Atlanta seems to be a charmed city for ballet students from Sarasota.
The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, founded by former Sarasota Ballet principals Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez just three years ago, won top school at last year's Atlanta regionals of the Youth American Grand Prix ballet competition and Serrano and Hernandez's son, Francisco Serrano, took home the Grand Prix, the top award.
This weekend, the school took an even larger group back to Atlanta -- and returned with even more awards. The pinnacle was Gabriella Stilo's Grand Prix award in the Junior Division, with the top scores among all the junior competitors in both classical and contemporary styles. Adriana Baez-Hitchcock, competing in the Senior Division, took first in classical and second in contemporary. In the Senior Men's Division, Lenin Valladares took first in contemporary and placed in the top 12 in classical. Francisco Serrano and Stilo placed first in the pas de deux division (which has no age categories). And Cecilia Baez-Hitchcock and Emma Town placed in the top 12 in the Junior and Senior Divisions respectively.
A dozen students from the Sarasota Ballet's Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance also made a strong showing among the 400 competitors and 900 entries. Olivia Ratner and Eddie Duffy placed second in pas de deux; Rachel Silverman took second in the junior classical division, and Yamil Maldonado placed third in classical among the senior men. Ratner finished in the top 12 Juniors in the classical division, while Caitlin Gish finished in the top 12 Seniors in the contemporary division.