Gaya Bommer. Photo by Yossi Zveker.
Israeli contemporary dance has gained international renown over the last two decades, but the country’s small ballet scene is barely known abroad. Yet next week, one of the world’s most prestigious youth ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), will include an Israeli: the 11-year-old Gaya Bommer.
Gaya Bommer started dancing as a young child at her mother’s studio, the Nadine Bommer Dance Academy, and became more serious about her training at the age of 7. Now, under the tutelage of Nadine and ballet teachers Jay Augen and Roz Sobol, Gaya is bound for the YAGP in New York City. There she will perform one of Swanhilda’s variations from Coppélia as well as a contemporary solo choreographed by her mother in the hopes of placing in the top twelve at the Pre-Competitive level.
Gaya’s trajectory to this elite competition was a quick one. Though Gaya always displayed an aptitude for dance, it was not until this summer that her singular talent became evident. While accompanying Nadine, who was teaching in Europe, Gaya entered her first international competition and won first place. She was subsequently invited to the semifinals of the YAGP in Italy.
Even at this stage, the presence of an Israeli was of note. Nadine recalls, “When we were in the semifinals, they even talked about it that Israel was in this competition for the first time. It was also a surprise for them . . . They come from each country of the world with a big group, because they don’t bring only dancers at the Pre-Competitive age; they also bring the other ages. And when they called [the group from] Israel to come and present ourselves, only Gaya came!”
In Italy, Gaya drew attention not just for her nationality but for her fine performance. Impressed, the judges advanced her to the finals in New York, which begin on March 21. There she will compete against approximately one hundred other dancers in her age group.
Nadine, who herself has won awards for her choreography including the crowd favorite prize at the 2009 No Ballet Competition in Germany, hopes that Gaya will not only shine in her classical variation but stand out from the crowd in her contemporary solo, Wild Horses. “I think she’s very unique in her contemporary piece of mine . . . I made something that I think will be interesting for [people at YAGP] to see, because what we do in Israel is really different in contemporary dance,” Nadine reflects.
Regardless of the outcome, simply to participate in the YAGP finals is a major achievement for Gaya. “For us, for Israel to have a ballerina or a dancer in this competition . . . it’s a very big, big, big, huge thing!” Nadine marvels. “I’m happy she’s going to have this experience.”