Wilshire Area Ballet Students Earn Top Awards at Prestigious Competition

Isabelle Franco
The lovely Isabelle Franco of the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet on La Brea Ave. Photo credit: Virginia Oxford.

Three teens from the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet on La Brea Ave. danced their way onto the awards stage at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) regional competition held on February 7-9 in Huntington Beach.  The YAGP is the world’s largest competition for ballet students, leading to scholarships and contracts from preeminent dance companies and academies.

Eli Gurska & Matisse Love
Eil Gurska frames Matisse Love en pointe. The duo won the Pas de Deux division. Photo credit: Virginia Oxford

In the highly competitive Classical Ballet division for Juniors (ages 12-14), MDSC dancers swept the awards with Isabella Franco taking first place, Eli Gruska second place and Matisse Love third.  Matisse and Eli also scored first place as a pair in the Pas de Deux division performing a variation from “Sleeping Beauty.”   In the Contemporary Dance Division (designed to show judges the ballet dancer’s versatility), Eli Gruska won first and Isabella Franco second place.  Matisse Love was acknowledged among the top 12 scorers.  Southern California has become known as one of the most competitive regions because of the many serious ballet schools in Los Angeles and Orange County, several headed by former Russian dancers.

Isabelle-Franco-2
Isabelle Franco of the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet won First Prize in the Classical Ballet Division.

The three MDSB dancers’ scores qualify them to continue to the YAGP Finals in NYC in April where they will compete against dancers from over 28 countries. The YAGP competition was the subject of an award-winning documentary in 2011 and has been called an overnight game changer for ballet-hopefuls — sort of the Olympics of ballet.

Marat Daukayev, a former principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet who attained the status of “People’s Artist of Russia”  and heads the La Brea Ave studio, won the overall award of Best Teacher at the YAGP regional competition.

The Marat Daukayev School of Ballet is located at 731 S. La Brea Blvd., Los Angeles.

The Youth America Grand Prix was covered in an award winnning documentary “First Position” several years ago that played in major city theaters and is now available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. A clip of the movie is included below.

Post-script:  Subsequent to the Southern California regional competition, the Daukayev studio sent additional students to compete in two other U.S regions, also with impressive results.  In the San Francisco Regional Competition on February 21-23, Ingrid Herbulot took first place in the Precompetitive Classical division, with dancer Olivia Brothers scoring second place in Junior Classical.  In the Senior Classical division, Elizabeth Del Rosario was awarded first place and Luis Delcid third place.  In the Denver Regional Divisions, Daukayev student Mikhael Kinley-Safranoff  placed second in Junior Contemporary.

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About Renee Montgomery

Renee Montgomery began researching historic men's waistcoats at LACMA in 1979 as an intern, and is still at the museum as an Assistant Director in administration. She's written for various local media and museum publications, focusing on 'small town pockets' in urban L.A. She resides in Lafayette Square and has one daughter, a professional ballet dancer. Having never lost her zeal for her 'aggie' San Gabriel Valley/Riverside upbringing, Renee currently sells citrus and homegrown produce to support dog rescue efforts.

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