We embarked on a new adventure in dance land this weekend: our first time at YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix). A truly international competition, they pride themselves as being the world’s largest global network of dance. They fulfill their mission through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances, and films.
You might have heard of YAGP through the film “First Position“. It’s available on Netflix and even if you aren’t a dancer, it worth watching. Kids from all over the world train solely for YAGP and the accolades that it brings.
For our family, we knew about YAGP only because of the film. Being in a large, metropolitan city, we tend to classify dance studios. Studio A, B, and C are where you go if you want to do serious ballet. Studio D, E, and F are good for competition. Studio G & H are for the kids who only want to dip their toes into dance. So, when we showed up this weekend to YAGP, we saw a whole lot of Studio A, B, and C.
Our studio does many competitions and conventions. It’s a different world then YAGP – by far. Our kids most definitely held their own and were choreographed appropriately for YAGP, but we don’t see a lot of ballet intensive pieces on a weekly basis. It is such an art. These kids are true athletes and the mere concentration that it takes to pull off their pieces is just astronomical.
I’m sure every weekend is different, but for us, Piper started off on Friday with her solo. We arrived about 2 hours prior, found a dressing room and let her begin stretching. At her appointed time, she found her way to the stage. She literally had to find it on her own, because I wasn’t allowed to go with her. Different then what we are used to with competitions and conventions, the stage is cleared between blocks of soloists and the dancers are allotted 30 minutes to share the stage and get a feel for how they might need to adjust their staging, etc. Piper dances her contemporary solo in bare feet, so she was happy to get a feel of the stage prior to “the real thing”.
Once we were done with solo, we were done for the day. It felt so odd to just leave, but at YAGP all awards are held until the final day of competition.
The following day, Piper had a group dance compete. This is a piece that she was so honored to be cast in, and as her mom – it’s one of my absolute favorites of not just the season, but of her time as a dancer. The group pieces run much the same way. The stage is cleared before each block so dancers can come on stage to get a feel of it. The difference with the groups is that each gets 1 minute of stage time on their own. So, the girls had to go on stage with a plan or their 1 minute would quickly slip through their hands.
On the final day of the weekend, Piper took 4.5 hours of master classes from some of the fabulous YAGP faculty. She had a contemporary, ballet, and variation workshop. Only 24 dancers in her session, so she really enjoyed it and took away some tidbits that she will (hopefully) carry over to her daily classes at her home studio. Our Houston workshops took place at the beautiful Houston Ballet facility. If you can’t get inspired in a professional facility, I don’t know where you could!
When the workshop classes ended, a fellow dance mom gathered up all of our company girls and brought them back to the site of the competition and awards. I love that YAGP has a dressy awards ceremony. Getting one foot on the stage this weekend was reason to be celebrated. I’m not being cliche in saying that either, it was truly awe-inspiring to see the dancers! So, our sweet dancers donned their best and off they went to see their fate.
All of our soloists and our group performed the strongest that they have all season. I feel like one of the reasons they did so well is because they had absolutely no pressure. They didn’t have a great understanding of what they were about to see throughout the weekend nor did they feel the pressure of qualifying for any further events. It was really a great feeling for all of them, truthfully.
When it was all said and done, we had one senior girl in our studio that finished in the Top 12. We are so proud of her. Piper finished with a score significantly higher than what she ever expected and is over the moon!
Oh, and I’d be remiss to leave out the highlight of the weekend. Tate McRae. I’m not even kidding when I say that I gave the girl 80% of my votes each week on SYTYCD – Next Generation. She is an amazing dancer. And, she was in Piper’s age division – isn’t that just great luck LOL?!? The highlight of everyone’s weekend was seeing her. I swear I felt like the paparazzi, I was taking so many photos of this girl. And, I wasn’t the only mom – all of our girls had us on a mission. At the end of the awards ceremony, Piper finally got up the nerve to ask her for a photo. Tate was absolutely lovely in taking a photo with each of us. I know how proud I am of Piper and her talent, I can only imagine how Tate’s mom must feel — all of these girls knowing your daughter and asking for her photo. She must be bursting.
We are ready to take 2018 YAGP by storm. It truly is an amazing experience.