way old and new were mixed; traditional ballet alongside the more edgy, contemporary dance, as exemplified by ICE, an unprecedented dance project.
The International Contemporary Dance Ensemble is made of up 35 dancers from 15 countries. They were hand selected to travel to Israel in December 2022 to work with master choreographers Ohad Naharin and Sharon Eyal. Last night the group performed excerpts from OCD Love and Decadance and the results were truly spectacular.
One poignant highlight was 18 year-old Yeva Hrystak dancing the Lilac Fairy Variation from Sleeping Beauty. Hrytsak is from Ukraine and now trains with American Ballet Theatre JKO School, made possible by a generous grant from the Howard G. Buffet Foundation to support YAGP’s Ukraine relief efforts. Proceeds from the Gala benefit YAGP’s Ukraine efforts as well as dance scholarships and education.
Among the passionate supporters of the arts and ballet aficionados who enjoyed a post-performance dinner and dancing was Barbara Tober, Sarah Arison, Allie & Will Kopelman, Kamie Lightburn, Christian Zimmermann, and Amy Fine Collins.
Clad in vintage Geoffrey Beene, Fine Collins looked every inch the dancer herself. Amy, who serves as Executive Director of Tabula Rosa Dance Group arrived with Felipe Escalante who serves as Artistic Director.
This season, Tabula Rasa Dance Theater will perform in June for 2 nights. Their new program is called “Border of Lights.” “They were to have performed this gorgeous piece in April 2020, but we all know what happened” says Fine Collins. “They had to start rehearsing again this Spring and bring in new cast members. It has been a saga, but the show will go on, at the Gerald Lynch Theater, and it promises to be thrilling!”
For me, one of the best parts of the evening was meeting some of the talented dancers. It was hard not to notice the incredibly beautiful Karine Plantadit. Born in France and raised between the south of France and Cameroon in Africa, Karine studied at the Rosella Hightower Dance Center in the South of France.
After seeing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform in Paris, Karine moved to NYC to pursue a career in dance, became a member of Judith Jamison Dance company, and later earned a scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance School.
The French born dancer, performer and YAPG judge, was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her work in Come Fly Away.
I was drawn to Gabe Stone Shayer because of his great gold jacket (designed by Jessica Jade) and gold chains mixed with a black leather Chanel piece, but more than having a great look, Shayer is an accomplished dancer with an imposing resume. The 29-year-old is the first African-American male to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in its nearly 250-year history.
At the 2009 Youth America Grand Prix International Finals, Shayer, at 15, placed in the top twelve for his pas de deux in the Senior Category. At the 2010 YAGP semi-finals, Shayer won the Grand Prix Award and was a finalist in the New York International Competition.
Gaber began his formal training at 11 with Alexei Boltov and Natalia Cherov in Philadelphia. At 13, he was offered the lead role in the world premiere of a modern ballet, Darfur as a guest principal with the Rebecca Davis Dance Company, which subsequently toured the United States.
At 14, Shayer began training full time as a scholarship student at The Rock School for Dance Education where he performed many classical and contemporary variations, pas de deux and ensembles. He has danced numerous Nutcracker roles including the Cavalier.
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