Hundreds of young dancers from around the world have gathered this weekend to compete in the prestigious Youth American Grand Prix {YAGP).

The semi-final event was held this year in San Diego and is one of dozens around the world that kicked off starting last fall. Competitions have already taken place in China, Spain, Brazil, Canada, and a number of cities in the United States. The competition continues on in San Francisco, Austin, and Kansas City. The Grand Prix is a non-profit educational organization and is the world’s largest and one of it’s most prestigious international ballet competitions.

Of the many thousands of dancers who have competed at the YAGP over the years, about 450 have gone on to top companies around the world, including the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Paris Opera Ballet, Canada’s National Ballet School, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

The mission of the Grand Prix is to provide educational and professional opportunities to young dancers, acting as a stepping stone to a professional dance career by offering scholarships or job opportunities to dancers ages 9 to 19. Since it’s inception, YAGP has awarded more than 3.5 million dollars in scholarships.

The regional competitions are also filled with opportunities beyond auditions, with chances to participate in classes and workshops put on by some of the most well-known names in ballet. The competition also provides an opportunity for dancers to catch the eye of talent scouts for schools and professional dance companies that attend the events, looking out for the best ballerinas.

Young dancers have worked hard to perform complex choreographed routines with perfectly-timed movements for a rapt audience and a panel of judges, which includes world-class ballet teachers and officials. Fewer than a dozen of the roughly 400 dancers that register for the event will proceed to the 19th annual finals in April at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. The finals will be held between April 13th and 20th