Over the Weekend, Ballerinas Gathered in Southampton to Applaud 20 Years of the Youth America Grand Prix
On a hazy Saturday evening in Southampton, friends, philanthropists, and dancers drew together to toast two decades of the Youth America Grand Prix, the organization serving ballerinas-to-be in six continents with workshops, classes, and scholarships.
John and Elizabeth Sills, patrons of the YAGP for more than 15 years, hosted the evening at their estate, where sparkling rosé, Amagansett lobster rolls, and a trio of farm-fresh cobblers were on offer. As for entertainment, violinist Irene Fong serenaded the crowd.
“Before [the YAGP], a kid in a small town in America would never know that there is a Royal Ballet School in England. They may not have the money to go to 13 different auditions and to travel to 13 different locations,” says Serge Gordeev, the organization’s director of external affairs. Many members of the YAGP community have gone as far as hosting dancers in their homes for the finals, providing them with the proper clothing and gear needed to succeed during such. “The idea is simple: young people need support and to be placed in a situation where they can be nurtured,” he adds. “If you have talent, but nobody develops or supports it, it cannot grow.”
Conversations turned to tales of the YAGP, experiences, and success stories of tiny dancers who went on to become principals. Like the 13-year-old girl who failed to place in the YAGP finals and used the loss as grist for her mill, landing a role in the New York City Ballet 10 years later. That girl was a certain Lauren Lovette, who was also the evening’s honoree.
The YAGP is best-in-class and first of its kind, amassing the industry’s finest talents once a year at its finals, which take place in Purchase, New York, and Manhattan. During the weeklong spectacle, dancers of all backgrounds are invited to be seen by the world onstage at Lincoln Center and connect with mentors, be awarded scholarships, and cultivate professional opportunities along the way. In the organization’s 20th year, there are no plans to slow down—$4,000,000 in scholarships have already been awarded. And much like the dancers whose lives it’s touched, the organization deserves multiple rounds of applause.
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