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Interview with Larissa Saveliev

Founder of Youth American Grand Prix

by Saul Marziali

Published December 2009

During the "XI Moscow Ballet International Competition", suddenly I saw again my schoolmate Larissa Saveliev! It was the first time we met after 22 years! This gave us the chance to talk about recent events.

Larissa, what did you do after graduating in Moscow?

I have danced at the "Stanislavsky Theater" and at the "Grigorovitch Ballet" prior to leaving for New York with my husband Gennadi Saveliev. He is a principal at the ABT [American Ballet Theatre]. As for me, first I taught, then I brought into the world my second son and...

Yes, tell us more about your American experiences...

…I noticed soon there was not one competition for young dancers in the States. That is how I founded my competition which is called "Youth American Grand Prix" and -- imagine how time runs away fast -- this year we have already celebrated our 10th Anniversary!

Congratulations, but what are the differences distinguishing you from the other competitions?

The reason for our success depends on the fact that we don't give only medals but also scholarships. Indeed, we pay a lot of attention to the potential of the young students. Even if the candidates did not show a good variation or preparation but on the other hand they have good qualities and are talanted, we offer them the possibility to continue their training through a scholarship at a famous ballet academy.

That's make sense! Which schools are following your program then?

As soon the jury foresees the capacities of the student, this participant will get our invitation to follow his studies at one of these world famous schools: Royal Ballet of London, La Scala of Milan, John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Palucca Schule in Dresden, Hamburg/Neumaier, Opera of Viena, San Fransisco Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Australian Ballet...

Very well! You make me think of Christopher Columbus. How do you discover young talents?

Yes Saul, you are a bit right. In fact I travel in America a lot feeling like an explorer, namely in 10 cities of the United States, in Mexico, Brazil and Paraguay, but also in Japan and in Italy. My goal consists in convincing young students that even if they don't have financial means to pay their studies, our competition will give them the possibility of earning a scholarship. I have noticed that often that where there is a lot of talent, unfortunately the means are missing and all these talented kids are simply not allowed to develop their capacities.

Yes it's a pity.

For instance Mathias Heymann; he has been recently promoted "Etoile" of the Paris Opera! I am proud to affirm, that at the age of only 14 he won at YAGP.

Then, when is the next event?

In Catania, Sicily, November 20-21-22 at the "Teatro Bellini", European semifinal, before the final planned for the 21st through 25th of March 2010 in New York.

I see that in New York it runs several days...

Yes right, it is about a week, in which we will have the final rounds of the competition and the Gala "Stars of today meet the Stars of tomorrow" at the "New York City Center". We have already had the pleasure to admire Darcey Bussell, Roberto Bolle, AurZlie Dupont, Manuel Legris, Natalia Osipova, Ivan Vasiliev in the second part and in the first part, our young winners.

Thank you Larissa and bravo for your success!


The Youth American Grand Prix briefly:

  • Every year more than 5000 students present their applications for the preliminary selection by video or the semifinals in U.S.A ., Italy, Japan, Brazil, Mexico;
  • 350 candidates, showing soloist qualities, will be chosen for the finals in New York;
  • There are 2 categories: Junior, between 12 and 14 years, and Senior, between 15 and 19 years.

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