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Including ballet competition standout Alina Taratorin (photo by Oliver Endahl, courtesy Taratorin)

Congratulations to the 39 talented dancers just named 2020 YoungArts award winners! This year's group of awardees includes several familiar faces from the competition scene.

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Kaylin Maggard at NYCDA Nationals. Photo courtesy of Maggard

2017 was a big year for Columbia Performing Arts Centre alumna Kaylin Maggard. Not only did she graduate from high school in Columbia, Missouri, and begin her studies at Juilliard, she won the title of Senior Female Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, was one of 22 YoungArts finalists in dance and was named the Dance Spirit magazine Cover Model Search Winner. Now on tour with NYCDA, Maggard shares some of her CPAC teachers' best advice and training tactics that helped her achieve her goals.

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Four dancers have been selected as 2016 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, an annual award to 20 National YoungArts Foundation finalists for outstanding achievement in academics, in addition to artistic excellence in dance, theater, music, visual arts and writing. Modern dancers Jared Brown and Kaylin Sturtevant of Dallas, Texas, classical Indian dancer Pavithra Nagarajan of Fremont, California, and tap dancer Dario Natarelli of New York City each received a presidential medallion at a recognition ceremony in Washington, DC. Afterward, they performed in a multidisciplinary showcase directed by Emmy Award–winner Debbie Allen. The honor is the highest level of recognition for YoungArts winners who, in the past, have included Desmond Richardson (DT, January 2016), Camille A. Brown (DT, August 2015) and The Royal Ballet’s Sarah Lamb.

Students ages 15 to 18 or in grades 10 to 12 interested in participating in the YoungArts program can apply through October 14.

Presidential Scholar Dario Natarelli soars during the 2016 National YoungArts Week showcase.

Photo by Pedro Portal, courtesy of YoungArts

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Andrew Rannells sang "Wicked Little Town" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and "Cry For Me" from Jersey Boys.

Yesterday was the National YoungArts Foundation’s second annual YoungArts Awareness Day. Designed to encourage emerging artists to pursue careers in the arts, the day was capped off with a cabaret performance at NYC arts venue Feinstein’s/54 Below, Broadway's Supper Club. As I am a relatively new New York arts-goer, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into as I made my way to the Manhattan venue. To my embarrassment, I actually got confused about which door was the entrance and ended up taking the service elevator into the club. So much for sophistication!

As I walked into the swanky room, my excitement increased. Headlining the show were five YoungArts alumni: singer-songwriter Grace Weber, pianist and producer Julian Waterfall Pollack, On the Town star and recent Dance Magazine cover Tony Yazbeck, Hamilton star Alysha Deslorieux and HBO “Girls” star Andrew Rannells. Hosted by “The Knick” actress Zuzanna Szadkowski, the evening promised to be spectacular.

And it was! Weber kicked off the show with “Oil and Gold”—a heartbreaking original song about an oil spill. Three Juilliard dancers improvised during Pollack’s soulful rendition of “Solitude” by Duke Ellington. Yazbeck delivered a face-melting rendition of “Infinite Joy” by William Finn, proving that he has the singing chops to fill a space three times the size of 54 Below. Deslorieux’s “Breath” from The Heights actually brought audience members to tears. Last but certainly not least, Rannells’ “Cry For Me” from Jersey Boys sent audience members (including myself) off into the night with goofy smiles on their faces.

The sheer talent and passion of the performers highlighted the truly inspirational work that YoungArts does. Established in 1981, it supports the next generation of artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts. Each year 800 YoungArts winners are selected out of 11,000 applicants, ages 15 to 18. Winners receive mentorship from world-renowned artists, scholarships and opportunities to launch their careers. Alumni include: Desmond Richardson, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington and The Music Center president and CEO Rachel Moore. Dance master artists have included: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones, Debbie Allen and Jacques d’Amboise.

Tony Yazbeck performed "Something's Coming" from West Side Story and "Infinite Joy" by William Finn.

Photos courtesy of: Monica Schipper/Getty Images North America

When it comes to nurturing young artistic talent and confidence, a week of immersion with prestigious master teachers goes a long way. Since its founding in 1981, YoungArts has established itself as a springboard for high school artists on the rise. Covering 10 disciplines in the literary, design, visual and performing arts, the program offers participants a week of boundary-pushing mentorship and performing experience, plus eligibility for scholarships and monetary prizes that extend far beyond the weeklong program.

Nearly 200 finalists (21 are dancers) will attend the 34th annual National YoungArts Week in Miami, January 4–11. Winners (786 total) in categories of finalists, honorable mention and merit are eligible to attend regional five-day programs in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City during the first part of 2015.

At YoungArts Week, students train with renowned artists in their fields to create and perform new work in the evenings. Master dance teachers have included Bill T. Jones (who is an artistic advisor to the program), Desmond Richardson (a YoungArts alumnus), Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques d’Amboise and former Bill T. Jones dancer Leah Cox, who spoke to DT earlier this year about her interdisciplinary approach to leading a YoungArts master class.

Applications for the 2016 YoungArts program open in spring 2015.

About YoungArts:

Photo courtesy of YoungArts

YoungArts Week 2012 dance finalists performing at the New World Center

Calling all high school dancers! The 2014 YoungArts application is now open, and the deadline to apply for this prestigious scholarship program is October 18. Applicants must be in grades 10–12, and the application process is two-fold: There’s an online component, and students must also submit an audition portfolio.

But the perks of becoming a YoungArts finalist are well worth the effort of applying. Winners receive access to mentors, monetary prizes, national recognition and the chance to work with master teachers like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques d’Amboise and Bill T. Jones over the course of one extraordinary week in Miami, Florida.

There are 10 disciplines (dance, cinematic arts, design arts, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice and writing), and students are encouraged to apply to more than one. Each has its own specific requirements for the audition portfolio, so be sure to read carefully.

Photo by Robert Leslie

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