Thirty-seven Kansas City Ballet School students are registered to perform 63 entries at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Semi-finals in Kansas City March 1-4, 2018. The number has grown each of the last three years that KCBS has started organizing students to compete.
KCBS Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye oversees the program for KCBS. “I like the idea of having an end goal all year. It motivates students. Ballet training is the long game and it can be hard to find new ways to motivate yourself to give 150% in every class. But with something like YAGP, there are smaller goals along the way that help motivate my students to continue pushing themselves. They work on these concepts of their performance and bring them into their classwork as well. It changes the way they take class and it opens them up to how lessons fit into the bigger picture.”
Right now Nye and the other coaches are focusing on stamina—running the pieces until the dancers are comfortable. She likens it a bit to the Olympics. “We’re working on last minute polishes like nuances, artistry, and presentation. We’re making sure costumes and headpieces fit and conducting stage make up tutorials.”
With the competition happening here at home, the sheer number of KCBS students and ballet coaches are the highest they’ve been. Besides the chance to perform for a panel of accomplished judges, students have the opportunity to take master classes in ballet and dance from them as well. They also get to meet kids, like them, from all over who are passionate about ballet. And, of the 10,000 students around the US and the world competing at Semi-finals, only about 1,000 will be invited to the Finals in New York City in April. KCBS is hoping to again have students selected.
This year’s KC Semi-finals performances will be held at The Folly Theater, downtown and Kansas City Ballet School is the location for master classes. The latter is very exciting to Grace Holmes, KCBS School’s director: “These master classes bring kids into our facility that have likely never been here before. The Bolender Center is a world-class facility for dance, so that’s a great thing. An added benefit is that the students may have a chance to observe our Kansas City Ballet company dancers at work in rehearsals. These YAGP students are often the most talented students at their own schools, having them in our ‘home’ gives us a chance to woo them with all we have to offer in the way of our Summer Intensive and Trainee programs.”
Nye says: “This year it’s definitely a draw to be here in KC, our students will dance in performances from classical or contemporary solos, to classical or contemporary Pas de Deux (dance for two), to small or large ensembles. It’s a lot to coordinate and it starts in the fall.”
Nye manages a lot of details for the competition including making sure everyone is registered, assisting with music selection and editing, advising on costume selection, providing makeup tutorials, arranging coaches, and providing schedules the week of the competition.
“Once YAGP publishes the order of the performances, I sit down and create schedules for all of my students of where they need to be and when,” Nye says. “It’s time consuming, but it becomes our bible during those four days.”
When asked to describe what it’s like during the competition, Nye says: “It’s hectic and busy and crowded. You kind of feel rushed and then at other times you’re just waiting around. It’s 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day for me. I’ll be rehearsing kids and getting them to the stage and assisting with makeup or costume issues all day. I’m grateful when a parent hands me a sandwich or a coffee… otherwise I’d never know what time it was. The 12 hours goes by really fast for me.”
This year, since the competition happens locally, more students and coaches are able to participate without travel costs.
2018 KCBS Coaches: Dmitry Trubchanov, David Justin, Pamela Carney, Molly Wagner, Dillon Malinski, Sean Duus, Taryn Layne-Mulhern, Racheal Nye, Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, and Gustavo Ribeiro. Several of these coaches also choreographed solos and ensembles especially for KCBS students. Ribeiro choreographed one solo. Justin choreographed three solos and a pas de deux. And, Joliecoeur-Nye choreographed a whopping 14 solos, one pas de deux, and one ensemble piece.
Holmes says: “I’m really excited to see the progress the students have made with different coaches. It will be interesting to see their influences. Every teacher provides something new, different strengths, different critiques… all working together to achieve better technique, musicality and artistry.”
The students, coaches, and parents have invested so much time and energy preparing for the Semi-finals. It’s time for the fun to begin with performances, master classes and meeting the other participating students from all over. In addition to these incredible experiences, each student receives a written evaluation of his/her performance(s) offering constructive critiques for ways to improve from the judges. Nye will read all of these evaluations to determine if they offer broader ways to improve class goals for the coming year. In this way everyone benefits from the process.
What drives Nye to take on so many students for this annual competition? “I like coaching,” Nye says. “And I REALLY like classical ballet! I enjoy providing the students with so much individual attention because ultimately it really helps their confidence.”
If you’d like to attend the performances for the competition at The Folly, tickets will be available at the door for $10 for each day. You can also support the students and the school by leaving a comment on this post.
Interested in learning more about the 2017 YAGP competition?
Learn more about YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye: