Youth America Grand Prix

Youth America Grand Prix is the world's largest international student dance competition, which awards $250,000 in scholarships each year to dance schools within the United States and internationally. It is held internationally each year, with final competitions taking place in New York City.[1] It includes ballet and contemporary dance styles of performance. It is open to dance students 8–19 years old.


Youth America Grand Prix[2] (YAGP)[3] is the world’s largest and one of the most prestigious international ballet competitions. It is also a New York-based 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization.

The mission of YAGP is to provide educational and professional opportunities to young dancers, acting as a stepping stone to a professional dance career by offering scholarships or job opportunities to young dancers ages 9 to 19.

Each year there are over 5,000 participants competing for elite scholarships. The regional competitions are conducted in 12 cities in the US and in 5 international locations. Selected students from these competitions are invited to New York City to participate at the YAGP Finals.[4]

YAGP offers dance students the opportunity to be seen, taught and professionally guided by the directors and faculty of the world’s foremost companies and schools, including: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Australian Ballet School, Canada’s National Ballet School, John Cranko School of Stuttgart Ballet (Germany), La Scala Ballet Academy (Italy), Paris Opera Ballet, and The Royal Ballet School (England), and the Rock School for Dance Education among others.

In 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized YAGP’s contribution to international dance education by awarding it with a membership in UNESCO’s prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID).


YAGP was founded in 1999 by two former dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet, Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev (who was a soloist at American Ballet Theatre and now teaches at the Studio Company for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School). The competition quickly became the largest in the United States, and is internationally recognized.

"Youth America Grand Prix has grown to become the largest and one of the most influential youth ballet competitions in the world"[5] and has become “a game changer in the dance world” – Laura Bleiberg, Los Angeles Times.

The number of participating students, teachers, dance schools and companies exceeds all others with great cultural and ethnic diversity. “Almost overnight, Youth America Grand Prix created a central ballet marketplace.” – Laura Bleiberg, Los Angeles Times.

Some of Youth America Grand Prix’s significant achievements

  • YAGP established the Emerging Choreographer Series to provide an opportunity for upcoming young choreographers to present their work to the international dance community. The choreographers showcased in the series have recently included Marcelo Gomes, Adam Hougland, Camille A. Brown, Susan Jaffe and Justin Peck among others.
  • YAGP has awarded over $2,000,000 USD in scholarships to the world’s leading dance schools.
  • Over 25,000 dancers worldwide have participated in YAGP’s international workshops, competitions, and audition classes.
  • In 2007 Youth America Grand Prix became the first organization in the 50-year history of Italy’s prestigious Spoleto Dance Festival to present performances by dance students.
  • In 2009, Youth America Grand Prix celebrated its 10th Anniversary Season with an all-star, all-YAGP-alumni Gala at New York City Center. During the Gala, YAGP participants broke the Guinness World Record for most dancers en pointe.
  • In 2011, YAGP appeared on the Guggenheim’s “Works & Progress” program giving audiences an inside look at “How Judges Judge.” YAGP’s presentation has become the most watched program in the history of the series.
  • YAGP expanded its “Job Fair” to current competitors and alumni providing the opportunity to audition for over 25 dance companies worldwide.
  • YAGP’s annual “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow[6]” features performances by some of the world’s leading dancers, including YAGP alumni who are now Principal Dancers (“Stars of Today”), and performances by YAGP finalists (“Stars of Tomorrow”) selected by the panel. In 2012, “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” Gala was for the first time held at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
  • YAGP’s educational Gala series, “Legends In Dance”, has featured Pyotr Pestov, Vladimir Vasiliev and in 2012 featured Ballerina Assoluta, Natalia Makarova.[7]

Youth America Grand Prix’s Annual Gala

YAGP’s annual gala “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” Gala is an event presenting current dancers, as well as younger pre-professional dancers.

Many ballet stars have their New York Debut in the “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” Gala. They have included:

In previous years, Guest Artists have included:

YAGP also presented a number of dancers’ last appearance in New York, including Paris Opera Ballet’s Etoile dancer Manuel Legris, Bolshoi Ballet’s Nikolai Tsiskaridze and The Royal Ballet’s Darcey Bussell.

The program of the Gala ranges from the well-known ballet classics to cutting-edge contemporary choreography. Its main objective is linked to the YAGP mission which is to educate not only the next generation of ballet artists, but also the next generation of ballet audiences.

YAGP also introduced its now widely acclaimed educational Gala series, “Legends In Dance”, which in 2012 featured Ballerina Assoluta, Natalia Makarova.

Critics have said

The YAGP Gala is “the highlight of the season!” – The late Clive Barnes, NY Post

The YAGP Gala performers are “a truly impressive parade of artists.” - Jocelyn Noveck, The Moscow Times (AP)[8]

“The evening was full of high spirits - Jocelyn Noveck, The Moscow Times (AP)

“…. the bows naturally brought the audience to its feet” – Brian Seibert, The New York Times

“We were already cheering at the top of our lungs during the standing ovation, when Kevin McKenzie gestured to Marcelo Gomes and David Hallberg to lift her up high. Then we really went crazy”” Wendy Perron, Dance Magazine

“The sheer number of ballet greats inside … was enough to leave me completely star struck.” – Rachel Zar, Dance Spirit

“There was artistry in abundance of today's most celebrated ballerinas from around the globe … The men were the world's best as well. The sold-out house was filled with grown-ups who knew how to appreciate what they were watching” – Sondra Forsyth, Dance Art

“The Makarova gala crowned three, remarkable evenings of performances by international artists and by Youth America Grand Prix hopefuls.” – Robert Johnson, The Star-Ledger[9]

The competition Jury Members

YAGP participants are evaluated by the representatives of the many ballet institutions from around the world. YAGP Jury members have included:

  • Patrick Armand - Associate Director, San Francisco Ballet School (USA)
  • Ted Brandsen - Artistic Director, Dutch National Ballet (THE NETHERLANDS)
  • Jan Broeckx - Artistic Director, Ballett-Akademie of the University of Music and Performing Arts (GERMANY)
  • Franco de Vita - Director, ABT JKO School (USA)
  • Anne-Marie Holmes - Artistic Director, Jacob’s Pillow Ballet Program (USA)
  • Andre Lewis – Artistic Director, Royal Winnipeg Ballet (CANADA)
  • Raymond Lukens - Artistic Associate, ABT/NYU Masters Degree Program (USA)
  • Luca Masala - Artistic Director, Princess Grace Academy of Classic Ballet (MONACO)
  • Tadeusz Matacz - Director, John Cranko School of Stuttgart Ballet (GERMANY)
  • Oliver Matz - Director, Zurich Dance Academy (SWITZERLAND)
  • Arlene Minkhorst – Director, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School (CANADA)
  • Frederic Olivieri – Director of the Dance Department of the La Scala Academy (ITALY)
  • Elisabeth Platel - Director, Paris Opera Ballet School (FRANCE)
  • Lawrence Rhodes - Director of the Juilliard Dance Division (USA)
  • Adam Sklute Artistic - Director, Ballet West (USA)
  • Gailene Stock - Director, The Royal Ballet School (UK)
  • Aaron Watkins – Artistic Director, Dresden SemperOper Ballet (GERMANY)
  • Septime Webre - Artistic Director, The Washington Ballet (USA)
  • Stanton Welch - Artistic Director, Houston Ballet (USA)
  • Ashley Wheater – Artistic Director, Joffrey Ballet and The Joffrey Academy (USA)

Age Divisions

  • Senior Age Division: 15–19 years old
  • Junior Age Division: 12– 14 years old
  • Pre-Competitive Age Division: 9–11 years old

Eligibility for selection for the New York City finals

To be selected for Final competitions in New York City, solo participants must receive a total score of 95 or higher in their Classical Ballet variation during regional competitions, or by submitting video.


In Junior and Senior Divisions there are Grand Prix Awards. Where men and women are awarded separately with Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The Hope Award is presented for Pre-competitive Division. As well, First, Second and Third places are awarded in Pre-competitive and Ensembles categories.

Scholarship Awards

Total value of all scholarship awards exceeds $250,000. The scholarships include The Royal Ballet School (UK), Hamburg Ballet School (Germany), The John Cranko School of Stuttgart Ballet (Germany), Zurich Dance Academy (Switzerland), The Ailey School (USA), American Ballet Theater (USA), Bolshoi Ballet Academy (USA), Joffrey Ballet's Academy of Dance (USA) among many others.

YAGP Alumni

Youth America Grand Prix has numerous alumni who have gone on to successful careers in the field. Notable alumni include:

In film

Seven young dancers participating in the Youth America Grand Prix competition were filmed for the documentary First Position[10] by director Bess Kargman. The film earned praise from critics and audiences during several screenings on the United States 2012 film festival circuit. It was given a wider theatre release in May 2012, distributed by Sundance Selects.[11] The documentary has won several awards. Built on the young dancers’ talent, tenacity and passion, First Position gives audiences across the world an "all-access pass" into the backstage world of dance, capturing the process of how dance stars are born.

See also


  1. ^ Goulding, Michael (February 12, 2012). "Ballet competitors strive to be best". Orange County Register. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ Diana, Julie. Ballet Competitions 101: Which one is right for you? Dance Spirit Magazine (March, 2010) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  3. ^ Wozny, Nancy. The Judges’ Pet Peeves. Pointe Magazine (June/July 2011) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  4. ^ Manning, Emma. YAGP 2011. Dance Europe (May 2011) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  5. ^ Bleiberg, Laura. In “First Position” young ballet dancers bend and leap to compete. LA Times (April 29, 2012),0,3675881,full.story Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  6. ^ Zar, Rachel. The Stars Align at Youth America Grand Prix. Dance Spirit (April 30, 2012) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  7. ^ Seibert, Brian. Ballet star gazes down and rises up. The New York Times (April 30, 2012) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  8. ^ The Soviet ballerina gets NY tribute. Moscow Times (May 1, 2012) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  9. ^ Johnson, Robert. Star-struck memories: a gala honors legendary ballerina Natalia Makarova. Star Ledger. (May 1, 2012) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  10. ^ Milzoff, Rebecca. Fledgling Ballerinas, Just Learning to Fly. The New York Times (April 27, 2012) Retrieved on May 3, 2012
  11. ^ Milzoff, Rebecca (April 27, 2012). "Fledgling Ballerinas, Just Learning to Fly". The New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 

External links

  • Complete alumni listing
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