Young Capezio Athletes share their YAGP stories

  • February 18, 2016
  • by Chelsea Thomas

Every year, the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) reaches over 7,000 dance students by holding its competitions, workshops, master classes and auditions in 17 U.S cities and six international locations. With the aim to support and develop world-class dancers ages 9-19, YAGP has become one of the foremost launching pads for a young dancer’s career.

For this reason, many top-notch dancers can be seen competing each season. Capezio Athletes Talia Fidra, Harrison Lee, Sophia Lucia, Tate McRae and Kayla Mak have all competed.

Talia Fidra, who’s trained at Classical Coaching Australia in Brisbane, made it to the Top 12 dancers in the Junior Women’s section at the 2015 YAGP Finals. On her experience, she said, “I absolutely loved every second and I am so excited about being invited back this year to compete again. There was such a professional atmosphere and I was amazed at how many people were there.”

Another Aussie, Harrison Lee, won the Junior Grand Prix Prize at YAGP Finals in 2014. A year later, he was also named the 2015 Prix de Lausanne Prize Winner. This promising young dancer said, “Competitions like the Youth America Grand Prix offer dancers so much more than you can ever really imagine. YAGP facilitates the opportunity to connect with the greater ballet community by way of master classes with exceptional teachers, scholarship classes and performance opportunities and gives young dancers the exposure to many of the top schools from around the world.”

Social media starlet Sophia Lucia only just recently got in on the action. She competed in her first YAGP Regional at the end of January in her hometown of San Diego. She has also been invited to the Finals. She shared, “The Youth America Grand Prix is very different than most competitions I have been to. There wasn’t loud cheering for dancers as they walked on and off stage – just nice clapping. It felt very professional. I really enjoyed the fact that all of the dancers there were gracious and friendly to one another. We all work so hard so it’s nice that we can honor everyone’s talent.”

On the other hand, Capezio Athlete Kayla Mak is no newbie as she has competed in YAGP every season for the past three years, attending events in Hartford, Philadelphia and Boston. She’s planning on competing again this March, with the hopes of returning to the Finals. Mak said, “The competition made me want to work even harder at my studio and keep on improving my technique.”

Tate McRae, who received the silver medal for her age division and a bronze medal for all ages for her pas de deux with Lazaro Corrales last year, agreed that the competition really challenges you to keep pushing yourself as a dancer. She said, “The competition was so strong and showed me dancers from all over the world! It was so cool to watch the different styles of contemporary from all over the world. This motivated and pushed me to a new level.”

The international factor is a major reason YAGP stands apart. In addition to the Finals having dancers trek all around New York City to various venues, it also has cultures from all over the world mixing – with dancers from across Europe, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. McRae said this part was “so amazing!”

Fidra and Lee both offer the perspectives of actually being an international student traveling to NYC. Lee said, “I live in Australia so it is such a long trip to New York. We arrived a few days earlier to try and kick the jetlag. I was immediately taken by New York; it is amazing! Then, of course, once the competition started I was mesmerized. In 2014, I only danced two hours a day at home in Australia, so to eat, sleep, and breathe dance whilst staying in New York during YAGP was so inspiring. I was like a sponge. I learnt as much as I could, but even then I couldn’t get enough.”

Speaking on the power of NYC, Fidra said, “The buzz of simply being there elevates you to do your best and put yourself up to any challenges. Of course, the exposure to the world’s leading ballet school directors is why it’s so special for many dancers, including myself, who do not have the means to travel to each and every one of them.”

When asked if he’d recommend YAGP, Lee said yes! “Not only is it a great networking opportunity but it really is an incredible experience, regardless of the outcome. To have an opportunity to spend a week in New York, be seen by the directors of the tops schools worldwide, receive feedback and take class with different students from all around the world with amazing teachers really opens your eyes to different styles and methods of teaching. Taking part in the Grand Deflie, learning choreography and dancing on stage with dancers from all around the world. There are just so many positives, why wouldn’t you give it a go? You really never know what you will gain from the experience.”

For further information on YAGP, visit

Produced by Dance Informa.

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