Here's my seriously belated review of the Youth America Grand Prix Gala that took place on April 18th 2013 at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center, NYC. My excuse for the delay is that I was busy with a new production of "Sleeping Beauty" for Ballet Ambassadors, but there's still plenty of time for you to think about trekking to NYC next spring to catch the 2014 Gala.
Now for the surprise: After my less than laudatory review of YAGP 2012, I'm ready to recant and recommend that you make a point of being in the audience next year. I had the distinct feeling that the Savlievs, founders of YAGP, had taken to heart many of the complaints from professional critics and citizen journalists alike about the 2012 event. This year's host, Mark L. Walberg of TV's "Antiques Roadshow", was quite charming and far less intrusive than last year's team, comedians Ana Gasteyer and Brian d'Arcy James. Also, although I'm still not a fan of competitions, I have to say that the young winners who danced on April 18th showed a great deal more artistry than I've seen in the past. I fervently hope this encouraging trend continues. Clearly, since the trademark pyrotechnics were still in evidence, the possibility of producing a new generation of dancers with world class technique as well as genuine artistic soul is within reach.
Unfortunately, though, a clutch of student dancers in the audience still displayed the deplorable theater manners I talked about last year. They hooted and hollered for every trick and began applauding thunderously even before the variations drew to a close, thus drowning out the music. The most distressing incidence of this behavior occurred when Dorothée Gilbert of the Paris Opera Ballet and Marcelo Gomez of the American Ballet Theatre danced the pas de deux from MacMillan's "Romeo & Juliet" to the soul-stirring strains of Prokofiev. The hushed and heart-quickening moment at the very end when the music seems to climb the stairs to the balcony right along with Juliet before Romeo scales the wall for a passionate last good-bye was completely obliterated by clapping and shouting worthy of a rock concert. Teachers, please school your students in proper theater-going etiquette! Better yet, help them understand that nuances of performance are just as important, if not more so, than multiple turns and high-flying jumps.
On a final note, as always the Defilé with over 200 young dancers from 30 countries on five continents was a joy to watch. That alone is worth the price of a ticket. So, yes, if you'll be in NYC next spring, do go to the YAGP Gala!
On with the dance!