When YoungArts alumna Isabela Dos Santos, originally from Weston but now a Miami Beach resident, found out she'd been accepted to the prestigious cultural program, it felt magical. “Going to YoungArts Week was like when Harry Potter finds out he’s a wizard and there’s a whole world out there for him. Suddenly, everything that I felt was ‘off’ about me was a superpower,” said Santos, a 2011 winner in cinematic arts. “From the moment of my first screening at National YoungArts Week in 2011, I was receiving professional collaboration and job opportunities.”
This week, during the 36th-annual National YoungArts Week, 165 of the nation’s most promising artists between the ages of 15 and 18 will gather in Miami for performances and craft development. The teenagers are recognized for their achievements in the disciplines of literary, visual, design, and performing arts. The YoungArts winners submitted in a highly competitive year, with only about 9 percent of applicants accepted.
But there's more to YoungArts Week for winners than the spotlight. During the day, the artists will participate in master classes and workshops led by experts in the field. Mentors include choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1994 and has choreographed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Berlin Opera Ballet. Other mentors are photographer Sylvia Plachy, painter Will Cotton, dancer Vernon Scott, saxophonist and composer Jimmy Heath, Grammy-nominated rapper John Forte, jewelry designer Paris Kain, and Academy Award-winning film director Doug Blush. During these master classes, the artists will decide what they will show during the nightly concerts.
The performing-arts shows at the New World Center in Miami Beach run from January 9 to 12, with the categories broken down into voice performance January 9, theater and jazz performance January 10, film and dance performance January 11, and the classical music concert January 12.
Contemporary ballet dancer Darius Hickman, age 17, is a senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. For his audition piece, he performed a self-choreographed contemporary number, titled Perfect Sense, inspired by his own experience as a dancer. When he began dancing in the sixth grade, teachers told him he would be better suited for modern dance because of his body type. The dance is about finding identity and chasing dreams, he says. Passionate about ballet instead of modern, he continues to pursue his dream to be a contemporary ballet dancer. During YoungArts week, Hickman wants to get new direction and further develop Perfect Sense in the master classes.
“For the show, I really want to perform the piece I submitted, Perfect Sense, about breaking stereotypes, because it holds a powerful meaning,” Hickman says.
The fine arts and design exhibition opening and the literary arts reading will take place January 13 at the YoungArts campus. Miami-based visual artist Catherine Camargo creates vibrant, dynamic mixed-media works using materials such as bright acrylic paints, beads, glitter, and fabric, representing her Haitian background and personal experiences. In her piece Rehab Center, which will be on display at the exhibition, she depicts her 80-year-old grandmother lying in a chair while a tired family member wipes his brow.
Camargo says, “Since she now has dementia, I spend every moment with her gathering what she remembers about her youngest years so that I will know all the details before she forgets them. I would love for this process to become a journal of physical and personal research of my background and a story for the viewer... [with] moments of racism, Catholic religion, political scandals, happiness, struggles, and love within my family.”
YoungArts Week will conclude January 14 with the performance and gala Backyard Ball, presented by Max Mara. The event will be hosted by Dr. Kira and Mr. Neil Flanzraich and emceed by comedian and actress Amanda Seales, a 1999 YoungArts winner. Guests will enjoy a black-tie reception and a seated dinner, as well as vignette performances by YoungArts alumni, directed by Tony Award-nominated Tony Yazbeck, who was a 1997 YoungArts winner in theater.
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Lisa Leone, vice president of artistic programs, believes that becoming a YoungArts award recipient is the foundation and the first step for a young artist’s success in the world. She says, “An artist’s journey at YoungArts begins when they are selected, but it will extend throughout their career... We hope 2017 winners will dive deep into January's program and use us as a springboard to achieve their goals and dreams.”
National YoungArts Week
Sunday, January 8, through Sunday, January 15, at New World Center (500 17th St., Miami Beach) and YoungArts Campus (2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Nightly performances cost $15; students pay $5. Gala costs $100 in advance and $125 at the door. Visit youngarts.org/youngarts-week for schedule and ticketing. Visit eventbrite.com for gala ticketing.