Kansas City Ballet School Students Timothy TV Cao and Hannah Zucht performed at the 2019 YAGP NY Finals. | Photography by VAM.

Kansas City Ballet School participates in 2019 YAGP NY Finals for the third year in a row. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). Kansas City Ballet School has been competing for the last four years.


Kansas City Ballet School Student Kathryn Benson performed at the 2019 YAGP NY Finals. | Photography by VAM.


Juniors Division (Classical and Contemporary): Kathryn Benson

Seniors Division (Classical and Contemporary): Hannah Zucht

Pas de Deux Division: Hannah Zucht and Timothy TV Cao

Ensemble Division: Claire Duritza, Madeline Duritza, Colleen McKenzie, and Hope Wampler
The group performed Fractals choreographed by Kansas City Ballet Master Parrish Maynard.


At its essence, YAGP is the world’s largest dance scholarship audition and a global network for dance. It fulfills its mission through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances and films. Worldwide, more than 100,000 students have participated in YAGP’s workshops, scholarship auditions and master classes. Through regional semifinals results, students are selected to participate in the New York Finals each spring.


YAGP is an opportunity for the biggest dance and ballet schools in the world to see the talent that is out there. Often scholarships and other styles of ballet and forms of training are offered to students which can be nice validation for all of their hard work. In some ways, these judges watch these kids grow up year after year.

“Being part of this competition is great for students,” KCBS Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye says. “It shows them what is possible with dedication and determination, but it also offers them a chance to cross state and country borders, as well as continental divides, to see what similarities and interests connect them to this global ballet community.”

This year’s seminars for students and coaches included:

  • How to be Noticed by Artistic Directors
  • Dancer Wellness
  • Career Guidance
  • How to Use Time in Class to Your Advantage
  • Dance in Higher Education


Nye says: “I’m always really proud about how we present ourselves overall as a school. The things I learn I get to bring back to our school to improve and grow for the betterment of all. My kids know when I come back from NY I’m excited and ready to implement here, so everyone benefits. When ‘spring-itis’ rears its head, it is the perfect time for an infusion of enthusiasm. I’m already turning my attention to next year.”


“Every year that we participate in YAGP, I am more and more impressed by our students.  It is wonderful to see the fruition of their hard word and dedication as they perform for peers, family and friends, and judges,” says School Director Grace Holmes. “The growth of our dancers is exponential when given the opportunity to work towards a performance goal. And the one-on-one work with coaches gives the students insight into how they can be their best dancer and artist. I am SO proud of their work and accomplishments!”

2019 YAGP Semi-finals Results

KCBS Students Jordan Noblett, Madeline Duritza, Claire Duritza, Colleen McKenzie, Juliette Rafael, Mina Vasiliya Stoyanova and Talia Lebowitz
KCBS Students Jordan Noblett, Madeline Duritza, Claire Duritza, Colleen McKenzie, Juliette Rafael, Mina Vasiliya Stoyanova and Talia Lebowitz

Kansas City Ballet School has now competed in Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) for four years—the last two years Kansas City has been the host. The competition took place at The Folly Theater downtown and the master classes were held at KCBS.

In 2019, KCBS submitted 71 solo entries, three pas de deux entries, and four ensemble entries for a grand total of 78 entries—up 15 entries from 2018. KCBS had students competing in every category. The Kansas City Semi-finals had 523 total entries.

“My favorite part of YAGP is seeing the progress in the students by the end of the year. And even though it is a competition, it feels like it brings us within our school and even the whole dance community together,” KCBS’s Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye says. “Lots of supportive energy and learning from one another!”

A total of 18 coaches and choreographers worked with the students for approximately 35 hours of rehearsals per week preparing for the competition. This was outside of their regular ballet and dance classes. The list of coaches and choreographers include: Racheal Nye, Dmitry Trubchanov, David Justin, Debbie Jacobs-Huffaker, Sean Duus, Danielle Fu, Lamin Periera dos Santos, Dillon Malinski, Amaya Rodriguez, James Kirby Rogers, Taryn Ouellette, Amanda Moder, Austin Meiteen, Jeremy Hansen, Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, Andi Abernathy, Duncan Cooper, Courtney Collado, and Parrish Maynard.

KCBS Students Kaylee Meinholdt and Paisley Park
KCBS Students Kaylee Meinholdt and Paisley Park


The accomplishments of KCBS students in this competition would not be possible without the KCBS staff and faculty. So much more goes into YAGP behind the scenes than most people realize. Planning starts now (March) for next year, coaches are identified and paired with students over the summer, and rehearsals start in August.

“I want to thank every coach, student, and administrator involved! I also want to shout out to Racheal Nye, who manages the project,” says Kansas City Ballet School Director Grace Holmes. “She goes beyond the call of duty, spending hours finding the right coach and solo for each student, taking into account each student’s technical ability and learning style.  She also spends hours working on music, getting accounts sorted, and making sure students have costumes. At the event, she was there for every student in need, whether they were our students or not.  We appreciate her SO much for everything she does for KCBS!”


Grace Holmes said: “I am SO proud of all of our students who participated in YAGP this year.  We had students representing our Academy from both Evening and Daytime Programs.  Every student worked so hard to present their best work in their moment on stage.  It is gratifying as a teacher and director to see our students grow through the process of learning, refining and performing their pieces.  Watching them grow as artists and achieve their goals is what it is all about.”

In addition to performing well on stage KCBS students were wonderful ambassadors for KCBS and Kansas City. Holmes believes this to be as important as the event itself.

Holmes admits the ballet world is very small and KCBS students will find themselves working alongside people in the future, who they danced alongside in their past. At YAGP, it’s the students chance to learn not only to share the stage but to foster an openness with other students. She deems this strengthens the dance community as a whole.

“When we start working on YAGP, we let our parents know that for the School, the priority is on the learning and growth experience, and not the competition awards,” Holmes says. “The awards are a reflection of our students’ hard work, but KCBS is proud of every student who participates regardless of the outcome. We see how hard the students are working and how much progress they are making, and that is the true reward.”


The YAGP Finals will be in New York April 12-19, 2019. Kansas City Ballet School has had students invited for the last four years and hopes to again. Invitations will go out soon.

Below is the list of recognition Kansas City Ballet School and students received at this year’s YAGP Semi-finals awards ceremony:


Outstanding School 2019


Pre-Competitive Classical (41 total entrants)

3rd Place: Chloe Kim

Top 12: Kaylee Meinholdt, Paisley Park


Pre-Competitive Contemporary (29 total entrants)

3rd Place: Paisley Park

Top 12: Kaylee Meinholdt, Chloe Kim


Junior Classical (120 total entrants)

2nd Place: Kathryn Benson

Top 12: Lillie Barr


Junior Contemporary (78 total entrants)

2nd Place: Hannah Hudson


Senior Classical Women (118 total entrants)

2nd Place: Talia Lebowitz

Top 12: Hannah Zucht


Senior Classical Men  (118 total entrants)

3rd Place: Timothy TV Cao


Senior Contemporary (98 total entrants)

Top 12: Timothy TV Cao


Ensembles (29 total entrants)

3rd Place: Duncan Cooper Continuum

Top 12: Parrish Maynard Fractals

Top 12: Racheal Nye Nocturne

Pas de Deux (10
 total entrants)

1st Place: (Tie) Talisman-Hannah Zucht/Timothy Cao
and Remembrance-Juliette Rafael/Timothy Cao



2018 YAGP NY Finals Results

2018 YAGP Results for KCBS

KCBS Competes: 2017 YAGP Finals in NY

KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix


2018 YAGP NY Finals Results

Poppie Trettle and Simo XXX performing a pas de deux from XXX.
Poppy Trettel and Simo Atanasov performing a pas de deux.

For the third year in a row, Kansas City Ballet School has traveled to New York for the Youth America Grand Prix Finals.

A group of KCBS students with YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye and School Director Grace Holmes.
A group of KCBS students with YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye and School Director Grace Holmes.

“It‘s wonderful to watch our students grow technically and artistically as they prepare for YAGP,” KCB School Director Grace Holmes said. “Having something to work towards and an opportunity to share their hard work, contributes to students’ self-confidence. And our students are so supportive of each other – it shows how close-knit our Academy community is.”

More than 10,000 students from 31 countries who competed during the regional finals around the globe. Only 1,500 were invited to the finals in New York. Of these 800 were soloists of which KCBS happily had three, one made it to the final round: Poppy Trettel.

While KCBS students did not place at the national competition finals this year, three received scholarship offers from prestigious schools.

Hannah Zucht: Harid Conservatory

Simo Atanasov: Joffrey Ballet

Poppy Trettel: Canada’s National Ballet School

Shaping the Future

Students warm up before their round of performances.
Students warm up before their round of performances.

When asked about the event, Racheal Nye, principal and YAGP coordinator, said, “It’s great to see the growth in the kids by the end of the process, and see the school represented so well at an international event. I also really enjoy being inspired and motivated by other schools and seeing the talented students from around the world.”

Nye is proud of the way the KCBS students were kind and welcoming to other participants, and their professional attitudes.  For example, the Baroque ensemble dancers were reviewing independently and had lined up at open stage to space before she even got there to look for them.

Every year Nye reads through the written performance critiques from the YAGP judges. Her goal is to  incorporate these corrections into how she teaches all of her students going forward. She tries to approach the things she wants to fix by gearing the combinations to train the body to reflexively accomplish the move correctly. By looking at the experience as a whole, she attempts to answer these questions:

  • What pieces/choreography seemed to do well? 
  • How prepared were the students and was there anything that she could do in advance that would make things run more smoothly?
  • What could she learn about preparing better for the venue? Etc.

In doing so, the results from these competitions shape strategy for future years. 

Related Blog Posts

Here are some links to past blog posts with similar topics:

KCBS Teacher Profile: Racheal Nye

2018 YAGP Results for KCBS

KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix

YAGP Competition This Weekend

KC Ballet School has Historic Showing at Youth American Grand Prix


KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix

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.


Poppy Trettel (11) and Grady George (12) in Bluebird Pas De Deux from The Sleeping Beauty. First Place winners in Pas De Deux YAGP 2017 Indianapolis, IN

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: