Harrison Lee wins the Youth Grand Prix in New York

About two years ago dance friends began to tell me about Harrison Lee, then only about 12, who seemed to have outstanding ability especially in his turns and who was, and is, blessed with perfect ballet feet.

Now 14, he has won the Youth Grand Prix Award – the top prize for junior dancers (aged 12-14) – at the Youth American Grand Prix, the huge dance competition held annually in New York that was the subject of the 2011 documentary, First Position.

Harrison, from the suburb of Castle Hill in Sydney, trains at the McDonald College and last year won the Sydney Eisteddfod Robert and Elizabeth Albert Junior Classical Ballet Scholarship.

I was pleased to see that Harrison’s win at YAGP appeared in the forward news pages of The Sydney Morning Herald today, a rare position for a ballet story and photo these days.

The Herald reports that Harrison has now been offered scholarships at the Royal Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre School in New York, so he and his family now have to make a huge decision – whether he will leave home at the age of just 14, or continue his education and ballet training in his home town.

As the mother of a ballet dancer who left home two days after her 16th birthday to travel to the Royal Ballet School Upper School in London I know just how tough that choice can be for the family and yet how much the family also wants to support their daughter or son in the direction they most want to follow.

Harrison was one of three Australians who made the finals in the junior division of YAGP, the others being Bianca Scudamore of the Classical Coaching Academy in Queensland, and Thomas Dilley, who trains at Premiere Elite in New South Wales.

They were among the 17 dancers who flew to New York from Australia to take part in the competition but the only three who reached the finals.

Cesar Corrales, 17, of American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, won both the top prize, the Grand Prix in the senior age division and the Special Award of Outstanding Artistry.

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Harrison Lee, solo from Flames of Paris, Youth American Grand Prix, photo © Emma Kauldhar

Harrison Lee in 2012, photographer unknown

Cesar Corrales (American Ballet Theater Studio) in Reenter (Kaloyan Boyadjiev) © 2014 Marc Haegeman:D&D Art Productions