From left, DALA Director Jonathan Guise with dancers Sophia Dendy, Sophia Jeffery, Melina Burnside, Indiana Warrior, Jenna Erickson, Camille Rousculp, Annie Smith and Cody Maggiore. Courtesy/DALA
Eight ballet students from Dance Arts Los Alamos (DALA) will travel to Denver this weekend to compete in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Ballet Competition.
Sophia Dendy and Indiana Warrior will compete in the Junior Division. Melina Burnside, Jenna Erickson, Sophia Jeffery, Cody Maggiore, Camille Rousculp and Annie Smith will compete in the Senior Division. Founded in 1999 by former Bolshoi dancers Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev, YAGP is one of the world’s largest ballet competitions and awards $250,000 in scholarships each year.
Coached by DALA Director Jonathan Guise, the dancers have devoted Sunday afternoons to prepare for this competition since September. Each of them has learned a solo classical and original contemporary choreography to perform at the competition.
DALA students will perform solos from “Giselle,” “Raymonda,” “Coppelia,” “Nutcracker,” “Le Corsaire,” “La Bayadere,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Pharaoh’s Daughter.” Each classical variation is performed using original choreography dating back 100 or more years.
The contemporary solos were choreographed by Guise specifically to highlight the each dancer’s strengths.
Especially poignant is the solo choreographed for Warrior. “I am deeply appreciative of Jonathan Guise and his mentoring and guidance – most especially his choreography dedicated to my father, ‘The Ultimate Warrior,’ who passed away nearly a year ago. Being able to dedicate a dance to my dad has allowed me to express so many emotions that words can not capture.”
Dendy, who is competing for the first time, said, “Doing YAGP has made me more mature in my dancing. Getting ready for the competition helped me focus and become a better dancer.” Maggiore, also competing for the first time, is excited to represent his school and compete with his friends.
Erickson and Burnside have participated in YAGP in the past and are eager for this year’s competition. Erickson said, “The DALA family that surrounds me has always been so supportive and encouraging, but training for YAGP this year has given me a chance to bond even more with some of these wonderful people on an even deeper level.” Burnside, who is competing for the third time, expresses her thanks to her DALA instructors “for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to grow as a dancer.”
All of the dancers noted that the one-on-one coaching was challenging and rewarding. Mentored by Guise, they have all grown in technique and artistry and have bonded with each other through their preparations for YAGP. First-time competitor Smith sums up these feelings by saying, “Jonathan has shown me why I love to dance. Dance is everything to me. It sets me free.”