Poised, passionate, sophisticated: all words that could be used to describe the late Princess Grace of Monaco and yet these adjectives could also apply to Her Royal Highness’s most recent cause, John Mark Giragosian, 17. The Stonewall Jackson High School student is a 2006 winner of the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Scholarship Award.
“I am very honored to receive it. I know how prestigious this award is, the history behind it, and the famous ballet dancers who have won it in the past,” said the Catharpin native.
After completing an application, writing an essay and sending in videotapes of two of his dance variations (one classical, one contemporary), Giragosian was one of seven scholarship winners for 2006, and the first recipient from the Maryland Youth Ballet.
“For his age, John Mark Giragosian separates himself from other emerging dancers with astounding maturity of craft that is layered over a facile instrument of grace, technique and strength. He does not just etch steps. His interpretative skills resound from the inner core of self,” said Bonnie Oda Homsey, arts advisor and chair of dance for the Princess Grace Foundation USA.
For Giragosian, the passion for dance began at age 4, when he watched his sister perform in “The Nutcracker.” Though his parents were initially reluctant to enroll their son in classes, Giragosian was determined and eventually broke them down into signing him up for dance.
Giragosian quickly outgrew his local ballet studio, and at age 10 joined the Academy of Maryland Youth Ballet. Despite being 1 1/2 hours away, Giragosian was focused on working with teachers and in an environment where they would help him hone his chosen profession, which he found at this school. It was at the Academy of Maryland Youth Ballet where he met Oliver Munoz, a principle dancer with the Cleveland Ballet for 14 years), who is now his main teacher and coach.
“Mr. Munoz began teaching me when I was in sixth grade, and he was always one of my favorite teachers. When I was in ninth grade, he began coaching me privately for our first competition and he has been my coach ever since,” said Giragosian.
At age 14, he entered his first ballet competition. The idea was introduced by a visiting teacher from
the Bolshoi Ballet who was very impressed with Giragosian.
“John Mark, you should go to the Youth America Grand Prix,” Giragosian recalled the teacher saying to him.
After performing well at the Grand Prix in New York City, Giragosian and Munoz decided to add these competitions to the syllabus.
“It gave us both short- and long-term goals to work towards, plus it was a great opportunity to meet and be seen by professional dance companies,” said Giragosian.
In recent years, Giragosian has competed in several international ballet competitions including the Helesinki International Ballet Competition, National Society of Arts and Letters Competition and the American Ballet Competition, where in 2006 he won first place.
For Giragosian, The Princess Grace Foundation Dance Scholarship Award could be just another win to add to his already impressive dance resume.
Yet the award has a very special meaning to him because of its prestigious history. Past Princess Grace winners include Michele Jimenez (now a dancer with the Washington Ballet), Stephanie Walz (principal dancer, Maximum Dance Company), and even Tony Kushner (Tony-award winning playwright). Giragosian aspires for the same success as these previous Princess Grace recipients.
“I would like to become a professional dancer. I’m graduating high school in a year and hopefully I will get a position at a dance company, ideally the American Ballet Theatre,” said Giragosian.
In the meantime, Giragosian continues to work for his International Baccalaureate degree, taking five classes in the morning and two at night, working around his ever busy dance schedule.
Giragosian heads to New York City in November to formally receive the Princess Grace award at a black-tie gala hosted by Larry King and attended by Prince Albert II of Monaco.
“I am looking forward to meeting Prince Albert of Monaco because I have never met royalty before and I am eager to receive this award from him. I am just honored to have received this award, I love dancing and performing,” he said. “When you are performing, you get to share your hard work with this audience who will hopefully appreciate your effort. I love sharing my art, the beauty of dance.”
ON THE NET