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Youth America Grand Prix Gala 2017: "Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow", at the Koch Theater
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Youth America Grand Prix Gala 2017: "Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow", at the Koch Theater

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Youth America Grand Prix Gala 2017
Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center

Larissa Saveliev: Artistic Director and Founder
Gennadi Saveliev: President and Founder
Blair Hartley: Executive Director
Hosted by Keltie Knight

Featuring Renowned Guest Artists
Winners of YAGP International Student Ballet
Scholarship Competition for Students
Press: Jonathan Marder and Company, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2017

This thrilling annual event brings out many of the top winners of the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), as well as dance performance virtuosos, often called Prima Ballerinas and Premier Danseurs. Keltie Knight welcomed the guests and re-appeared now and then. In Act I, “Stars of Tomorrow”, the winners of last night’s Final Rounds were astounding. The audience, including many young dancers from around the globe, who participated in the 2017 YAGP competition, was, as always, fervently vocal and energized…to say the least. Whoops, screams, whistling, and loud applause made this event especially thrilling, for all who watched and all who danced. Those of us who attended last night’s Final Rounds recognized many of tonight’s performers in Act I. Highlights here included Madison Penney’s “Esmeralda Variation”, Jan Spunda’s “Swan”, Takumi Miyake’s Variation from “Swan Lake”, Taro Kurachi’s Variation from “Don Quixote”, and Diogo Do Oliveira’s “Terra”.

We can be confident in the future of ballet with the promising and dedicated ballet students that performed in the Finals and tonight’s Gala. The Grand Défilé, as always choreographed by Carlos dos Santos, Jr., brought out over 300 participants from 30 countries and throughout the United States, all dancing to Tchaikovsky’s lush scores. The tiniest dancers and the tallest dancers mixed and matched steps, leaps, turns, jumps, lifts, and tosses in astounding shapes and configurations on the Koch Theater stage. Also during Act I, Bruce Marks, now admittedly 80, a former principal dancer with the Met Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and for many years an inspirational leader and teacher in all that’s ballet, received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. Onstage with Mr. Marks was a tiny ballerina assistant, bowing and posing in the highest grand attitude, and none other than my longtime favorite, Nina Ananiashvili, a former ABT principal who now leads and dances in the State Ballet of Georgia. She graciously held the trophy award while Mr. Marks inspired the audience. He was in excellent humor, regaling Nina and the crowd.

But, In Act II, “Stars of Today”, the audience remains breathless to see who will appear from major international ballet companies, including New York’s own, ABT and New York City Ballet. The pièce de résistance of the evening was the finale, the Pas de Deux from “Le Corsaire”, performed by Tamara Rojo and Cesar Corrales from the English National Ballet. Mr. Corrales was new to most of us, but Ms. Rojo has graced New York Galas for years, always with great anticipation. This Pas de Deux was so virtuosically danced that they could have added an encore or two or three and people would have stayed. Ms. Rojo’s 32 fouettés, some in triple, were dizzying, and Mr. Corrales’ leaps and spins were powerful and exhilarating. And, the requisite chemistry existed as well.
Other favorites included Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro, from City Ballet, dancing the lush, dramatic “Heaven’s Ballet” Pas de Deux from Wheeldon’s “Carousel”, familiar to New York balletomanes, and Brittany O’Connor and Paul Barris, from the Ballroom genre, dancing a wild and wanton “Besame Mucho” in their own choreography, with gorgeous live violin and piano accompaniment.

Filling in this fantastic program, Svetlana Lunkina and Evan McKie of National Ballet of Canada premiered David Dawson’s version of “Swan Lake’s” sorrowful and romantic White Swan Pas de Deux, Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino, of Bavarian State Ballet, danced Gerald Arpino’s stunning and surreal “Light Rain”, and Skylar Brandt and Gabe Stone Shayer, youthful soloists with ABT, danced Asaf Messerer’s highly athletic and ebullient “Spring Waters”. James Whiteside of ABT danced Marcelo Gomes’ stylistic and unique solo, “Tous Les Jours II”, with live musical accompaniment, and Ian Spring of Parsons Dance performed the magnetic solo, “Caught”, a riveting gala favorite by David Parsons. Kudos to all.

Diogo Do Oliveira, from Portugal, in "Terra"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Madison Penney, from the USA, in "Esmeralda Variation"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Taro Kurachi, from the USA, in a Variation from "Don Quixote"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Bruce Marks Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award
from YAGP Presenter, Prima Ballerina Nina Ananiashvili
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Grand Défilé of All YAGP 2017 Finalists on the Koch Stage
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro, of New York City Ballet
in "Heaven's Ballet" Pas de Deux from "Carousel"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Skylar Brandt and Gabe Stone Shayer, of American Ballet Theatre
in "Spring Waters"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Tamara Rojo and Cesar Corrales, of English National Ballet
in a Variation from "Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

Cesar Corrales, of English National Ballet
in a Variation from "Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at