Mercyhurst dancers compete at famous competition

In early January of this year, freshmen dance majors Olivia Boyd and Emma Rishel attended the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) competition semi-finals in Philadelphia.

YAGP is a dance scholarship competition held annually around the world, with a variety of locations for the semi-finals each year. The mission of YAGP is to provide extraordinary educational and professional opportunities for young dancers, acting as a bridge to a professional dance career.

This trip, planned and escorted by dance chair Tauna Hunter, supplied an unprecedented opportunity for Boyd and Rishel to grow from the experience of dancing in this world-famous student ballet scholarship competition.

Participation in YAGP this year also involved the Mercyhurst dance department’s representation at the education initiative “Dance in Higher Education,” a new YAGP program in its inaugural year.

Boyd performed two different ballet selections at the competition, a variation from “La Esmeralda” and one of the odalisque variations from “Le Corsaire.” Boyd said that she enjoyed performing both variations, though she said she felt she performed the odalisque better at YAGP.

Rishel danced the women’s variation from the Peasant Pas de Deux from “Giselle,” as well as the Aurora wedding variation from “Sleeping Beauty.”

At the competition, both Boyd and Rishel received Honorable Mention for participating in the program. Boyd was invited to attend the YAGP workshop and gala performance in New York City.

When asked about her experience at YAGP, Boyd said, “It was cool to see all the other people who came to compete—it was good to learn from them and watch them.”

Rishel also emphasized the educational aspects of this competition. “The rehearsal process in preparation for the competition was in many ways the best part. It was good to work one-on-one with the dance faculty, as I learned a lot about artistry and developing a variation beyond just the steps. I can then use this knowledge in other areas of my dancing.”

“Ms. Hunter is a very good coach,” Boyd added when discussing the rehearsal process.