This is the year for the 10th USA International Ballet Competition to be held in Jackson, bringing dancers and visitors from around the world to Thalia Mara Hall June 14-29. Jackson is in prestigious company as it shares the honor of hosting this event with Varna, Moscow and Tokyo, and celebrates the 35th year as one of the rotating cities.
The competition has grown since it began in 1979 with 70 dancers from 15 countries. Sue Lobrano, USA IBC executive director, says total attendance for the competition and its ancillary events in 2010 was 34,235. Of that number, 27,040 ticket buyers came from 40 states, Puerto Rico and 10 foreign countries. The dance school drew 258 students from 28 states and two foreign countries.
“The event has a tremendous positive impact on the state’s image,” Lobrano said. “Local, state and national print media reached 57 million people. Online media impressions reached 1,998,000 people. Many people who attend have never visited Mississippi before, and they leave with good impressions of our state and hospitality.”
As part of the state’s creative economy, the IBC has a long tradition of partnering with businesses and organizations. Lobrano says Belhaven University hosts the International Village and houses the competitors, dance school students and teachers, and people visiting who choose to stay there. Jackson Academy has been added this year as a site for competitor rehearsals. Other partners include Millsaps College, Ballet Mississippi, Ballet Magnificat and the Mississippi Arts Center. Additionally, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Museum and Jackson State University provide studio space for the International Dance School, and the Mississippi Museum of Art will partner this June with some of the ancillary events held in the Art Garden.
“The 2010 economic impact study compiled for us by the Department of Economic and Workforce Development at the University of Southern Mississippi estimated the two-week USA IBC generated a $10.2 million impact for the state,” Lobrano said.
Two well-known dance companies will be coming to this year’s competition for the first time. They are Complexions Contemporary Dance, which will open the competition, and the Trey McIntyre Project, which will hold a two-day residency that includes a lecture and demonstration free to the public, a master class for dancers and present an evening performance. “Neither of these companies have performed in this region of the country before,” Lobrano said. “The USA IBC is known to bring major dance companies to perform during the event. Other ancillary events include a pointe shoe exhibit, IBC official artist Andrew Bucci artwork on exhibit, evening film screening in the Mississippi Museum of Art Garden and dance related workshops.”
The director explains the importance of community support. “We would not be able to present an event the stature of the USA IBC without the support of our community,” she said. “I have traveled to other important competitions and their events do not compare to ours in Jackson. This is because of the commitment of so many people; 800 to 1,000 who make up our 18 committees. The importance of community involvement is vital to our success.”
The first International Ballet Competition premiered in Varna in 1964 and eventually grew into a cycle of ballet competitions that rotated among the three cities of Varna, Moscow and Tokyo. In 1975, the Jackson Ballet Guild invited Thalia Mara, renowned ballet teacher and educator, to develop a professional ballet company and school for the state of Mississippi. As a part of her development plan, she introduced city leaders to the idea of ballet competitions and convinced them to secure the USA IBC for the city of Jackson.
In 1978, the nonprofit corporation, Mississippi Ballet International Inc., was created to produce the first International Ballet Competition in the United States. Robert Joffrey, renowned artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, agreed to chair the first international panel of jurors. With the help of local, national and international endorsements, combined with the energy and commitment of the citizens of Jackson, the first USA International Ballet Competition was held in June 1979.
In 1982, the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating Jackson as the official home of the International Ballet Competition. The second USA IBC was held the same summer with 78 dancers representing 19 countries. The 1982 competition was featured in a 90 minute ABC/PBS film, “To Dance For Gold,” which aired around the world. Subsequent competitions have enjoyed an ever-growing number of competitor applications in addition to worldwide publicity and acclaim.