Cover photo: Yana Peneva at Universal Ballet Competition
Hi Yana, thanks so much for joining us for an interview! To get started, can you share with us how you got your start in dance and when you first decided to compete?
YP: A while ago, I would walk past the ballet school every day on my family’s walks. After seeing all the dancers, I wanted to try it! I was two and a half years old when I first started ballet. My very first time at a competition was when I performed a group dance at ADCIBC, that is when I decided to perform my first solo at age ten.
What was the first competition in which you competed, and what was that experience like?
The first competition that I competed in was ADCIBC! This was truly a very eye-opening experience that enhanced the way I danced and thought! All of the talent I saw made me want to keep going and learn more from every teacher and student.
What medals and awards have you earned throughout your competition journey, so far?
- YAGP Finals Tampa, FL – Shelley King Award for Excellence, Final Round Solo, Top 12 Small Ensemble, Top 12 Large Ensemble | 2021
- ADCIBC Finals, FL – Gold Medal (1st place) Classical Ballet Category, 4th place Contemporary Dance Category | 2021
- YAGP Semi-Finals Tampa, FL – 2nd place Classical Solo, 2nd place Contemporary Solo, 1st place All Ensembles, Invitation to Finals | 2021
- UBC Fort Lauderdale, FL – 2nd place Classical Solo, 7th place Contemporary Solo, 2nd place Duo, 1st place Ensemble | 2021
YAGP Semi-Finals Boston, MA – 3th place Classical Solo, 3th place Contemporary Solo,
3th place Large Ensemble, Invitation to Finals | 2020
UBC Fort Lauderdale, FL – 5th place Classical Solo, 6th place Contemporary Solo
1st place Ensemble | 2020
- YAGP Semi-Finals Tampa, FL – Top 12 Contemporary Solo | 2019
- UBC Fort Lauderdale, FL – 6th place Classical Solo, 8th place Contemporary Solo | 2019
- ADCIBC, FL – Top 25 Classical Category | 2019
- John Cranko Short Term, Royal Ballet School Antwerp Short Term, Choreographic Intensive Miami City Ballet, ABT SI, IBA SI, BBSI, Cary Ballet SI | 2021
- IBA SI, BBSI, OB SI | 2020
- NGB SI, IBA SI, BBSI, TBT SI | 2019
- Kirov Academy of Washington, DC SI, NGB SI | 2018
Has your mindset/approach to competitions changed since that first competition? If so, how?
At my earliest competition, I had nerves before my performances. As I got older, I understood and accepted that every competition I compete in is just an amazing opportunity to show to myself and the rest of the dance world who I am and what I have learned throughout my training.
What are some of the main differences between the different competitions that you’ve been a part of - UBC, YAGP, ADCIBC?
Each competition that I have participated in has had many opportunities to offer. My first competition, ADCIBC, had a difference that I really enjoyed: The final score of a dancer is given with both how they perform and how the student did in previous classes.
YAGP also has a difference that makes this competition unique. There is a finals event where the best from the U.S. and across the world come together to compete.
UBC has another specific feature that makes this competition different! The score from the student’s performance is announced right after the dancer performs.
If you could describe each of these different competitions in 3 words, what would they be and why?
Do you experience pre-performance jitters? If so, how do you cope with those?
I do not usually experience nerves anymore before my performances, but when I am nervous, I find ways to calm down and stabilize myself.
What is the most rewarding part of competing for you?
The most rewarding part of participating in competitions is being awarded with scholarships to incredible schools because these are the opportunities that will help me reach my dream!
Can you share with us some of your favorite memories from past competitions? Any moments that stand out in particular?
A favorite memory from ADCIBC was being awarded the 1st place Gold Medal! Since this was my first competition being awarded 1st, it was very special to me. Another moment from ADCIBC was the feeling of rehearsing the compulsory variation on the stage with the amazing Yan Chen! A moment I loved from YAGP was the feeling of performing my variation in the Finals of the Finals!
I enjoy every part of competing; from the preparation to performing, each part brings me joy in different ways!
While preparing for competitions, how do you take care of your body to help you #FeelGoodDanceBetter?
One thing that I prefer to do when I am at a competition is bring meals that my body knows, so that there is no need to worry about how my body is going to respond to outside food.
What are your future dance/career goals? How do you hope that competitions will help you toward these goals?
In the future, I want to continue ballet into a professional career and join a company! Competitions are a way for the world to see me. This is why scholarship opportunities that competitions offer are very important!