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.


  1. I've really loved reading this blog over the last week. Thanks very much for working on it through what must have been an incredibly busy time for you. Good luck with the nexct months as you put into practice what you've learnt and been told. I'm looking forward to hearing about it.
    J x