I am a fan of dance competitions. A big fan. I grew up competing regionally and nationally and I enjoyed just about every second of it (I had a tendency to drop my props—I did not enjoy that). So last night, when I attended the Youth America Grand Prix finals, I was brought back to the excitement I felt every time I went onstage. Of course, ballet competitions are different than the competitions I attended (Click here for the full 411 on ballet comps), but the idea is the same.
Anyway, a few thoughts about last night's final round of competition...
The talent was incredible. Seriously. From the juniors to the seniors, these kids were GOOD. One of my favorite performances of the evening was the very first one: Natsuka Abe, 12, from Japan. She performed the Variation from Harlequinade and was both adorable and technical. Natsuka set the tone for the evening—elegance, poise and presence. The beauty of competing is that you learn all these things at a young age. All the dancers last night exhibited professionalism, showmanship and impeccable ballet training. Not to mention they did so in front of an all-star panel of judges, including Franco De Vita from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, and Bo Spasoff from The Rock School.
These dancers, who have endured a grueling week of performances at YAGP, were highly trained and prepared for the competition. But mishaps happen. Last night, several dancers faced music issues. Either their music wouldn't start, it skipped or it shut off just a few counts in. As if facing an audience of 1,000 people isn't enough, now they're stressed about getting their music to play! But, like I said, these things happen. The best thing you can do in such a situation is take a deep breath and go on with your performance. The judges won't mark you down for a skip in your music, but they will notice if you let it shake you and affect your performance. So just keep going. That's all they can ask of you.
I also noticed a handful of young talents last night who didn't breathe the entire time they were onstage! There were a few who seemed to psych themselves up before a big pirouette or fouette sequence, and some who seemed to hold air in throughout the entire 2-minute piece. BREATHE, dancers! You'll feel more relaxed if you do, and that'll translate to your performance. So take a breathe, ease the tension and release your anxiety. I promise you'll perform better.
By the end of the night, I felt overwhelmed by the mass of talent I saw. Here are some names I guarantee you'll be seeing in major companies in the near future: Natsuka Abe (12, Japan); Kaho Ogawa (14, Japan); Leah Christianson (13, USA); Takafumi Tamagawa (12, Japan); Devyn Lovett (14, USA); Derek Dunn (14, USA); Anna Ishii (17, New Zealand); Gabe Shayer (16, USA); Joan Sebastian Zamora (16, Columbia/USA); Aaron Smyth (18, USA); Phillippe Solano (19, France).
Congratulations to all the competitors. Thank you for a lovely evening!