Ballet in the Americas and Today’s Rising Stars

George BalanchineGeorge Balanchine

George Balanchine, regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet, came to the United States in 1933 after an early career throughout Europe.  Balanchine gained an excellent knowledge of music at a very early age, having been the son of a composer.  He began practicing the piano at the age of nine, and began his dance studies as well at the St. Petersburg Academy.  With such extensive training, Balanchine made his own debut at the age of ten as cupid in the  Maryinsky Theatre Ballet Company production of The Sleeping Beauty.  From a very young age, Balanchine displayed his gifts and talents in music and dance.  Balanchine’s known for his huge contribution to ballet in the Americas.  Along with Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine formed the New York City Ballet on October 11, 1948.  Until the time of his death, he served as the artistic director.  Creating more than 460 pieces, Balanchine’s works were extensive and diverse.  His style may be described as neoclassical.  Many described Balanchine as a pure classicist, romanticist, and intellectual modernist.  He changed classical ballet by taking away the plot and allowing the “dance be the star of the show.”  He often took away the costumes of dancers, and placed them on the stage in only a leotard, allowing the beautiful lines and poised body to be shown off.  Balanchine transformed ballet in such a way that he made American dance the most advanced and richest in choreographic development in the world today.

The New York City Ballet: Season and Tickets

Mr. Balanchine always said, “The music is always first.”  It was his reverence for music that became the driving force for the creative spirit of New York City Ballet.  The 2013 season will include three festivals to celebrate this musical heritage.

Stravinsky/Balanchine The Collaboration (April 18-30) 

Tashaikovsky Celebration (June 13-24)

American Music Festival (September 7-21)

Along side these three festivals, a total of 65 ballets will be performed as well as our annual run of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck

NYCB’s Principal dancer Tiler Peck talks about learning to take risks and trust herself through Balanchine’s works in the following video.

New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck on George Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas De Deux 

Today’s Rising Stars

featuring International City School of Ballet’s Mackenzie Ritcher


Mackenzie Richter began dancing at International City School of Ballet at the age of nine under the direction of Georne Aucoin.  Georne immediately saw the potential this young girl exhibited.  At the age of eleven, Mackenzie’s entire life style changed.  No longer would she attend school like normal children and attend silly birthday parties.  Mackenzie decided she wanted to dedicate her life to dancing, so she decided to become home schooled and train daily with Ms. Aucoin.  This small studio in Warner Robins, GA had several dancers over the years become home schooled and train with the wonderful Georne Aucoin.  Mackenzie showed her dedication and hard work by training more than 50 hours a week.  Training as a pre-professional dancer was not easy.  Mackenzie grew as a dancer and began surpassing her peers in ballet.  Her goal at such a young age became to dance in a prestigious dance company one day, and she is well on her way.

imagesAt the age of 13, Mackenzie competed in a competition called the Youth American Grand Prix.  YAGP is the worlds largest student ballet scholarship competition that awards over $250,000 annually in scholarships to the world’s leading dancers.  The competition is held  each year around the world and in New York City.  Mackenzie competed in 2012 at the age of 13, at the regional semifinals held in Columbia, S.C., where she placed first in the junior classical division and second in junior contemporary.  Regional semifinals are held in several locations in the United States as well as in Japan, Africa, Brazil and France, making the Grand Prix a truly international competition.  Students scoring a 95 or above in their classical variation go on to the final round to compete for scholarships at the top ballet schools in the United States.  So, Mackenzie then traveled to the finals, which were held in New York City, where she placed in the top 25 dancers among the entire world for the junior age division (age 12-15).

YAGP 2012 Mackenzie Richter First Place Solo

MAK YAGPThe following year, she competed once again in YAGP held in Atlanta, GA.  This year at the age of 14, Mackenzie won The Youth Grand Prix Award, the highest award given at the competition.  Georne Aucoin also received The Outstanding Teacher Award. Mackenzie has been continuing to prepare for the finals which will be held in New York City again.

Mackenzie Rehearsing for YAGP 2013

182f4e_98ffb7eb83d11cc6e0924c9d69e9bd4d.jpg_srz_375_410_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzAs you can see, Mackenzie’s hard work and dedication is truly paying off.  But, Mackenzie would not be this successful at such a young age if it were not for her talented ballet teacher, Georne Aucoin.  Georne is set apart from most teachers in the area of Warner Robins and even the southeast.  She knows how to train her students and build artists.  Her focus on technique builds strong, well equipped dancers.  Aucoin said, “The challenge placed every day to improve technique and the hunger for more as a young artist is what defines the driving force of our pre-professional students.”  The care, attention, and knowledge which Ms. Aucoin applies to every dancer can make the notion of becoming a professional dancer not just a fantasy but a reality. She focuses on the specific needs of each student, enabling them to learn and execute classical and contemporary ballet with precision, finesse, and musicality.  When Ms. Aucoin was asked what they did at her small studio in Warner Robins, GA she responded, “One of the most ancient forms of human expression, Dance is an art form that is symbiotic with Music. One of the unusual and key features of ICSB  is its emphasis on musicality and adept musicianship.  It is what the human body does naturally in response to the rapturous effects of music. We take what is organically in every human being and cultivate it into a complex, and thusly sophisticated, work of beauty. This is what we do at ICSB.”  Ms. Aucoin also stated, “We seek to inculcate the essential ardency for dance as a serious art and as a medium for personal expression. On a larger scale, we amplify community awareness for the indispensable need to be inspired by the arts in the effort to promote richness of culture and natural well-being.”


As you can see, under the training of Ms. Aucoin, Mackenzie is well on her way to make her dreams come true.  The pictures to the left are from the semi finals of YAGP in Atlanta, GA.  The left picture is Mackenzie’s contemporary solo, and the right picture is one of her classical ballet variations.  With hard work and dedication to ballet, she is making her dreams a reality.  She is a rising star in ballet in the United States today and even nation wide. Mackenzie also shared one of her favorite quotes with us.


“Dancing is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It’s the rhythm of your life. It’s the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy.”-Jacques d’Amboise


featuring Polina Semionova

polinaPolina Semionova was born in Moscow in 1984, and studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow. Graduating in 2002, she joined the Berlin Staatsoper Ballet as a principal when she was only 18 years old. She showed her outstanding talent by winning several international ballet competition awards. She has toured in Japan partnering Vladimir Malakhov. In Germany she is also known as the ballerina dancing in Herbert Grönemeyer’s music video “Demo (Letzter Tag),” which is shown below.

Polina Semionova Music Video

Latest Movie

“First Position”

first positionYouth American Grand Prix is one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions.  In the final round of the competition, hundreds compete for the most elite scholarships, and nothing short of perfection is expected.  About 5,000 dancers will enter the competition, but only a few hundred will make it to the final round held in New York City.  This award winning documentary follows six young dancers as they make their journey at YAGP.  The documentary captures the hard work it takes being a dancer, while displaying passion, tenacity, and inspiring talent.  Each dancer has a different story to tell about how they have gotten where they are today.  These dancers struggle through bloody feet, exhaustion, and deliberating injuries.  This documentary paints a wonderful picture of strength and determination in young adolescents, whose dreams are at stake.

First Position Trailer


deprinceA compelling story about one special girl, Michaela DePrince, is shared with us in this documentary.  In an interview, DePrince shared with the reporter that she was first three years old when she saw a ballerina for the first time.  Standing outside of the orphanage, where she lived in the West African country of Sierra Leone, Michaela picked up a magazine with a dancer on the cover.  Michaela was fascinated with the beautiful dancer and ripped the cover off to keep.  Having just lost both of her parents, Michaela hoped to become as happy as the dancer on the cover one day.  During the civil war in Sierra Leone, her father was murdered by the rebels and her mother died from starvation.  Michaela spoke about the ballerina saying, “It represented freedom, it represented hope, it represented trying to live a little longer.  I was so upset in the orphanage, I have no idea how I got through it but seeing that, it completely saved me.”  Life in the orphanage was tough.  DePrince recalls being called “the devil’s child,” and being ill treated for having a skin condition called vertigo.  She was neglected at the orphanage, and the only person who cared for her was murdered in front of the child.  Michaela described this horrific scene of the pregnant woman who cared for her being murdered:

“She was going outside the gate and I was walking with her, I was going to say bye, and then these three rebels come — two older and a younger one and they see that she’s pregnant and what they used to do is if it was a boy, they would keep the baby, if it was a girl they would kill the mother and the baby,”she says.  “So they cut her stomach and they saw that it was a girl, so then they were angry and they cut her arms and legs off and left her and the baby there. I was trying to save her and so I went underneath the gate and the little boy saw all these older people doing these things and I guess he wanted to impress them and thought it was funny, so he stabbed me and so I have actually a scar from it and it was a black out after that — I have no idea how I survived that, it was awful.”

DePrince’s life changed in 1999, when a couple from New Jersey adopted her.   She began dancing, and has become a very successful, determined dancer ever since, participating in the Youth American Grand Prix and becoming a star in this documentary.  Currently, she is a principal dancer for The Dance Theater of Harlem in New York.

michael deprince

“I’m still trying to change the way people see black dancers, that we can become delicate dancers, that we can be a ballerina.” – Michaela DePrince

DePrince dreams to one day open up a ballet school in Sierra Leone.  She wants to use her story to teach young girls that they can achieve their dreams.  Michaela said, “Even though you might have had a terrible past and even though you might have been through a lot and might be still going through a lot, if you have something that you love and that makes you happy and that gives you that feeling inside to continue growing up and that makes you want to have a good future then you should focus on that and not focus on the negative.”

Michaela DePrince On The News

mich dep

Inviting YOU!

Join us this year in New York City for the 2013 Youth American Grand Prix finals!  Many gifted and talented dancers will be joining us from around the world.  The New York Final competition will take place from April 12-16, and the final round will be held on April 17.  The Final Round is an opportunity for the general public to see the best of the competition as the top soloists in the Junior (12-14 years old) and Senior (15-19 years old) Age Divisions perform one last time before the winners are announced and the scholarship recipients disperse to continue their studies at top dance academies worldwide! Don’t miss this experience and see the future of dance!


Click to view last years finals in NYC:

YAGP 2012 Pre-Competitive Division

YAGP 2012 Junior Category


isabel yagp


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s