Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 YAGP NYC Finals Day 7

2015 Youth America Grand Prix Finals Day 7 (Thursday April 16) by Robbie Downey

My Day 7 was awards day. I headed over to Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. The Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow Gala was a couple of hours after the awards so I wore what I wanted to wear to that. Well mostly, I left on combat boots but had heels to change into. My mom and sister were just getting there as they were announcing all of the countries that had participants. We all lined up on stage and in order and got to take a bow.

Over 7000 dancers performed in the semi-finals (Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Paris and 15 cities in the USA) 425 soloists and 714 ensemble members were selected by the YAGP jury panel to proceed to finals. The program says we are from 25 countries and represent the most promising young dance talent on the planet. WOW and that's actually pretty cool. It's hard to evaluate yourself but I know I work really hard and I know my friends do too. I know everyone at finals works very hard. We have a common bond and we all want to see each other succeed.

Can you find me with my RED hair in the front row?!!

After the bows all of the participants were seated in the orchestra section. Above that is mostly family and friends. You can tell where my mom was sitting by the bird's eye, a.k.a nose bleed, view.

The hosts for the awards were really funny and kept everything moving along quickly. Below you can see all of the representatives from each ballet company or school. It is extremely impressive who Larissa and YAGP bring in for the jury. Pretty incredible. For instance Elisabeth Platel, Director of Paris Opera Ballet, is sitting right there in the front row just being perfect. Close by is Franco De Vita, the Principal of ABT JKO School and Sergei Filin the Director of the Bolshoi Ballet!!! Seriously?? Okay, there's more... Deborah Hess from Canada's National Ballet School, Christopher Powney the Director of the Royal Ballet School (UK), Ernst Meisner the Director of Dutch National Ballet II and Luca Masala the Artistic Director of Princess Grace Academy of Classical Dance (Monaco). I'll stop but look at the photo (2nd below) to see all.

So they made their way through the scholarships and awards and then the contract offers which include company contracts and studio company or second company contracts such as ABT Studio Company or Dutch National Ballet II. When you register for the final round you turn in a sheet. You can mark what you are interested in such as all acceptances and scholarships or scholarships only. I marked scholarships only and marked only certain schools and junior companies. I guess you could say I aimed really high with a go big or go home attitude. But I was honest about where I wanted to attend. My top 3 were ABT, Royal Ballet and Dutch National. I wasn't awarded anything this year but I also had friends in the same boat. These are people that I think are amazing dancers. So instead of feeling bad I just felt inspired to work harder and more determined than ever to reach my goals. I turned 16 in December and I finished high school shortly after. So I feel ready to get going into a year round program or junior company but understand I may need to bake some more. =)

I am attending ABT NYC for my summer intensive so we will see what happens in a few months. I am really proud of my friends like Jessica He who was awarded a spot in Houston Ballet II and Melissa Chapski who was offered a contract to Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company and an apprenticeship at Dresden SemperOper Ballett. My other friends and classmates from Ellison Ballet, Theo Pilette and Juliette Bosco took second place in ensembles with their Grand Pas Classique performance and received offers. Madeline Woo also did very well and received an offer. I know I'm forgetting more friends, sorry! Definitely keep an eye on all of them and where they end up. Serious potential. After the announcements everyone got to party a little on stage for a few minutes.

For posts with all the winners names go to YAGP facebook page here or to their website here - not up yet but will be soon at

In the YAGP program Larissa Saveliev (Founder) says the two most important ingredients in the recipe for a professional dance career are education and and performance opportunities. That is what YAGP is to me. A chance to grow and improve. The feedback from world class teachers and directors is priceless. I have written corrections, in my hands, from some of the top people in the ballet world. Can't even believe it! That is a huge opportunity. 

I had waited until age 14 to even try YAGP and I went to San Francisco. I didn't even get top 12! I was disappointed but I went home and kept working. The following year, at age 15, I was the youngest person in the Senior Classical category and I tied for 3rd place but I was half a point away from qualifying for NYC finals. I wasn't going to be able to go anyway but I admit I really wanted the score! This year I tied for second at semi-finals and got the score I needed to move to the final round. I have no regrets about coming and know that I am progressing each year. I will leave New York more driven than ever. I want to be as good as those that made the finals. Sometimes that's what you need is a little push. I think at home in our studios we can get comfortable sometimes. But we also have to remember that everybody is different and born with different natural talents and facility. Some people are prodigies and some people have to work even harder than others.

I picked up a Dance Teacher magazine at the check in table at Skirball Theater and there was an interview with Larissa Saveliev. She says this "Everybody has different stories - sometimes they stand out right away, sometimes it comes later. For me, most important is not what they did today, but what are they going to do tomorrow?" 

After the awards we all poured outside to stretch our legs  and go eat or whatever we needed to do. You can see how many people there are. This is a huge event! 

Here I am am with my friends Mira Larsen and Timmorie Freeman.

Below is me, Kyla (my sister) and our friend Jacob. Jacob was in the pre-competitive catagory. He has such a great attitude and we love him! 

Timmorie, Kyla and me headed back from Gigi's Cafe. Now we need to get ready for the big show!

When we arrived back at Lincoln Center we saw a big commotion! Bella Thorne from Disney's Shake it Up was on her way in to watch the gala! People were swarming around and the police asked us who she was. Kyla had seen on instagram earlier in the day that she was planning on attending the gala to see some of her friends perform. 

Bella was REALLY nice. I mean really, really nice. She took a lot of photos and talked to people. She even told Kyla that she has pretty eyes. Which she does. She has eye lashes for days. So unfair.

Here is Timmorie with Bella. 

The gala was just as exciting. Kyla spotted David Hallberg and asked for a photo. He was also REALLY nice! He's perfect. Day 8 I went and saw Legacy which was created by David Hallberg. I'll write about it in the next blog.

The gala was INSANE!!! It was the YAGP finalists/winners in first act and stars of today were act 2. The show was one super star after another, literally. There were International Ballroom Champions, Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina, Joffrey Studio Company, Calvin Royal III* (ABT), Kristina Shapran (Mariinsky Ballet), Evgenia Obraztsova (Bolshoi), Semyon Chudin (Bolshoi), Teresa Reichlen (NYCB), Zachary Catazaro* (NYCB), Paloma Herrera (ABT), Juan Pablo Ledo (Teatro Colón), Xander Parish (Mariinsky Ballet), Melissa Hamilton* (Royal Ballet), Eric Underwood (Royal Ballet), Isabella Boylston* (ABT) and Kimin Kim* (Mariinsky Ballet). Those with * are YAGP alumni.

After the gala it was the teacher's turn to party.

After the show a dancer named Athena introduced herself to me and said she loves all of my videos! I love meeting new people and it's so fun when they actually come say "hi"and comment on the youtube channel mydancetv ! I have a lot of fun posting videos and I get a lot of messages and comments about how people have started dancing or stuck with it  because they have seen the videos. Sometimes you just see the end result and it can be frustrating when you are training. You feel like you might never get there! I think it helps people to see my gradual progress and how much work it is. I read as many comments as I can but can't reply to them all but I love reading them!

This is my friend Erick Garnica. We used to train together and Erick is now at Ellison Ballet year round. He was able to go to Bolshoi temporarily to train but he's back now. He will be in the next blog too =)

All bow down to Theo and Juliette from Ellison Ballet! Amazing performance of Grand Pas Classique as well as their solo variations. Future stars for sure!!! 

Mr. Ellison talking to a future student, and my friend, Jacob Alvarado. Love this pic! Two of my favorite people. =)

Me and Carlos Alvarado. We also used to train together. 

And one stalker photo of Woody Allen leaving the show.

This has been such a great event and I will continue my blog with Day 8 and then my weekend since I am in the city until Monday.

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Congratulations again to all of the scholarship and contract recipients! Here is a great post from Melissa.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015 YAGP NYC Finals Day 6

2015 Youth America Grand Prix Finals Day 6 (yesterday/Wed) by Robbie Downey 

If you want to watch my Talisman run throughs before I performed Tuesday they are here:

Yesterday was  finally the scholarship class for my group. There was also a warm up master class with Mr. Tchoupakov before it so I took that, too. He is the YAGP Rehearsal Director and leading faculty member. I have tried to take every class available to me and then some! The scholarship class was pretty full. It was at MMAC. Before we started the other teacher/YAGP Rehearsal Director, Mr. Moskalenko, lined us up in front of numbers on the mirror so we were in rows in order of our numbers .The combinations were challenging compared to most audition classes I have taken! The front of the room is where the judges sat. Larissa Saveliev was also present and speaking with them. A couple of people were pulled over after class if the judges had questions. But, Larissa said that doesn't mean you don't have an offer so we weren't to worry about that. 

While I was taking class my mom and sister, Kyla, headed over to Yumiko where we had two gift certificates waiting. I have had my leotards covered by a sponsor for the last couple of years. Obviously, this is a huge help. Anyone that dances at this level knows the expenses involved. So, I am very appreciative to have someone so generous contribute to help offset some of the costs. So Thank you to my leotard sponsor =)  I will be ordering mine online since I do not have time to get back over to Yumiko and since their selection was not as wide as it was probably a few days ago. It's a popular stop. If you want to see ways to sponsor me/us you can visit my website at .

If you are ever in NY for YAGP you might want to know that you can walk to Yumiko from MMAC (Manhattan Movement and Arts Center). The center is on 60th near the river and Yumiko is on 46th. So you just go up 60th and walk down Amsterdam/10th (right) and make a left on 46th. 

You can then easily walk up to 9th go left and then right on 50th and you are at Grishko! My mom and Kyla headed there next to turn in our YAGP certificate from Grishko for a free pair of shoes. Kyla was fitted by Judy (we love Judy) into a pair of Grishko Nova. Here is the video

They then headed back to get me from the scholarship class. MMAC was packed, even more than shown here. They really discourage families from waiting in there and prefer you leave. You can see why! The master class was upstairs and the scholarship class was downstairs. 

On the way out we could grab our score sheets. Some of my friends had gotten theirs before me and were handling the scores well. The judging is clearly more rigid here as most had much lower scores than in the semi-finals. But it was nice to see all the great attitudes. You have to take in the whole experience and not only zero in on competing and making the final round. Because everyone here has a lot of potential and most will not make the final round, including myself. Over 80 dancers in my category would not continue to the finals. No one should be discouraged by that at all. YAGP has done a great job of bringing in the top directors in the ballet industry and to be in front of them is an opportunity and experience of a lifetime! Placing should not be your main focus at all, although it is a nice bonus if you do. =) The corrections on my score sheets were extremely helpful and to be receiving them from the leaders in the ballet community... priceless. I will be working more on my footwork, holding turn out and my arms as well as moving my upper body more in contemporary. 

Another great aspect of YAGP is seeing all of your friends! It's like a reunion. Especially for those of us that have  been attending summer intensives the last few years. We are all spread out but meet every summer and new people every summer. Then you meet your friend's friends!! It is so much fun and I never want to leave NYC =( Especially when I see my friends and teachers from Ellison Ballet. I love them all so much <3! 

Below is me and my friend Marika from Japan. We  toured together when I was just turning 15 with San Diego Ballet Company. I actually had my 15th birthday on a tour bus! She later went back to Japan and this is the first time I have seen her since. She now dancing in the states again. Good luck, Marika! 

Sisters! =) Kyla has been so good running all over. Someday I  hope she can do this too! 

Can you imagine performing on this stage in front of ALL of your peers, their teachers and the top international and USA directors. No pressure!!! Everyone was amazing. I was cheering for them all but especially my friends. Occasionally there was a slip and the audience was so supportive. Everyone is rooting for each other. I love that! 

Again.... no pressure!

Afterwards there is a party for the participants only. You need your badge to get in. Also, as far as the final round and gala your badge is also your entry for that. It is included in your fees but your family will have to buy tickets and you should do so as soon as possible! The party had a DJ and food. We had a blast. 

My mom and Kyla waited outside for me. There is a Starbucks across the street but the weather was so nice they came back and waited outside. We really lucked out on the weather this week! 

Here I am with Mira Larsen. Mira is also in the senior category. We were both semi-finalists for the Spotlight Program and we met at Ellison Ballet Summer Intensive.  

Thanks for following along and there is more to come!! Today is awards and the Gala!

My last Talisman run throughs the day before I performed in Senior Classical round at Skirball. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 YAGP NYC Finals Day 5

2015 Youth America Grand Prix Finals Day 5 (yesterday/Tue) by Robbie Downey 

This has been such a busy week! But I am loving every minute of it. On Tuesday morning I once again headed to studio rehearsal at the ABT building to warm up and do my final run through of Talisman for the competition today. Yikes! I'm not going to lie it's pretty scary but exciting at the same time. I felt really good about my run throughs but when you perform you always have the nerves to factor in!! And all those people watching... like MAJOR people from MAJOR companies. YAGP does an incredible job of bringing in the best of the best. Such a great opportunity regardless of any placements. I think those are just icing on the cake. 

I decided to take the stairs down from the studio today and sometimes at ABT you never know who you might see in there! We headed to Sephora for some new eyelashes and glue then back to touch up my make-up and grab my costume. I got a little worried about getting to Skirball on time so I was probably walking about 65mph. 

Once we got to the theater we could see that it was the busiest day yet, so crowded! My mom grabbed a seat and my teachers, Sara and Erlends, took me to open stage. I was supposed to be first person out but there was a junior girl that was sick yesterday so she went before me. I can't imagine coming all the way here and getting sick. Poor girl. I am not 100%. I have had a stuffy head and cough for a few weeks but I don't feel like it's effecting my dancing at all. 

I'm happy with my performance. I think when you are done you always think it went by so fast and wish you could do it again. Also, you have no control now! Like it's DONE!! You can't fix or change anything. I watched some of the others in the 3rd group. They were 17 and well... pretty good of course =) I didn't really see any of the 15 and 16 year olds dance. You really can't try to figure out who will get to final round because you just never know and everyone is pretty good. I don't know how they compare Sleeping Beauty to Paquita. I would not want to be in their shoes. And, I think everyone should be happy just for making it here and having access to the scholarship classes. 

After I danced we left the theater to get some food. Just around the corner is a great vegetarian place called Quantum Leap. How do you like my plaid jacket with my Grishko camo shorts? =) I posted some pictures online, ate and headed back to the theater to watch some of the senior boys. Tonight is final round and the party for participants. Today is my scholarship class. 

I had a lot of friends at the competition and Venya came all the way from California to watch me! I am really thankful for all of my supporters and all of the positive comments from everyone. Thank you! 

Here is a stalker pic of some of the judges. I can see Franco De Vita from ABT and the man standing in the black jacket is Sergei Filin, the Artistic Director of the Bolshoi!! By the way my mom is the stalker not me! =) 

There were loads of police in our neighborhood all afternoon!

NYC looking beautiful as always.  This was on my way back from competing. 

Once I got back from Skirball we turned on the livestream to watch the rest of the senior girls and my friend Melissa.  She looks amazing and she actually made it to the final round! Congrats Melissa!  At 8 we met Scout and my other friend Sofia who also lives in NY for dinner.  We ate at Souean.  The food was really good !  Our waiter looked like Shilo Fernandez but with a beard and a long pony tail.  

Scout noticed this tree in the morning and it wasn't bloomed yet.  When we came back home that night is was bloomed!  Spring is coming in NYC and Scout is really excited. 

Day 5 post will be up tonight or tomorrow!