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Local

‘A really big deal’

Morris dance studio sends ensemble to national competition

Six girls from the Forte Arts Center will compete at the Youth America Grand Prix this weekend. It's the first time the center has sent an ensemble to nationals.
Six girls from the Forte Arts Center will compete at the Youth America Grand Prix this weekend. It's the first time the center has sent an ensemble to nationals.

MORRIS – This weekend, six Grundy County dancers will be in New York City, competing in the Youth America Grand Prix competition.

It is the first time an ensemble of dancers from Forte Arts Center have gone to the competition. Solo dancers have gone in the past from the studio.

To get to the competition, Forte Arts Center owner Pam Simpson said, the girls had to participate in a regional competition and score in the 95 percentile.

“About 3% of the participants qualify for the nationals,” Simpson said. “It is a really big deal. ... It’s something that these guys have worked really hard at. They all take a tremendous amount of dance classes and are really committed to what they do and really set goals for themselves.”

The group leaves Thursday for New York. The competition will take place on the campus of the State University of New York at Purchase, which also is home to a renowned dance program. Simpson said that while the competition is great, it’s also a chance for the girls to make connections within the dance world.

“For all of them looking at dance as a career, it’s a good step forward,” Simpson said.

One of the dancers, Lillian Beeler of Minooka, will be attending a program at the North Carolina School of the Arts this summer because of a connection she made at a Youth Grand Prix event. Beeler has been participating in the YAGP competitions for five years.

The performance was choreographed by another one of the dancers, Gianna Scorzo from Channahon. The dance is in a contemporary ballet style, tells a story and is called “Lost on You.”

“It’s about any kind of relationship. Really. It’s just one person is putting more effort into it than the other and gives up,” Scorzo said. She said it’s not a personal story, but it’s based on the song “Lost on You” by Lewis Capaldi and uses that song’s story.

Contemporary ballet is different from traditional ballet in that it allows a lot more variety and creative freedom. Lauren Pulkstenis, a teacher at Forte Arts Center, said traditional ballets often were choreographed centuries ago, using similar storylines and dance techniques.

“In more recent times, people are developing works that are, first of all, a lot shorter, and second of all, kind of stray from like the classical lines,” Pulkstenis said. “In a contemporary piece like Gianna’s choreographed, she’s kind of strayed from that and uses it almost more like inspiration.”

Competition begins Friday, but the team flies into New York on Thursday. Simpson said there is a day planned in the Big Apple that includes a few touristy locations such as Times Square, but also some important places for a dancer to stop.

“We have appointments for custom point shoes at master point show vendors,” Simpson said. “We’ve sought out the master fitters and made appointments for each of them and with the company that would be best for their shoe and their foot.”

Most of the girls dance 20 to 30 hours a week at the studio, and dance on teams at the high school in addition to the work they put in. They work together a lot of those hours. That makes the trip with their friends all the more special.

“I’m excited to travel with my friends,” said dancer Clare Bates of Morris. “We don’t really travel together so I’m excited to experience that.”

The six dancers are Scorzo, Bates, Beeler, Keira Gestel of Channahon, Madison Juricic of Channahon and Morgan Powers of Shorewood.

The Forte Arts Center ensemble will be performing from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday. The Youth American Grand Prix will have a live stream available to watch at www.yagp.com

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