Early this year, the most prestigious ballet competition in the world took place in Las Vegas for the first time. The Youth American Grand Prix, a world renowned organization, serves as a global network of support for young dancers ages 9-19 from all ethnic, economic and geographic backgrounds. Every year they hold auditions in Japan, France, Paris, Brazil and the U.S. to scout talent for dozens of ballet companies. The competition began this year with about 7000 dancers. Among these was Las Vegas native, 17 year old Monika Haczkiewicz. Winning second place in the Senior Classical Competition, Monika was the first participant from the Las Vegas area to advance to the finals in New York City.
A student at the Las Vegas Academy High School and of Tara Foy’s Elite Ballet, Monika’s beautiful lines, solid technique and ability to captivate her audience are just some of the qualities that have elevated her into the category of a true ballerina, a rare breed out here in the desert. Superb genes, passed down from both Cirque du Soleil parents, have undoubtedly contributed to her success.
At the suggestion of former New York City Ballet dancer and YAGP judge Monique Meunier, Fashion Feed was able to meet and shoot with Monika during spring break, just a few weeks before the finals. Agreeing to dance for our first fashion film, she took a break from afternoon rehearsal to rush over to the studio at Stitch Factory, where we had been shooting since early that morning. In the midst of the habitual chaos that has become our creative constant, our staff looked up from various devices, makeup brushes, wardrobe pieces, and half-eaten donuts as she made her entrance. And, as sure as the sun shining in a cloudless sky, it was instantly clear we had a ballerina in our presence. A glance at these images captured by Sasha Heist will graciously confirm this, as well as inspire and delight. Magically, Monika was able to transform our dear Stitch Factory into a stage, as if it had been set just for her – a telltale sign of a true star.
Monika’s week in NYC for YAGP went beyond anyone’s expectations. Out of the 7000 that initially competed, 457 made it to the finals. She performed a Contemporary piece choreographed by Meunier and then a variation from Don Quixote for her classical. The next day she found out she had been chosen as one of the 17 finalists that had been come to New York from around the world. She then had the very rare opportunity of performing at The Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Only the biggest companies and stars get to perform there. She performed a variation from Giselle and she said it was the most euphoric experience she has ever had and truly felt that she belonged dancing on that big stage.
Ultimately, she was offered not one, but two scholarship opportunities from ballet companies in Chicago and Canada. A tough decision, but a wonderful one.
“I am relieved that the competition is over, but I am so inspired by all the beautiful dancers I saw, said Monika, shortly after her arrival home. After much consideration, she decided to spend her summer with the Royal Winnipeg, and will be staying on.
In addition to a position in the company, they will be grooming her to become a principal dancer, which, according to Meunier, is just about as far as you can go as a professional ballet dancer.
So, there you have it, Las Vegas now has its first ballerina. A cultural milestone perhaps? Clearly.
We were able to shoot Monika twice before she left for Canada. In addition to our day at Stitch Factory, Sasha Heist and our stylist/HMUA Catrina Corrales were able to capture her in a more playful setting, the Butterfly Park up in Centennial Hills. For a complete viewing of that stunning editorial, featuring clothing provided by Coterie, see here
Additional designs provided by Jillian Minter and Devi Amuro.