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As if it weren’t enough that Youth America Grand Prix is giving us three fantastic programs of dance at the Koch Theater—and last night’s show was dizzyingly good, earning thunderous applause—the organization is also giving us a public interview with Sergei Filin. The Bolshoi’s revered artistic director was nearly blinded by an acid attack 15 months ago, and many Americans want to hear his side of the story. After more than 25 surgeries, he’s recovered some vision in one eye, apparently enough to judge the level of young ballet students.
Sergei Filin at this year's YAGP finals. Photo by Ruby Washington via the New York Times.
For those of you attending the closing night of YAGP tonight, you may come early, at 6:00, to the Promenade to hear Filin speak out. And the person who is conducting that interview is…me. My guess is that I was chosen because of the wide-ranging interview I did with him shortly before the brutal attack.
Filin has been in NYC all week to judge the final round of the YAGP competition, which draws dancers from several countries and 14 U. S. cities. Of the 7,000 participants this year, some 400 were chosen to come to NYC for the final round. I served as a judge in three cities—Tokyo, Philly, and L.A.—enough to get a sense that quantity begets quality. Last night it was thrilling to see the cream of the crop share the stage with international stars like Lucia Lacarra, Olga Smirnova, Misty Copeland, and Evan McKie. And the variety of genres was stimulating. Misty Copeland doing salsa on pointe (choreographed by Derek Hough)! Evan McKie and Olga Smirnova in a desperate love duet from Cranko’s Onegin! Lucia Lacarra as an impossibly limpid Odette! Add to that a horde of bare-chested Mexican students creating a mountain for each other to fly off of, and a brilliant Grand Defilé for over 300 competitors choreographed by Carlos dos Santos, Jr., and you had a blowout, over-the-top evening.
Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino in the White Swan Pas de Deux, which they performed together last night. Photo by Valeria Komissarova.
YAGP's mission, as envisioned by Larissa Saveliev, has always combined artistry and education. The attention to Sergei Filin is part of its tradition of honoring a Russian dance figure every other year. In the past, YAGP has educated us about Vladimir Vasiliev, Natalia Makarova, and Pyotr Pestov.
So please come at 6:00 (buy tickets here) and learn more about Russian ballet—past, present and future.