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ART BEAT: 9 GBT dancers to participate in the Youth America Grand Prix

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Special Photo Gwinnett Ballet Theatre alumna Maggie Ellington qualified for the Youth America Grand Prix finals on Jan. 12 in Philadelphia.

One of the most prestigious dance competitions in the world will visit Gwinnett for its Southeastern Semifinals March 1-3. Gwinnett Ballet Theatre and the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center announced in August that they will host this segment of the worldwide event, one of the most elite in the world of ballet.

Young dancers age 9 through 19 are eligible to compete in this event which holds semifinals in countries such as Japan, Brazil and France. There are a dozen semifinals in the USA. All semifinals lead up to the finals in New York City, held this year on April 12-17 with the gala celebrated on April 18. Hopefully, some of Gwinnett's own young dancers will be making the trip to NYC.

GBT has nine of its students registered to compete: Claire Bockhop, Abigrace Diprima, Kendall Greene, Madi Greene, Kenzie Martin, Bianca Melidor, Jordan Silas, Cameron Silas and Madeline Whitehead. Diprima has competed twice before, being chosen for the NYC finals in 2010.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's Artistic Director Wade Walthall sees many benefits to be gained from hosting the event. "We are very happy to welcome everyone to our new GBT facilities in Lawrenceville," he said. "This event will give young dancers a good chance to meet their peers from across the region and the opportunity to work on variations from the classical repertoire."

The Gwinnett area is also given an opportunity to shine. The Gwinnett Convention and Visitor's Bureau has been instrumental in helping the Youth America Grand Prix organization find a hotel headquarters, which will be the Gwinnett Marriott in Duluth. Lawrenceville officials also see the event as a great opportunity to draw visitors to their downtown area. Of the estimated 1,000 individuals coming into the county, many are parents and coaches of competitors with some time on their hands for touring the area.

Most of the competitors in March will be from the southeastern region, although dancers from any area or country are welcomed. Success at this event can open the door for these young artists by providing scholarships and performing opportunities.

Now in its 13th year, YAGP will award more than $250,000 in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide in 2013.

The competition itself will take place in the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. Master classes taught by some of the most eminent dance professionals in the world will occur at the GBT facility located at 1800 Macleod Drive in Lawrenceville. Dancers must score 95 points or higher to proceed to the NYC finals. One GBT alumna, Maggie Ellington, has already accomplished this. Now a scholarship student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Ellington qualified in the Philadelphia semifinals on Jan. 12 as part of an ensemble piece.

To find out more about YAGP and the Atlanta area competition, visit www.yagp.org.

Art Beat would also like to know of other Gwinnett-based young dancers participating in these semifinals so we can support and appreciate each one. Send any information regarding registered participants of this event to hcalmes@mindspring.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.