Four of the Adagio Dance Company’s soloists competed last weekend at Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international ballet competition. While many of these competitions are becoming more and more popular, we can thank the award-winning documentary First Position for much of our knowledge of the subject.
The film follows 8 dancers through the rehearsal and competition process, giving the viewers a behind the scenes look at everything that goes into a two-minute performance onstage. The gist of the film? Ballet competitions are tough.
ADC members Erin Barth (13), Katherine Newcomb (13), Valerie Biggs (15), and Savanna Hunter (18) just got back from the regional competition in Philadelphia, so we thought it would be fun to give a little inside scoop of our own and see how it compared to the details revealed in the film. We caught up with them both before and after the competition.
Q: How long does it take to learn and perfect a solo or variation and what pieces did you compete?
Katherine: It takes at least 10-15 weeks with an hour and a half or more each week. I have been working on the Cupid variation from Diana and Actaeon.
Erin: The whole ballet company actually learned the variation that I did, so I started in the summer and learned a variation from Giselle. When I was preparing for YAGP, I had 10 scheduled rehearsals for 90 minutes each and we ended up working almost every day for the last two weeks leading up to the competition. It definitely took a lot of hard work to prepare.
Valerie: I’m doing a contemporary piece called “Rhythmic Moods.”
Savanna: I don’t think I will ever really perfect my solo, but it took about a month and a half to learn, and I had to perform it at college auditions in November, so the choreography at least had to be finished by then. We kept making adjustments all the way up until winter break. In terms of hours, it was probably at least 20. My piece is contemporary, and it’s called “Look Alike.”
Q: Are you more nervous or excited for the competition? Are you looking forward to the master classes?
Katherine: It’s about 50/50, I’m nervous for my turns and keeping everything that I’ve corrected. I’m excited to finally perform, though, and I’m definitely excited for the master classes.
Erin: I am nervous and excited, but whatever happens, happens, so I’m just very excited to perform.
Savanna: A little of both, mostly excited. I’m definitely looking forward to the master classes, that’s the only ballet I’ll be doing all weekend.
Q: Is the competition really as tough as the movie says it is? What was the hardest moment backstage?
Katherine: It was not as tough as the movie says. Although it was scary backstage, I loved the experience. The scariest moment was when you were about to go onstage and your music suddenly just starts, but then you get into it and have lots of fun performing.
Erin: It was definitely very scary, but it was fun because I was there with friends and we had a good time. They didn’t call me until right before I went and I almost had to go twice, but it worked out well.
Valerie: Yes, I personally think the competition is as hard as they say, just because you see all these amazing dancers and second guess yourself and freak out.
Savanna: The atmosphere was really intense and there were so many amazing dancers there, so in that sense, it was tough. The hardest moment backstage was probably the last ten seconds of the dance before mine, because that’s when I actually started to get nervous. Once I got onstage it was fine.
Q: What was your favorite moment from the competition?
Katherine: I think the most fun part of the competition was performing onstage, and then receiving results. The judges comments were very helpful because they helped me realize what I do well and what I need to work on.
Erin: I loved being backstage with the coaches and the other dancers getting ready and watching the other dances.
Valerie: It’s probably a tie between performing and hanging out with the girls before and after the competition.
Savanna: Probably waiting backstage with the other girls for hours in between Valerie’s performance and mine, because I didn’t compete until almost 10 pm, but she had to be there by 5. We had a lot of fun, and it really helped ease the tension and anxiety of waiting to perform. The relief I felt when I finished performing was great, too.
Q: What was it like watching the other dancers? Inspiring or discouraging?
Katherine: When I was watching all of the dancers performing it was inspiring, because it pushed me to perform my best.
Erin: When I was watching the dancers before me, it was definitely freaking me out, but once I was done I enjoyed watching them perform.
Valerie: A little of both, but more terrifying than discouraging.
Savanna: I didn’t really see very many other dances, but what I saw was okay. I didn’t really feel any specific way about it. The more inspiring thing was just being around other people who were dancing for the same reasons you were.
Q: Aside from the actual awards, how do you think you did? Are you proud of your performance?
Katherine: I was very pleased with my results and I believe that my score represents my performance quite accurately.
Erin: I definitely could have done better, but considering I had the flu, I’m proud of my performance.
Savanna: I think I did okay, there were definitely a couple of things that could have been better. But overall, I’m pretty proud. I didn’t freeze up or get really nervous onstage, I was able to relax and have fun and enjoy performing.
We are very proud of our dancers, they all scored very high, and we wish them the best of luck for the rest of this year.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more information about upcoming Adagio Dance Company performances, and enjoy the winter session!