FSPA Ballet Conservatory Dancers to Compete at Youth America Grand Prix
Three advanced Ballet Conservatory students from the Franklin School for the Performing Arts (FSPA) will participate in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) New England regional semi-finals, to be held at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island on February 7- 9. Mikaela Guidice, 11, of Norfolk, Shaina McGillis, 15, of Franklin, and Noura Sander, 13, of Easton, will join the ranks of 5,000 other 9-19 year-old aspiring dancers worldwide to compete in America's oldest and the world's largest student ballet scholarship competition. This year's U.S. semi-finals will be held in 10 states, with international semi-finals in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Japan and Mexico. The YAGP weekend also features workshops with master teachers and will take place at Festival Ballet Providence.
YAGP has since its inception awarded over $2 million in elite scholarships and dance contracts. Alumni are now dancing with some of the most prestigious companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet and more. Bess Kargman's award-winning documentary "First Position" followed six YAGP dancers as they competed in semi-final and final rounds of the competition. This year's YAGP Finals will be held in New York City on April 3-8, with the Final Round and Gala Performance on April 9-10. The New England semi-finals are open to the public, with admission free of charge for anyone under age 21 and $5 (cash) for audience members 21 and older. Mikaela, Noura and Shaina are all coached by FSPA Ballet Mistress Cheryl Madeux, who has worked with the three dancers on a weekly basis since late August. Madeux formerly danced with American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Hartford Ballet and Joffrey Ballet companies. Her own ballet competition experience includes the National Society of Arts and Letters Ballet Competition, where she was awarded first place at age 15, and the Prix de Lausanne and Paris International Ballet Competitions, where she was a finalist for both.
"Ballet competitions are definitely not for everyone and it was very clear to me that Shaina, Noura and Mikaela had the talent and desire to take on this challenge," notes Madeux. "When I approached them about this opportunity, I emphasized that the experience would be about the process and not the outcome. I have so many fond memories of training with my own teacher in preparation for a competition. Those experiences taught me commitment and responsibility, and absolutely helped me grow as a dancer and individual."
Those are benefits Madeux wishes for Shaina, Noura and Mikaela. Noura says she has aspired to be a professional ballet dancer since she was very little. "As a very young child I was exposed to all types of music and, whether live or recorded, I couldn't help but dance," she notes. "My mom decided to enroll me in ballet classes. I love the gracefulness of ballet and I also love the discipline. It makes you work your hardest and strive to do your best."For YAGP, Noura has prepared the Act III wedding variation from Sleeping Beauty and "The Getaway," a contemporary piece choreographed by Madeux. Along with coachings, Noura trains 12-14 hours per week, including ballet technique classes, lyrical, classical variations, character dance and a stretch and strengthening class. Shaina has prepared one classical variation from the ballet Paquita and one contemporary ballet variation that Madeux has choreographed. YAGP is Shaina's first competition. "I am looking forward to watching and meeting other dancers who have the same dreams as me," she says. "I am also excited to take master classes with all the amazing dancers because they will inspire me to push myself more and more."
Shaina says the process of training for the competition has had its own rewards. "Cheryl has really helped me work on my artistry and musicality," she notes. "I feel very honored and lucky to have such a great teacher working with me so closely. She inspires me when she demonstrates and it helps me set a goal in my mind to work towards."