The Youth America Grand Prix gala performance in NYC is always fantastic, but this year felt special. "The stars of tomorrow meet the stars of today," as selected aspiring pros from the competition are given the opportunity to perform on stage with some of the biggest names in ballet. You can see the full line up here. It was awesome!
The youngest dancers are adorable and were scarily good-this year. For instance, 10-year-old Lada Saratkova executed 32 fouettés near the end of a variation throughout which she demonstrated poise and an alert, polished sense of performance. 13-year-old Gisele Bethea performed her variation fromEsmeralda with coy allure, uncommonly graceful port des bras, and technique punctuated by gorgeous footwork.
By the end of the first half of the program, dedicated to the up-and-comers, the audience was thoroughly impressed and delighted. Then host Mark L. Walberg explained that, for the first time in YAGP history, a "star of tomorrow" would be performing with a "star of today." 20-year-old Cuban Jorge Lopez Barani would dance the Flames of Paris Pas de Deux with San Francisco Ballet luminary Maria Kochetkova.
The first movement was something of a set up for what followed. The choreography starts off more lovely than virtuosic, so when Barani's solo exploded with flight, spins, and charisma everyone was momentarily breathless. This video shows off Barani's powerful jumps and impressive turns -- it looks like he does more than 9, and he ends in dynamic, suspended balances -- but the video doesn't capture the force of his presence on stage. He was thrilling to watch; it felt like seeing something new and invigorating for the first time. It will be wonderful to follow this stunning dancer's career.
The second half of the evening was every bit as good as you would expect from the roster of world-class talent. Click here to read more about YAGP's "Stars of Today".