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Next Generation Ballet wins "Outstanding School" title | Arts & Culture

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Next Generation Ballet wins "Outstanding School" title
Next Generation Ballet wins "Outstanding School" title

Tampa, Florida -- The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts’ Next Generation Ballet (NGB) was named “Outstanding School” and its dance student Olivia Gusti was named “Grand Prix winner” at the semi-final Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) competition, held last month in Tampa.

“We are so proud of our students and instructors and appreciate this recognition from YAGP,” said Wendy Leigh, Straz Center vice president of education. “Being awarded the top prize for both best school and overall dancer, in particular, validates that our students do receive the best training here at the Patel Conservatory.”

NGB beat out 48 other schools for the “Outstanding School” title. Under the direction of Peter Stark, NGB is a stepping stone for great dance talent that prepares students for professional employment through instruction, coaching and performance opportunities. NGB performers have been awarded scholarships to the leading ballet schools worldwide and have been hired by top ballet companies.

Fifteen-year-old St. Petersburg native Gusti competed against hundreds of dancers in the region to win the YAGP’s highest honor.

About 350 young dancers from North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Georgia, Missouri, Illinois and Florida, danced in the two-day contest. The top dancers were selected to dance in the Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow YAGP gala, the event’s culmination. Held in Carol Morsani Hall on Jan. 4, the gala featured dancers representing New York City Ballet, Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet and Ballet West alongside YAGP student winners.

YAGP is the largest student ballet competition in the world and screens more than 5,000 dance students internationally in regional competitions. Gusti and other YAGP top dancers will compete in the New York finals on April 9 for scholarships and job offers.

Several NGB graduates have benefitted previously from this competition, earning scholarships to London's Royal Ballet School and other prestigious dance institutions.

In addition to Gusti, numerous other NGB students also placed highly in the competition. Those in bold have been invited to compete in New York at the national final:

  • First place Classical Jr. Men: Jordan Martinez
  • First place Classical Jr. Women: Florrie Geller
  • Classical Top 12 Jr. Women: Gellar, Courtney Gunsteens, Chandler Hammond, Janaya Zimmerman
  • Classical Top 6 Jr. Men: Liam Boswell, Neal Burks, Martinez
  • Third place Contemporary Jr. Women: Geller
  • Comtemporary Top 12 Jr. Women: Geller, Hammond, Zimmerman
  • First place Contemporary Jr. Men: Liam Boswell
  • Second place Contemporary Jr. Men: Martinez
  • Contemporary Top 6 Jr. Men: Boswell, Martinez
  • Second place Classical Sr. Female: Hannah Stanford
  • Second place Classical Sr. Male: Tanner Bleck
  • Second place Pas de Deux – Claire Ashcraft and Ethan Fuller)
  • Third place Classical Sr. Men: Fuller
  • Classical Top 12 Sr. Men: Bleck, Jarod Curley, Fuller, John Hewitt, Christopher Kunzelmann, Corbin Panturad
  • Classical Top 12 Sr. Women: Lexa Armstrong, Brittany Broussard, Olivia Gusti, Stanford
  • Contemporary Top 12 Sr. Women: Claire Ashcraft, Gusti, Alexandria Marx
  • Second place Contemporary Dance Sr. Men: Fuller
  • Contemporary Top 12 Sr. Men: Bleck, Curley, Fuller, Hewitt, Kunzelmann

More information about NGB is available by calling 813.222.1002 and at www.patelconservatory.org. The non-profit Straz Center is committed to arts education as an essential part of its mission, and the fully accredited Patel Conservatory makes it all happen. Each year, the lives of more than 50,000 students are enriched in classrooms, on stages and through outreach programs. The Patel Conservatory offers classes in dance, music and theater for students of all experience levels.

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