Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), the world’s largest ballet scholarship competition, culminated its 2021 U.S. Season Finals in Tampa, FL, with over 800 talented dancers from all over America. Participants competed in front of judges from top international institutions and won $300,000 in scholarships, job offers and the coveted notoriety of first place.
YAGP is the only major dance competition that has continued giving dancers a chance to perform live on stage throughout the pandemic. “To these young dancers, dance is their entire life, and they train tirelessly for the opportunity to do it professionally,” said YAGP Founder and Artistic Director Larissa Saveliev. “The career of a ballerina already has a limited lifespan, and we couldn’t allow our dancers to lose a year due to the pandemic. We safely put dancers back on stage where they belong.”
The 2021 season held live auditions in 26 locations throughout the United States from November 2020 through April 2021. More than 10,000 dancers were seen, taught and professionally evaluated by the world’s leading dance professionals at each venue. The most talented dancers from every city continued on to the Finals in Tampa. $300,000 in scholarships has been awarded to more than 200 participants, including to The Royal Ballet School, Paris Opera Ballet School, Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, The John Cranko School of the Stuttgart Ballet, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet School and more.
“For the past 12 years, since I have become director, I have turned to YAGP as a major source of exceptional dance talent,” says Luca Masala, director of the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco. “I’m happy that even in this very challenging environment, YAGP has continued.”
The 2021 Grand Prix Winner is Brady Farrar (15) from The Art of Classical Ballet and Stars Dance Studio in Florida. The Senior Age Division Women’s winners include 1st Place Sylvie Squires (16) from Jacqueline’s School of Ballet in Utah, 2nd Place Clara Thiele (16) from Timothy M Draper Center for Dance Education in New York, and a 3rd Place tie between Mary Grace Koznarek (17) from Hinsdale Dance Academy in Illinois and Summer Brown (16) from Pavlova Professional Coaching in California. The Senior Age Division Men’s winners include 1st Place Yuchan Kim (19) from Joffrey Academy of Dance in Illinois (who will join Joffrey Ballet in September), 2nd Place Mitchell Millhollin (15) from International Ballet Academy in North Carolina, and 3rd Place Keita Fujishima (19) from Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program in New York.
So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars choreographer Talia Favia won YAGP’s Outstanding Choreographer Award alongside World of Dance choreographer Andrea Astuto. World of Dance performer Styles Dykes won YAGP’s Outstanding Contemporary Award.
Strict health and safety measures, including mask wearing, daily testing and timed dance slots, were implemented to make this a reality. City and state guidelines were followed which allowed for zero COVID-19 cases during YAGP’s season. For those participants who were not ready to take part in live events, virtual auditions were available.