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The USA IBC is a two-week “olympic-style” competition where tomorrow’s ballet stars vie for gold, silver and bronze medals, cash awards, scholarships and jobs. It can be a stepping stone to a dancer’s career. The audience is filled with company directors interested in hiring dancers, and for this reason, many dancers leave with contracts. This is possibly the grandest prize of all.
Visitors from around the world can bask in a city rich in southern tradition and hospitality. A dedicated group of volunteers provide transportation, production assistance, medical services, class monitors, host families, merchandise sales, ushers, competitor hospitality, interpreters, information stations, juror’s hospitality, office assistance, signage, an International Village for the competitors, “dress-up” for the city (including the theatre; Belhaven University, host of the International Village; and the airport) and planning for parties, parties, parties!
For two exciting weeks, dancers from around the world, along with students and teachers, company directors and ballet patrons converge on this southern town to compete for prizes, study with master teachers, offer company contracts and enjoy some of the world’s best dance performances. The USA International Ballet Competition has become known as a Festival of Dance.
Founded in 1978 by Thalia Mara, the first USA International Ballet Competition took place in 1979 and joined the ranks of Varna, Bulgaria (1964); Moscow, Russia (1969); and Tokyo, Japan (1976). These first competitions were given sanction by the International Dance Committee of UNESCO’s International Theater Institute. Later, Helsinki, Finland replaced Tokyo and international ballet competitions now flourish worldwide. The USA IBC in Jackson remains one of the oldest and most respected competitions in the world. In 1982, the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating Jackson as the official home of the USA International Ballet Competition. Jackson held subsequent competitions in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.