ART BEAT: Young dancers from Gwinnett excel in Youth America Grand Prix

Gwinnett dancer Joshua Nunamaker, 15, placed second in the senior men’s category at the Youth American Grand Prix Southeastern final in Atlanta. (Special Photo)

For dance studios across the Southeast, January means that the Youth American Grand Prix’s Southeastern final arrives in Atlanta. Winners and many participants of this prestigious competition are granted placements in summer intensives to the most lauded ballet companies in the world. Some are offered year-round acceptance to these internationally renowned schools.

Dancers between the ages of 10 and 19, most from the Southeast, flock to Atlanta to compete in three age groupings for classical and contemporary ballet, plus ensemble and pas de deux competitions.

The fact that, out of seven categories, Gwinnett dancers won 16 awards is remarkable.

Topping the list is Gwinnett dancer Joshua Nunamaker, 15, who placed second in the senior men’s category. Nunamaker trains at the Orlando Molina Ballet Training Center. His teacher, Orlando Molina says, “Joshua is a very talented, young student. His beautiful lines, amazing footwork and love for the art form make him a very promising ballet dancer.”

Nunamaker received summer intensive scholarships to Harid Conservatory, Ballet West and the Bolshoi Ballet’s Academy in Connecticut. He and fellow Molina Training Center student Ava Hinton, 12, will compete in the pas de deux competition category in New York City in April performing a pas de deux from “Le Corsaire.”

Gwinnett’s Royal Dance Academy of Suwanee had several dancers excel. Tamon Uruno, 16, placed third in the senior men’s group and already has an offer from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia, to become a year-round student.

“This was another great opportunity to dance with the best young dancers in the region,” Uruno said.

Kalliyan Johnson, 13, of RDA won the Junior Division’s Contemporary Dance Category.

“YAGP was a wonderful opportunity to see so many talented, young dancers sharing in the love of ballet. I am once again humbled and honored to earn recognition from the panel of judges,” she said.

RDA’s Oliver Keene, 11, placed third in the Pre-Competitive group.

“I am so excited about the opportunity to perform in NYC. I am so thankful to Ms. Sarah Haslock-Johnson for all her coaching guidance I have received at Royal.” Keene said.

Brooke Burgess, 17, of Gwinnett’s Sugarloaf Ballet placed in the top 12 of the Senior Women’s Contemporary category.

Gwinnett winning dancers include Daniel Gray, Top 12 Classical Pre-Competitive; Olivia McBain, Top 12 Junior Contemporary; and Kai and Nik Shlomi, third place and headed for NYC for the ensemble piece “Pour Toi Marceau.” These dancers hail from North Atlanta Dance Academy.

Morningstar Dance Academy had three Gwinnett dancers excel. Chole Han, 12, made Top 12 Classical. Kayli Copeland, 11, took third place pre-competitive. Han and Copeland are joined by Megan Lee, 11, as they participate in the NYC finals for their ensemble piece “Youth,” which took second place overall in their category.

Many additional dancers from Gwinnett participated in YAGP 2018. All are commended for their hard work and dedication to a most athletic and demanding art form.

For more information about Youth American Grand Prix, visit

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

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