Thursday, March 20, 2014

FSPA dancer advance to Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) International ballet competition

Three advanced Ballet Conservatory students from the Franklin School for the Performing Arts (FSPA) placed at the top of their age divisions in the Classical Dance category of the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) New England regional semi-finals, held February 7-9 in Providence, RI. The prestigious YAGP, for aspiring dancers ages 9-19, is the world’s largest international student ballet competition, with semi-finals in 10 U.S. states and five foreign countries. Shaina McGillis, 15, of Franklin, placed among the top 24 women in the Senior Age Division (ages 15-19), Noura Sander, 13, of Easton, placed among the top 12 women in the Junior Age Division (ages 12-14), and Mikaela Guidice, 11, of Norfolk, placed among the top 12 men and women in the Pre-Competitive Age Division (ages 9-11). Of the more than 5,000 students who participated worldwide, both Noura and Mikaela now advance to the YAGP Finals in New York City on April 4-11, joining a select group of some 350 promising dancers from 30 countries. 
FSPA Ballet Conservatory students (L-R) Noura Sander, of Easton, Mikaela Guidice, of Norfolk, and Shaina McGillis, of Franklin, placed at the top of their age categories at the New England regional semi-finals of the 2014 Youth America Grand Prix  (YAGP) international ballet competition. Noura and Mikaela will go on to compete in the YAGP New York Finals on April 4-11 .

Now in its 15th season, 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. YAGP has earned a distinguished reputation as a showcase for emerging talent from the U.S. and abroad, and it is a distinct honor to be chosen for the NYC Finals from the semi-final round.

Mikaela, Noura and Shaina are coached by FSPA Ballet Mistress Cheryl Madeux, who formerly danced with American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Hartford Ballet and Joffrey Ballet companies. Madeux’s 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. 
Madeux has developed the Ballet Conservatory at FSPA, expanding the training from its foundations in the Vaganova syllabus to incorporate the new American Ballet Theatre (ABT) National Training Curriculum as well. Madeux, who received her Vaganova training from the Nutmeg Ballet Company in Torrington, CT, is an examiner for the ABT National Teacher Training Curriculum and a summer faculty member for the ABT Young Dancer’s Workshop in NY. This is the first year Madeux has prepared FSPA dancers for the YAGP competition, and she is delighted with the students’ showing. 
"Seeing all three of our students recognized at the top of their age division in the semi-finals is wonderful, and to have two of our dancers advance to the finals in NY is extraordinary,” says Madeux. “This is quite an accomplishment for them and for our school. The opportunity to perform on a New York City stage and be exposed to the best teachers and professionals is priceless. I am sure they will never forget it. "

Noura, who will dance both contemporary and classical variations at the YAGP Finals, has aspired to be a professional ballet dancer since she was very little. “I love the gracefulness of ballet and I also love the discipline,” she says. “It makes you work your hardest and strive to do your best.”

Mikaela, who will perform a classical variation, praises the pure joy of dancing. “I love everything about ballet!” she enthuses. “It makes me happy. I can’t imagine my life without it, so I definitely plan to dance in college and maybe someday dance professionally.” 
Madeux is pleased with the growth her students have demonstrated in the months of training, noting that the girls’ positive attitude, talent and disciplined approach to learning serve the young ballerinas well. “As a professional dancer, I have always appreciated my teachers and all they did for me,” Madeux says. “Now that I am the teacher, I realize that, much like a parent, we can only do so much. It is the talent and dedication of the students that will determine their own success. In my mind, these three young ladies have already won.” 
For more information about FSPA’s Ballet Conservatory program or recreational ballet classes at the school, including summer camps and ballet intensives, call (508) 528-8668 or visit

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