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Superintendent Listening Post

Mayo Dancers Take on the World’s Largest Ballet Scholarship Competition: YAGP

Competing at the Youth America Grand Prix, Asia Vang executes the Swanhilda variation from Coppelia.

YAGP, which stands for Youth America Grand Prix, held one of its many regional competitions in Kansas City, Missouri, just two weeks ago. Five of our students, Asia Vang (16), Beatriz Titan-Pereira (16), Seung-Yoon Lee (14), Sophie Hendrickson (14), and Sophie Madsen (14) all from the Ballet Blake school, competed in both the junior and senior classical, contemporary, and group dance divisions. 

Preparing for YAGP takes months of one-on-one private sessions with teachers. In these sessions, for ballet, dancers practice a classical variation that has been chosen through the discussion between the teacher and student. When choosing the variation, the main goal is to select one that highlights both the strengths and style of the specific dancer. Titan-Pereira, who competed with the variation Swan Lake Pas de Trois, says she chose the variation because “it had a lot of moments where I could sustain,” which she says is one of the things she likes doing most. Asia Vang, who has competed with Swanhilda from Coppelia for the third year in a row, says she likes how the variation “has all the elements of jumping and turning but also has the artistry,” which is unique to many other variations.

Showing great poise, Beatriz Titan-Pereira competes with the Pas de Trois variation from Swan Lake at YAGP.

Epitomizing persistence and confidence, Sophie Hendrickson dances the Pas de Trois variation from Swan Lake at YAGP. 

Although these sessions are often very valuable times for the students, there are always struggles throughout the process. These struggles include battling with one’s own inner thoughts and self-doubt. Hendrickson says she struggled with the sensation of “Am I going to be good compared to everyone else there?” – which many young dancers can relate to, especially in such a competitive environment. Physical struggles are also a big part of YAGP. These variations often require lots of stamina, persistence, and energy. Titan-Pereira notes that, “the biggest roadblock [she] hit was just pushing through it.” This is another very common feeling many dancers experience while constantly running their variations over the weeks and months.

Sophie Madsen dancing her contemporary variation titled “Renitent”, competing at YAGP.

At the competition, although many of the dancers felt nervous backstage and before the competition, most felt confident while performing. “While I was performing, everything went away,” Madsen said. Vang also felt a similar sensation: “you kinda just zone in and focus on yourself.”

Seung-Yoon Lee dances the La Esmeralda variation, competing at YAGP.

Even though it can be a long and hard process, students ultimately gain a great deal from the experience as a whole. “I feel like my technique really grew, and I was able to translate what I learned in class into a variation and make it something that I was proud of,” says Hendrickson. “In the end,” says Lee, “what matters is how much you grew and improved, compared to your past self.”


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