June 18-29, 1979

The First USA IBC

In the late 1970s, a group of people in New York City was searching for a home for the first United States international ballet competition. Members of this New York Committee included Donald Saddler, Jane Hermann, William Como, Natasha Deakin, Walter Terry and Genevieve Oswald. With their assistance and cooperation, the nonprofit corporation Mississippi Ballet International, Inc. (MBI), was created in 1978 to produce the first International Ballet Competition, which would be held in Jackson, Mississippi. 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, and the energy and commitment of the citizens of Jackson, the First USA International Ballet Competition was held in June 1979, featuring 70 dancers from 15 countries.

When planning began for the first competition, most people in the Jackson community were naturally not aware of the USA IBC. Even so, tickets to round III and the Awards Gala sold out, illustrating the power of the dancers’ performances.

Patrons who saw the dancers perform in the earlier rounds spread the word in the Jackson community about the quality of art the competition was bringing to Jackson.

The spirit of collaboration was alive in Jackson for the first USA IBC. An exhibition of dance-related art, titled DANCE IMAGE: A Tribute to Serge Diaghilev, was organized to provide the USA IBC audience with a visual idea of the ballet costume and set designs of the early 20th century. Additionally, a film festival of dance was held at the downtown Russell C. Davis Planetarium. The film festival showcased dance-related films such as Junction by Paul Taylor, Sue’s Leg by Twyla Tharp and Alvin Ailey – Memories and Visions.

During its inaugural year, the USA IBC became the first international ballet competition to host an International Dance School as a companion event to the competition. The International Dance School provided students and competitors with a valuable opportunity to study under the tutelage of widely recognized dance experts. At the conclusion of the first competition, a sanction was received from the International Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute (ITI) of UNESCO for the USA IBC, a distinction the competition still holds today. Thus, Jackson joined other ITI sanctioned competitions that rotated each year among Bulgaria (Varna, 1964), Russia (Moscow, 1967) and Japan (Tokyo, 1976).

Photo: 1979 medalists included, from left, David McNaughton of USA, senior men’s silver, and Lubomir Kafka of Czechoslovakia, senior men’s gold.


Senior Division


  • Lubomir Kafka (Czechoslovakia)


  • Jana Kurova (Czechoslovakia)
  • David McNaughton (USA)
  • Yanis Pikieris (Venezuela)


  • Davide Bombana (Italy)
  • Gregory Osborne (USA)
  • William Starrett (USA)
  • Libor Vaculik (Czechoslovakia)
  • Jo Ann McCarthy (USA)
  • Paola Cantalupa (Italy)
  • Etsuko Adachi (Japan)
  • Bronwyn Thomas (USA)
  • Dennis Marshall (USA)

Best Senior Couple:

  • Jana Kurova (Czechoslovakia)
  • Lubomir Kafka (Czechoslovakia)

Junior Division


  • Koenraad Onzia (Belgium)


  • Julian Montaner (USA)
  • Jessica Funt (USA)
  • Deirdre Carberry (USA)


  • Owen Montague (Canada)
  • Gretchen Newburger (USA)

Best Junior Couple:

  • Jessica Funt (USA)
  • Koenraad Onzia (Belgium)


  • Robert Joffrey, Co-Chairman, USA
  • Sophia Golovkina, Co-Chairman, USSR
  • Lucette Aldous, Australia
  • Jeanne Brabants, Belgium
  • Alexander Grant, Canada
  • Guillermo Keys Arenas, Mexico
  • Vera Kirova, Bulgaria
  • György Lörinc, Hungary
  • Pamela May, England
  • Ebbe Mørk, Denmark
  • Vincente Nebrada, Venezuela
  • Pavel Smøk, Czechoslovakia
  • Yukiko Tomoi, Japan

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