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Three WNY dancers head to the ballet “grand prix”

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Three Western New York students are headed to what is considered the world's largest student ballet competition. WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley attended a rehearsal where they were preparing for the finals in New York City.  

The toe shoes of 15-year-old Nina Gentes softly sweep the dance studio floor. The 10th grade Williamsville South student is getting ready for her performance in the Youth America Grand Prix. 

Gentes is the daughter of Williams Gentes and his wife, Susannah Dwyer Gentes. They operate Classical Ballet of Western New York in Williamsville and Lockport.

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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15-year-old Nina Gentes rehearses for the Youth America Grand Prix in NYC.

“How do you prep them?” asked Buckley.Gentes.

This youth competition is a prestigious event in the ballet world.  About 7,000 students from 17 American cities and six international location participated in the regional event held in Toronto in February. One thousand of the best were selected to perform at the finals in New York City. They begin this Friday and roll out into next week. 

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Susannah Dwyer Gentes, operates Classical Ballet of Western New York in Williamsville and Lockport.

“What do they look for?” asked Buckley.

“They look for great technique – classical technique – they really look for a good performing quality. They want to see a dancer perform well and not be nervous – just really come out to the audience and look for potential for future professionals,” responded Gentes.   

Twenty-one students from the Classical Ballet of Western New York competed in the semi-finals held in Toronto.  Nina Gentes was selected by the judges to move on to the New York City competition. She will be one of 100 15- to 19-year-olds to perform.

“I’ve been dancing since I was three, but I was pretty much born into dancing because my parents were both dancers,” said Gentes. “I have one classical solo, so classical ballet and then I have one contemporary solo. I’m nervous, but I feel ready because I have been preparing for it for so long.”   

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Nina Gentes, Alina & Bella Railey to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix.

Gentes will also perform in an ensemble ballet competition with two ten year old students, who are twin sisters. Alina and Bella Railey are both 5th graders at William Street School in Lancaster.

“It’s very exciting and nerve-racking and it’s very cool that I get to dance with all these amazing dancers from around the world,” said Alina Railey. 

“What will it be like for you that moment that you’re on stage?” questioned Buckley.

“I think it will be exciting and fun, but – I think I’ll be nervous.”

The two sisters performed in Toronto’s competition. Alina said was “fun,” while Bell said it was "exciting and scary" to compete. 

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Nina Gentes, Alina & Bella Railey to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix.

The young dancers discussed the challenges of learning the choreography and performing.

“Like remembering and pointing my feet and doing the technique correct,” said Alina.

“Good technique,” answered Bella. “Like the arms and the facial and stuff like that.” 

Gentes she tells us it's a great opportunity to perform in the competition. She said solos are very challenging and exhausting.  

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Nina Gentes, Alina & Bella Railey to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix.

“It’s hard because they make you really tired and so then it’s hard to keep, but once you do it for a long time you get used to it. 

And Gentes is performing on pointe. “It’s hard to do it on pointe, but I’ve been doing pointe since I was nine, so after years of just working it becomes easier.” Gentes remarked.  

All three students say they are able to manage their school work with their after school dance classes and rehearsals. Gentes said her goal is to be accepted into a dance company once she graduates from high school.      

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