4 Questions for YAGP’s Larissa Saveliev

Saveliev, in white


Mackenzie Richter (2014 silver medalist, women's division)

Cesar Corrales (2014 Grand Prix winner)

From April 10 to 15, more than 1,000 teenage ballerina and danseur hopefuls from all over the world will travel to New York City to compete in the 17th annual Youth America Grand Prix finals. By week’s end, many will leave with contracts or scholarships for further study from top-tier companies, like American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opéra Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. DT spoke with YAGP co-founder and former Bolshoi ballerina Larissa Saveliev about what it’s like to run the high-profile event that has awarded $3 million in scholarships since its inception in 1998.

What do you think have been some of the most memorable performances?

“My number one for sure would be Sarah Lane [now a soloist with American Ballet Theatre]. It was years ago, but that was really a breakthrough. I think Cesar Corrales from Mexico [now with the English National Ballet] was spectacular last year. He’s certainly somebody to watch. Gisele Bethea [who won the Youth Grand Prix at 13], she’s the young protégé. Everybody has different stories—sometimes they stand out right away, sometimes it comes later. For me, most important is not what they did today, but what are they going to do tomorrow?”

Which variations are perennial favorites for competitors to perform?

“It changes every year! If someone did very well the year before, everybody tries to do that variation. A funny story: Years ago, when we had just started competing in Japan—where they have more ballet competitions than anywhere else on the planet—everybody kind of did the same rep. And when the Japanese dancers came to New York, Ami Watanabe did [Marius Petipa’s] Harlequinade and got a scholarship to Stuttgart. The next year, half of Japan was doing Harlequinade.”

What do you look forward to most during finals week in NYC?

“Scholarships. That’s why we exist in the first place. I really call us matchmakers, because sometimes a child really wants to go to a particular place, but that place is not interested in this particular child—but another place is. When it clicks—when the school is happy and the child is happy—that’s where the most rewards are.”

What’s the most stressful part of the week for you?

“Sometimes I feel like a juggler. It’s the kids, it’s the jury, it’s the parents and the teachers, it’s the gala and the guest artists. And something always happens: Somebody’s flight gets delayed, somebody gets injured. We’ve had a fire in a theater, snowstorms, ice storms, power outages—name it, we’ve been through it.”



Photos from top: by Joe Toreno, courtesy of Saveliev; by Siggul/Visual Arts Masters (2)

Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less
Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.