Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY.
April 11, 2023.
It was a perfect spring evening in April, when dance lovers, proud parents, teachers, benefactors and fellow students gathered at the Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center to celebrate the dancers of the 2023 Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) ballet competition in the 25th anniversary season.
YAGP started in 1999, as a way to support and develop exceptional dancers globally, through scholarships, education and performance opportunities. Since its inception, over 200,000 dancers have benefited from the efforts of the founders. In this performance entitled “Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow,” young dancers were joined by world-class dancers from top companies around the world.
The air outside the theater buzzed with everyone dressed their best – a plethora of ballgowns, tulle, sequins and fine suits filled the sidewalk – and everyone greeted friends, former teachers and fellow dancers. Alice Tully Hall is a smaller theater than either of its more typically used dance spaces in Lincoln Center: David H. Koch Theater and the Metropolitan Opera House. For the audience, this meant a closer view of the performances. Rarely do audiences have that close of a view of such incredible dancers from the entire house.
The young dancers onstage ranged from ages 10-18 and performed solos, duets and two group numbers. Seeing such young artists dance at such a high technical level was exciting, and encouraging to think about where they’ll go as their journeys in dance evolve. The audience was wowed primarily by turns and tricks and cheered robustly for each, while showing less enthusiasm for more nuanced aspects. In that sense, it was hard to connect the artistry to the technique, as it was clear the dancers were responding to the cheers.
Professional dancers from renowned companies around the world joined the young dancers in this performance. The transition from the student portion of the performance to the professional portion was seamless, showing just how high the level of dancing possessed by the younger dancers was. While it’s true that each dancer’s execution of artistic expression grows with time and experience, watching these younger dancers come to the stage with a deep grasp of art was lovely to watch – as this is the beginning for them, and will only grow with time.
The show included an excerpt from Ohad Naharin’s Decadance during which the dancers, part of YAGP’s International Contemporary Youth Ensemble (clad in dark suits and wide-brimmed hats), pluck people from the audience to dance with onstage. The dancers selected mostly women (wearing brightly colored cocktail dresses) creating a stark visual juxtaposition, with most of the audience members towering about the kids in height and using their time onstage to bust out their best dance moves.
The result was a delightfully entertaining moment for the audience and provided a reminder that fundamentally, dance is universal, joyful and continues to connect us all. In this sense, YAGP excelled at its mission: to foster high level dancers via opportunity and education, and promote the overall enjoyment of the art form.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.