Michelle May (photo by Erin Baiano)

The National YoungArts Foundation offers a yearly award to talented young people in the visual, literary, design and performing arts fields. In 2017, that could be you!

Many of the dancers we know and love have been recognized by the YoungArts Foundation—like our 2015 Cover Model Search winner Michelle May. Dancers of any discipline can apply, and will be adjudicated by a panel of dance-world luminaries, some of whom are drawn from this slightly staggering list of YoungArts Master Artists.

YoungArts will be accepting applications through October 14, so you have plenty of time to polish your resume. Good luck!

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Sarah Pippin (photo by Erin Baiano)

The National YoungArts Foundation offers a yearly award to talented young people in the visual, literary, design and performing arts fields. In 2016, that could be you!

Many of the dancers we know and love have been recognized by the YoungArts Foundation—in 2015 alone finalists included Sarah Pippin, one of our 2014 CMS finalists; honorable mentions included our 2013 CMS winner Hayden Hopkins, tap queen Devin Ruth and our comp crush (and one of the stars of our web series "The Road to Nationals") Jake Tribus; and merit winners included our other 2014 CMS finalist Alyssa Allen.

Whew! That's a lot of talent in one lineup. (Also, do we know how to pick them or what?) YoungArts will be accepting applicants from April to October, so you have plenty of time to polish your application. Dream of joining the ranks of Sarah, Ricky Ubeda and Desmond Richardson? Apply here!

Earlier this month, 170 standout high schoolers ventured to Miami to participate in National YoungArts Week. The group of YoungArts finalists—whittled down from roughly 11,000 applicants nationwide—included 21 dancers, and they were treated to master classes with artists like former New York City Ballet principal Phillip Neal (who's a YoungArts alum himself), Miami City Ballet director Lourdes Lopez and Montreal's RUBBERBANDance Group director Victor Quijada. Sounds pretty great, amirite?

Dance finalist Kaleb Sims from Jacksonville, FL (Pedro Portal, Courtesy YoungArts)

It gets better. Throughout the week, students are further adjudicated for a chance to win monetary awards (ranging from $1,000 to $10,000), and they're considered for nomination as 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Dance finalists are following in some pretty giant footsteps: Desmond Richardson, Ida Saki, American Ballet Theatre CEO Rachel Moore—even Ricky Ubeda!—were all YoungArts winners.

This year, two very familiar names joined the ranks as YoungArts alumni—Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winner Hayden Hopkins and finalist Sarah Pippin! Congrats, ladies!

Hayden Hopkins at YoungArts Week in Miami (Pedro Portal, Courtesy YoungArts)

For those of us not in Miami, YoungArts posts all finalists' performances on their YouTube channel. Check out Sarah and Hayden's solos below, and then click here to watch the others. And to get details about applying for next year, visit youngarts.org.

Here's Hayden:

Here's Sarah:

And here's a special gift for making it all the way through this blog—Ricky Ubeda's performance from the 2014 National YoungArts Week in Miami:

A young Billy Bell at YoungArts Week 2008 (by Juan Cabrera)

As of this week, applications for the National YoungArts Foundation’s 2014 program are officially being accepted! The list of now-famous YoungArts alumni is a long one: Longtime Alvin Ailey dancer Linda Celeste Sims was a 1994 YoungArts Winner for dance, and choreographic genius Billy Bell was also a winner (in 2008), to name just two. So the thought of applying might have you quaking in your jazz booties. But the career-advancing opportunities offered by this program are way too amazing to be missed. YoungArts participants invariably go on to make their dreams come true—at The Juilliard School or American Ballet Theater, on the Great White Way or on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Still need more motivation? Read on for 5 reasons that “Apply to YoungArts!” should be #1 on your summertime to-do list.

  1. YoungArts accepts applications for a whopping six different disciplinary categories: ballet, modern, jazz, tap, choreography and world dance. So whether your skills lie in bourrées or Bharata Natyam, YoungArts is ready and eager to recognize your talent and accomplishments.

  1. The 2014 application is available online through October 18. So you’ve got plenty of time (almost five months!) to make sure that audition video shows off all of your awesome technique and artistry.

  1. You could be on TV! The Emmy-nominated HBO series “YoungArts MasterClass” is full of inspiring scenes from YoungArts Week, when finalists travel to the organization’s Miami headquarters to learn from the best of the best. Thanks to YoungArts, you could find yourself dancing with the likes of Bill T. Jones, and then watching your career-changing experience play out on national television.

  1. Don’t want to be a performer for your entire career? No problem! Tons of YoungArts alumni have used the knowledge and connections they gain from the program to branch out within the dance world. Co-founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet Desmond Richardson trained with YoungArts, and so did American Ballet Theatre’s CEO Rachel Moore.

  1. One word: networking. And not just with fellow dancers. YoungArts offers training, scholarships and performance opportunities to 15-18 year olds who show exceptional ability in all areas of the arts. As a YoungArts Finalist, you’ll meet phenomenal singers, musicians, actors, designers, writers, visual artists, filmmakers and photographers from across the country. Who knows? Some of them might one day be artistic collaborators of yours.

So what are you waiting for? Apply now for your spot in the next generation of YoungArts Finalists!

Back in October 2009, you met the lovely Ida Saki, who won our Cover Model Search contest thanks to her beautiful technique and irresistible smile. Though she was just 17 at the time, we already knew Ida was going to make it big. Not only was she a talented dancer, she also impressed us with her combination of ferocious drive and sunny optimism.

And we were right: Since appearing on our cover, Ida has been named YoungArts winner in modern dance, made it to Vegas week on "So You Think You Can Dance" and enrolled at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Sound like enough to keep anyone busy? There's more: Ida recently joined the prestigious Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. (She's continuing her studies at NYU while dancing with the company.)

I was able to see Ida perform with Cedar Lake this week, tearing up the stage in Crystal Pite's high-octane Grace Engine. She looked right at home with the rest of the company's gorgeous dancers. Our CMS star, all grown up! Congratulations, Ida—and merde!

Photo of Arshya Gurbani, a classical Indian dancer from Fullerton, CA, performing at YoungArts Week, by Robert Leslie/YoungArts

World dance made a strong showing at the 30th YoungArts Week in Miami, FL, earlier this year. The annual event, produced by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA), gives talented teens from various disciplines, including music, dance and literature, an opportunity to learn from masters in their respective fields. This year, seven world dancers, with specialties including classical Indian dance, Mexican folk dance and traditional Korean dance, were invited to take part in the weeklong series of classes, workshops and performances—more than double the number that participated last year.

Carla Hill, Director of National Programs at NFAA, says the organization has seen an increase in applications from world dancers, particularly classical Indian dancers, in the past few years. “The nation’s makeup is changing,” Hill says. “So it doesn’t strike me as odd that these students are finding us. In expressing who they are as Americans, they are expressing what they uniquely bring to the country culturally.”

Hill believes the students’ increasing interest in the program reflects the organization’s growing reputation among dancers of all disciplines.

YoungArts Names Silver Winners

What do Desmond Richardson, Matthew Rushing and Sarah Lamb have in common? The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts’ YoungArts program recognized each for their dance talents early in their careers. This year, eight new dancers are being honored with the organization’s Silver Award based on their performances during the annual YoungArts Week, held in January. The prize includes $5,000 and the chance to travel to NYC for an additional week of workshops this spring. —Colleen Bohen

The 2010 Silver Award-winning dancers are:

Kristina Bentz—Jupiter, FL

Kiera Daley—Miami Shores, FL

Austin Goodwin—Plano, TX

Jacquelin Harris—Charlotte, NC

Gianni Howell—Coral Springs, FL

Robert Moore—Porter, TX

Ida Saki—Plano, TX (DS October 2009)

Amanda Vercamen—Ocoee, FL

African Inspirations at Vassar College

This month, Vassar College’s repertory company is teaming up with the Ad Deum Company of Texas and students from the Ailey School in NYC to perform The Griot Dance. The show will feature a collection of African-inspired works choreographed by the college’s dance chair, Stephen Rooks.

Rooks tells DS that the program is his artistic response to his experiences visiting Africa. He describes the show as “autobiographical and personal rather than a historical presentation.”

In addition to traditional African drumming and dance, the evening will include music ranging from contemporary African to neoclassical styles. Rooks says, “This is my response as a modern dancer, using modern and Western music.”  —Ashley Rivers

Johns Hopkins Brings Ballet to Baltimore Boys

Watch out Billy Elliot: There are some new ballet boys hitting the scene. The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, is about to conclude the inaugural year of its Estelle Dennis/Peabody Dance Training Program for Boys. Aimed at Baltimore-area males ages 9-15, the program provides free weekly ballet classes to promising students who otherwise might not have had access to training. It also introduces the boys to dance forms such as contemporary and hip hop. Eventually, boys who demonstrate growth and commitment are invited to take additional dance classes with other Peabody Institute dancers.

According to Barbara Weisberger, artistic advisor of Peabody’s dance program, nearly 70 boys showed up to audition for the program last spring, a number that far exceeded expectations.

Twenty-four students were admitted to the program last fall, and 19 were still enrolled as of January. Weisberger explains that strict policies regarding attendance, class conduct and technical progress account for the decrease in class size. However, she says she considers the program to be a success because of the significant growth she has witnessed in some of the most dedicated students. One dancer has already been invited to take four extra classes. “It’s wonderfully gratifying,” Weisberger says.

The program is set to expand in the 2010–11 school year, with this year’s students continuing their training and a new group starting at the beginning. Auditions will be held next month. Visit www.peabody.jhu.edu for details.  —Colleen Bohen

New School Performs Sokolow Work

Jim May, artistic director of the Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble, and Lauren Naslund, an Ensemble dancer, are working with students at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts in NYC to reconstruct Lyric Suite, a work by legendary modern dance choreographer Anna Sokolow. The piece will be performed on April 30 and May 1 in commemoration of what would have been Sokolow’s 100th birthday.

Emily Skillings, a senior dance major, says the piece is both physically and emotionally challenging, but she tells DS that she’s excited to perform such a well-known work. She explains that the choreography contains a lot of familiar dance vocabulary, but that Sokolow always expected dancers to make each movement their own, even something as common as a battement. “It’s hard to imbue traditional movement with our own feelings, to make it seem like more than just lifting your leg,” Skillings says.

The performance marks the culmination of a year-long residency by May. According to the school, a different distinguished artist is invited to take up a similar residency each year. Previous artists have included Martha Graham and William Forsythe. —Colleen Bohen

Ballet On Campus

Many colleges lack ballet-oriented dance departments. So these two new student-run companies took it upon themselves to provide outlets for brainy ballet dancers.

Columbia Ballet Collaborative: In the summer of 2007, five Columbia University students met at a diner to talk about how much they missed their mutual passion: ballet. A few hours later, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative was born. Since then, the group has swelled to include more than 25 dancers, and this spring its members will perform at Columbia’s Miller Theatre. Although much of the choreography will be by students—which was one of the founders’ goals—the program will also include a duet by New York City Ballet dancers Justin Peck and Teresa Reichlen. And the group’s members, many of whom have worked professionally, boast pretty impressive resumés themselves.

Princeton University Ballet: Princeton has several dance companies, but for a long time, none felt like a natural home for ballet students. Last spring, a small group of ballet enthusiasts, missing their pointe shoes, filled that hole: They created the Princeton University Ballet. Now the troupe includes 16 girls and 2 boys, and this spring it will present its first formal concert. Student choreography will make up most of the program, but the production will also include the classical Swan Lake pas de trois, as well as a piece choreographed by Mary Barton of the American Repertory Ballet School.

youngARTS Presidential Scholar Finalists

The youngARTS program, a part of National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, announced its list of finalists, made up of the nation’s most talented high school seniors in nine different artistic disciplines. Approximately 6,000 to 8,000 students register for youngARTS each year. The finalists are brought to Miami for youngARTS Week to participate in master classes and showcase performances. This year’s dance finalists were:

Chelsea Adomaitis, Vashon, WA; Ernest Baker II, Opa-Locka, FL; Ryan Casey, Lexington, MA; Jeniffer Criss, Dallas, TX; Jeffrey Cirio, Winter Park, FL (see p. 56 in DS’ 2008 March issue); Sarah Clark, Monroe, MI; John Crowley, Ballston Lake, NY; Hannah Darrah, Durham, NC; Meghan Fluker, Dallas, TX; Vidya Govind-Thomas, Schaumburg, IL; Kayla Harley, Bowi, MD; Cecily Khuner, Berkeley, CA; Daniel Mitra, Woodstock Valley, CT; Sara Murawski, Chesapeake, VA (2007 DS Cover Model Search Finalist!); Raymond Pinto, Bridgeport, CT; Olivia Rehrman, Mckinney, TX; Dylan Tedaldi, Newton, MA (see p. 128 in DS’ 2008 July/August issue); Meena Thatikunta, Cincinnati, OH; Frederick Thomas, Cedar Hill, TX; Nathanial Trasoras, Downey, CA; Ayla Weisz, Miami, FL —Brianne Carlon

ABT II Welcomes Two Newbies

Congratulations to Colby Parsons and Alberto Velázquez, the newest members of American Ballet Theatre II! The former students of ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School were accepted into the second company this January. Nineteen-year-old Colby, a finalist at the 2007 New York Youth America Grand Prix, studied at Debbie Allen Dance Academy and The Rock School for Dance Education before joining the JKO School in 2007. Eighteen-year-old Alberto began dancing in his native Cuba and continued in Mexico and at Florida’s The Harid Conservatory, picking up the 2006 YAGP gold medal in pas de deux along the way, before landing at the JKO School in 2008. Look for both boys onstage with ABT II this April in NYC and Orono, ME.

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