Check out my interview with Larissa where we discussed her favorite Ballet and what we can expect from the Gala on April 16th. See below:
How did YAGP come about? Take us back to the origin of YAGP.
When I just came to the United States, I had been dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet and have not yet had any experience teaching. I wanted to try it, though – and in the process discovered that I much preferred it to dancing. There is no unified system of teaching here in the U.S., I wanted my students to have the experience of seeing other students perform and being able to compare their training to others’. I also wanted to share experience with other teachers – but I found that no event existed in the United States where that could happen for classical ballet students and teachers. So, I decided to create my own.
Any advice for the aspiring dancers who want to break into the competitive world of Ballet?
Don't compare yourself to anybody, but yourself. You may not have the perfect feet, the ideal body type, but as long as you dance better than you did yesterday - you are improving.
Your favorite Ballet and Why?
I love all the classics, of course – I am a classically trained ballerina. But if we are talking about contemporary repertoire, I do have a favorite ballet – it is Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room.” It fascinates me every time – there is just so much energy, something absolutely special about it.
Why is YAGP so vital to young performers? How does YAGP stand out from the other Ballet organizations?
Ever since Youth America Grand Prix was established in 1999, several other competitions were created, following our successful model. But we still remain the original – and world’s largest – student ballet scholarship competition.
The vital role of YAGP is in that it identifies talented young dancers before their talent is fully developed – and helps them find institutions that will create the best environment for their talent to blossom. We have done this for over 70,000 students so far, and, as a result, 300 YAGP alumni are now dancing in 80 companies all over the world.
The one thing YAGP offers that no other ballet organization does is a lifetime membership in the world’s largest, global dance network. Once a dancer participate in YAGP, they become a part of the “YAGP family.” We will continue to share our resources, recommend the dancers for professional auditions, invite them to the Gala performances we organize – and even invite them to dance in these Gala performances as professional guest artists. This is a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Our organization does so much- we believe in what we do
When we just started, we had no blueprint for what to do – because no such organization has ever existed before.
So, naturally, there were many setbacks simply from not knowing how certain things work best – that comes only with experience. But we did have one thing that got us through all of our difficulties from the very beginning – it is our firm belief in what we are doing, and our enthusiasm for the art of dance. Virtually every single staff member of YAGP has some form of a performing arts background. We are also a very hard-working group that supports its members – we are truly a “family.”
Every time I see a young dancer take the stage - it's motivation enough for me. Seeing kids grow their skill to become professionals is immensely gratifying. We have over 300 alumni currently dancing in 80 of the world's most prestigious dance companies, including ABT, NYCB, Mariinsky, The Royal Ballet, Paris Opera, and others. These success stories are not only inspiring our next generation, but giving us the confidence to continue our mission.
What's your life motto?
I believe in making the impossible possible. If you believe in what you are doing, are determined, willing to work hard, and have a specific goal in mind, there will always be a way to achieve your goals.
Tell us about the Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow Gala on April 16th. What should we expect?
“Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” is a Gala performance with a unique format that we have pioneered in 2000 – and that continues to thrill audiences all over the world. The uniqueness of the format is in that in one evening the audience gets to see both the present – and the future – of ballet. In the first act, we will see the winners of the international ballet competition, representing dancers from 35 countries in 5 continents. In the second act, we will see some of the most celebrated dancers performing today, representing some of the leading international ballet companies. And, of course, many of them will be YAGP alumni. A special highlight will be ABT’s illustrious Paloma Herrara – this will be one of her last performances in New York before she retires later this season. This year’s program will also feature World and U.S. premieres, professional debuts, and many other surprises. We look forward to seeing you at the show!
Photos via Dance Magazine and YAGP.