Thousands of bunheads from around the world have descended on the city of Tampa for the second year in a row. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix has moved their finals from New York City to the Straz Center. This year, almost 2,000 soloists have descended to Florida, and over 100 ensembles will take the stage in hopes of landing a scholarship or acceptance to their dream school.

Photos by Star Action Shots

YAGP finals started on Monday, and we just wrapped up the second day. Starting with the youngest competitors, pre-comp took center stage. Meanwhile, hundreds of juniors started their classes from world-renowned teachers including the directors of Elmhurst, the Princess Grace Academy, and European School of Ballet. (check out my insta for behind the scenes)

But, what does this all really mean? How does it all work? What is the end goal?

What you don’t see via the social media at the Youth America Grand Prix are all of the workers constantly filming, taking notes, and documenting the talent. Whether it is in class, on stage, or even just walking around, numerous individuals are trying to match students to the best the schools in the world. All of this building up to the awards ceremony where these scholarships and acceptances will be announced.

You also don’t realize the amount of staff working around the clock trying to make sure that everyone is seen, looked at, and considered. It is always amazing how committed everyone is to help live up to YAGP’s reputation of being the largest scholarship competition in ballet.

As we move on to juniors and seniors, the competition is going to heat up. Each soloist will compete classical and contemporary, all in hopes to be invited to the coveted final round of their age division. Here, these dancers will take the stage one more time in front of EVERYONE. No pressure.

But, how does one really get selected for the final round? A combination of classwork, solo competition, score, impression, potential, and entertainment, individuals are selected for this wonderful night. But, the best art of final round? The audience. Kids screaming and cheering their peers on, watching the next generation of ballet stars take the stage and dancing their hearts out.

But, opportunity isn’t just for those who make the final round. It is as simple as being seen in class by the right director, or making the right impression. Students will have the chance to be accepted into a school, win a scholarship to a school, a short-term stay, or even a contract.

If you aren’t following me on instagram, I am taking you behind the scenes of all things YAGP Finals. Stay tuned!

Cover photo by Star Action Shots: #69 Yu Han Lim, age 10 from Pei School of Dance, Singapore