Youth America Grand Prix 2011

Jonathan "Legacy" Perez with Aleksandra Efimova The Youth America Grand Prix has developed into one of the most coveted dance competitions in the United States. Each year, more than 5,000 dancers age 9 to 19 take part in the YAGP at semi-final competitions, and only 300 students make it to the finals in New York City, where they are competing to receive scholarships to study at the best dance schools in the world.

Although I have attended YAGP many times before, this is the first year that Russian Pointe has sponsored the event, and I was pleased to be able to watch the final performances in New York City, as well as to meet with the judges and attend the final gala at the conclusion of the contest.

One of the highlights of this year’s event was meeting Jonathan "Legacy" Perez, a finalist from Season 6 of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Legacy is role model for hip hop dancers, and he’s currently working on his technique by studying ballet.

I am always so impressed by the dedication and commitment that these dancers exhibit.

This year was especially poignant because several of the dancers were from Japan, and their homes had been ravaged by the brutal earthquake and tsunami, but they didn’t let that stop them from competing. One girl’s home was destroyed by the earthquake, but she was so determined to be able to make her flight to the United States that she and her parents got in their car and drove toward Tokyo. When they ran out of gas, they walked the rest of the way carrying her tutus and pointe shoes.

That story touched me deeply as I thought about the kind of sacrifice and hard work that she and all of the dancers are willing to go through, simply because they love dancing.

I’m proud that Russian Pointe could play a part in making these dancers’ dreams come true.