Wollongong ballerinas in New York

Start spreading the news: two Wollongong dancers are off to New York after being selected as finalists in an international competition known as the Olympics of Ballet.

Aysha Tornyi-Aydin, 9, and Lucy Angel, 12, will compete next month in the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition.

Aysha, of Fairy Meadow, and Lucy, of Mount Pleasant, were among 350 finalists who were shortlisted from an audition pool of 7000 international entrants.

Both girls have been jumping for joy – or in ballet terms performing grand jetes – since finding out last week they had made the final rounds of the prestigious competition.

They will participate in a week-long schedule of performances and workshops in New York City, standing at the barre alongside some of the world’s most talented dancers.

The girls will also be part of the Youth America Grand Prix Closing Night Gala, an annual sell-out event which features the YAGP finalists on the same program as the stars of the world’s leading dance companies at the Lincoln Center’s David H Koch Theatre on April 10.

The ballerinas are trained by Joanne Grace-Morgan who is the principal of the Joanne Grace School of Dance (JGSOD) at Fairy Meadow.

Ms Grace-Morgan entered the girls through a DVD audition last November and was pleasantly surprised when the results came through.

‘‘I was a bit shocked when I found out simply because of the number of entrants worldwide,’’ Ms Grace-Morgan said.

‘‘I read the email several times before I told the girls.

‘‘After I got over that initial emotion, I was just so excited and chuffed for them.

‘‘I entered them mainly for the experience of doing the video audition and also learning the pieces that were required for the audition.

‘‘To have this outcome has been an immense honour.’’

Aysha is dancing three times. She will compete twice as a soloist in the pre-competitive division (ages 9-11).

She will perform a Kitri variation from Don Quixote in the classical ballet competition and a routine choreographed by Ms Grace-Morgan in the contemporary dance competition.

Aysha and Lucy will perform together in an ensemble competition with a contemporary dance choreographed by Ms Grace-Morgan.

The girls are being accompanied on the trip by Ms Grace-Morgan and their mothers Elle Tornyi and Tina Angel.

Ms Grace-Morgan has been to New York before with her dance school, which has participated in past tours of the US, yet this is her first time as a teacher and choreographer involved in the YAGP.

‘‘I could not have them perform in New York and be here [in Wollongong],’’ Ms Grace-Morgan said.

‘‘There’s no way I’d have them go without having that support there from me.’’

As well as taking part in extra rehearsals to polish their routines, both girls are busy fitting in their schoolwork and preparing for the big trip, including organising their passport applications.

Lucy is a year 7 student at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts and Aysha is a year 5 student at Wollongong Public School.

The JGSOD studio has begun an earnest fund-raising campaign to raise money to help the families with the financial challenges of participating in the YAGP. They leave on April 2.

‘‘We are grateful to have families including those from other dance studios and local businesses approach us to help raise money for these two very talented dancers,’’ Ms Grace-Morgan said.

Ms Grace-Morgan said the studio needed a lot of support from the Illawarra community in a short space of time to help make the girls’ dreams a reality.

A fund-raising disco for Aysha and Lucy will be held at The Fraternity Club, Fairy Meadow, this Saturday from 6pm to 9pm. Entry is $10 and tickets are available at the door.

Anyone wishing to donate money or goods to be raffled can contact Ms Grace-Morgan at the studio on j.grace@optusnet.com.au.

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