March 29, 2014 • 08:26:11 a.m.

Area dancers chosen for worldwide competition

By JAMI KUNZER jkunzer@shawmedia.com

Marlena Brinkmann, 14, of Spring Grove, is among a group of dancers headed to New York City to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix, the world's largest scholarship student competition. (Photo provided)

They’ll dance anywhere.

But there’s one place they’d like to dance forever. And they’re headed there this week.

Dancers, led by Alyce Keaggy Brinkmann of Spring Grove, are traveling to New York City to perform at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

They’ll compete among the top dancers in the world, as part of the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest ballet scholarship student competition, awarding more than $250,000 annually in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide.

“The girls have been training for quite some time,” Brinkmann said. “To be accepted to go to New York is quite an accomplishment. I would say we hoped for it. I wouldn’t say we expected it.”

Brinkmann, who originally taught in Spring Grove before moving to the Center Academy of Dance in Deer Park, has been teaching for roughly 25 years. This is the first time she’ll be taking a group of dancers to the competition.

Dancers advanced based on a regional semi-finals hosted March 1 in Chicago.

“We have some very strong classically trained dancers in the ensemble, and I think they saw their potential as aspiring young artists and their ability to work together as an ensemble,” Brinkmann said.

Of the seven dancers taking part in the April 4-11 Grand Prix, three are from Spring Grove.

They include Brinkmann’s daughter, 14-year-old Marlena, 15-year-old Francesca Morris and 16-year-old Victoria Stocker. Other dancers are sisters 12-year-old Faith and 18-year-old Grace Marshall of Lake Villa, 13-year-old Pargol Azadeh-Tehrany of Palatine and 17-year-old Miquella Young of Lake Zurich.

All intend to become professional dancers.

“That’s the plan,” said Morris, who began dancing at age 3. “I’d like to make it into the San Francisco ballet.”

Morris, who is homeschooled, said she fell in love with ballet at a young age.

“Ballet is different. You get to act while you’re on stage,” she said.

The dancers will perform as one of 135 ensembles in the competition. They’re doing a tarantella, an Italian flavored, fast-moving classical dance they’ll perform with tambourines, Brinkmann said.

“It’s a great way to display their classical training, but something with a lot of energy so the audience and judges can appreciate their training and get excited about the energy.”

The dancers have been practicing daily.

“I probably see them more than my family,” said Stocker, a sophomore at Richmond-Burton Community High School.

Dancing for 12 years, she said she naturally leaned toward ballet.

“I love how you can express all these different emotions through dance without having to talk or actually see the emotions,” she said.

Marlena Brinkmann, an eighth-grader at Nippersink Middle School in Richmond, was born to dance, she said, following in her mother’s footsteps at age 2.

“It’s something to let go in,” she said.

The dancers will have the opportunity to take master classes and train with leading instructors in the nation.

“They’re really exposed to a lot of people who have the same love and same dedication as them, and I think it’ll be very inspiring to them to know they’re not alone,”Alyce Keaggy Brinkmann said.


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