Young artists gather for week of inspiration in Miami

Miami dancer Melanie Ramos has been entering dance competitions since she was seven years old. But being named a finalist with YoungArts – one of 171 teenage artists selected from 11,000 applicants from around the country – is the biggest contest she’s ever won in her life.

But Ramos, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Tuesday with six hours of intensive dance classes, a light schedule for YoungArts Week, the marathon of artistic mentoring for those extraordinarily talented 171 kids, wasn’t worried about competing. "I’m just happy to be here," Ramos, a senior at New World School of the Arts, said on Tuesday. "We’re all winners."

They sure are. Those 171 young artists - in dance, music, theater, film, visual art, writing and design – go through a potentially life-changing experience this week in Miami. Not just because of the classes and coaching from famous and accomplished teachers (Ramos’ mentors on Tuesday, for classes at Miami City Ballet, were former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers Aubrey Lynch II and Nasha Thomas-Schmitt). But because the self-examination, the facing up to their weaknesses, and seeing how they measure up to – and connect with – kids as talented as they are, can give them the pride and resolve they’ll need to go on.

"You’re hungry," Lynch told his students. "You have to be this hungry all the time. Forever. Life takes that kind of commitment if you want to be in the game."

I follow Ramos and fellow finalist Jaime Korman, a designer from California, through their YoungArts experience, and bring it to the Miami Herald this weekend.

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