MAC awards $26,010 operating grant to USA IBC

The USA International Ballet Competition has been awarded a $26,100 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC). This grant is a portion of the $1.3 million in grants the Commission will award in 2018-2019 and will help the USA IBC fund operations and programming. The grants are made possible by continued funding from the Mississippi Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Arts organizations throughout the state of Mississippi play a pivotal role in sharing the power of the arts with people from all walks of life,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “The arts are for everyone, and the Mississippi Arts Commission is pleased to support arts organizations committed to growing the presence of the arts in their communities.”

The USA IBC is the official international ballet competition for the United States, as designated by a Joint Resolution of Congress. Held in Jackson every four years, the competition attracts dancers and visitors from around the world and generates a multi-million-dollar economic impact for the state and capital city. In between competitions, the USA IBC presents a Reunion Gala performance by past medalists. It also sponsors CityDance, an ongoing ballet instructional program for students in the Jackson Public Schools.

The Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, serves residents by providing grants that support programs to enhance communities; assist artists and arts organizations; promote the arts in education; and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage.  Established in 1968, the Mississippi Arts Commission is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources.  The agency serves as an active supporter and promoter of arts in community life and in arts education.

For information from the Mississippi Arts Commission, contact Anna Ehrgott, Communications Director, 601-359-6546 or



Scholarship awards go to 19 USA IBC Dance School students

Fifteen ballet schools have awarded scholarships to 19 students of the 2018 USA International Ballet Competition Dance School. The awards were presented at the conclusion of the two-week school that was held in conjunction with the 11th USA IBC, June 10-23, in Jackson, Mississippi.

The 19 scholarship recipients were chosen from 104 dance students from four nations who completed the 2018 USA IBC Dance School. Students trained with leading teachers in ballet and contemporary dance daily and attended competition performances nightly. All classes met in the Bitsy Irby Visual Arts and Dance Center at Belhaven University, where students lived.

With amounts ranging from half tuition to full tuition for 2019 summer study programs, the scholarships were offered to the following students (alternates are in parentheses):

Kansas City Ballet – Amanda Kuebler, Colorado (Sarah Bedford, Mississippi);

Maryland Youth Ballet – Sage Jernigan, Alabama (Elle Herrington, Mississippi);

Next Generation Ballet – Wilton McDowell, Mississippi; Polly Ryals, Florida; Devonna Curtis, Mississippi;

Oklahoma City Ballet – Bella Chelette, Louisiana (Camila Araujo, Lima, Peru);

Pacific Northwest Ballet – Isabelle Rhodes, Arkansas (Shelby Rambo, Louisiana);

Texas Ballet Theatre – Victoria Mungan, Mississippi (Blaire Shelton, Mississippi);

Anaheim Ballet – Naomi Felix Aldebol, Florida (Annabelle Mack, Louisiana);

Ballet Chicago – Alana Barasorda, California (Kathryn Lawrie, Mississippi);

Ballet West – Graham Barnes, Tennessee (Kristina Lorelli, Mississippi);

Carolina Ballet – Aubree Lavergne, Louisiana (Polly Ryals, Florida);

Cincinnati Ballet – Sammy Wheat, Mississippi (Cade Butler, Mississippi); Ellie Crawford, Alabama (Lotus Drada, Louisiana);

Grand Rapids Ballet – Maxyne LeBlanc, New Brunswick, Canada (Anna Leah Jolly, Mississippi);

Houston Ballet Academy – Gwyneth Smith, Tennessee (Kyla Downey, Arizona);

Joffrey Ballet School – Connor Batson, Mississippi (Kallie Green, Maryland); Elena Remez, Washington D.C. (Elizabeth Nelson, Missouri);

Joffrey Ballet Year Long School – Carlos de Quesada, Florida (no alternate).


USA IBC invites 119 dancers to compete in Jackson

JACKSON, Mississippi (March 14, 2018) – USA International Ballet Competition (USA IBC) officials announced today that 119 competitors from 19 nations have been invited to compete in the 2018 USA IBC, the official international ballet competition of the United States by a Joint Resolution of Congress. Held every four years in Jackson, Mississippi, the upcoming USA IBC is slated for June 10-23, 2018.

“The USA IBC showcases artistic excellence and provides a platform for dancers to test their skills against the highest international standards,” said Mona Nicholas, USA IBC executive director. “We anticipate a thrilling competition that will be life-changing for participants and exciting for audiences. Jackson is respected as a prestigious competition that launches dance careers.”

For the 2018 event, 53 of the selected competitors are juniors, ages 14 to 18, and 66 are seniors, ages 19-28. The United States has the highest number of competitors invited (52), followed by Japan (23) and Korea (14). Other countries represented by the selected competitors are Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Columbia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Philippines, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. See the full list here.

More than $150,000 in cash prizes will be awarded in addition to gold, silver and bronze medals; company contracts; apprenticeships and scholarships. All finalists (dancers who advance to Round 3 of the competition) will receive a $1,500 stipend.

The 2018 USA IBC—the 11th since 1979—will honor the legacy of Robert Joffrey, jury chairman for the first three Jackson competitions, with an opening ceremony performance by dancers appearing courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet. Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater will join members of the Gerald Arpino-Robert Joffrey Foundation in a presentation on Robert Joffrey, and the foundation’s Charthel Estner will conduct a master class in Joffrey’s teaching style. Alexei Ratmansky will be a featured speaker in the competition’s Arts & Lecture Series, presenting “200 Years of Petipa” to mark the bicentennial of Marius Petipa’s birth. Ratmansky will conduct demonstrations of Petipa choreography in the USA IBC Dance School, held concurrently with the competition. Edward Villella, National Honorary Chairman, will lecture on dancing for Balanchine. Olga Guardia de Smoak, a New Orleans organizer of the landmark Ballet Russes reunion in 2000, will lecture on the history of Ballet Russes and the making of the documentary that also will be shown. Victoria Rockhill Schneider of The HARID Conservatory will conduct the 2018 Teacher Training Program, focusing on the teaching of the School of Russian Classical Dance. For tickets visit

Outlets of Mississippi Donates Scholarships for Mississippians

JACKSON, Miss.  – The Outlets of Mississippi will provide six $1,500 scholarship awards for Mississippi ballet students enrolled in the 2018 USA International Ballet Competition Dance School, June 10-23, in Jackson.

The scholarships will help talented Mississippi youths participate in a unique and valuable summer dance experience, according to Mona Nicholas, USA IBC Executive Director.

“The USA IBC Dance School, held every four years during the competition, offers an opportunity to study with a distinguished international faculty and see top dancers from around the globe perform,” Nicholas said. “In sponsoring these scholarships The Outlets of Mississippi is demonstrating its commitment to our state’s young people and the arts.”

As the state’s largest outlet shopping destination, The Outlets of Mississippi became aware of the international ballet competition when the shopping center opened four years ago in Pearl, according to Kathy Hackshaw CSM, Director of Retail Operations/General Manager.

“The strenuous training and discipline that ballet offers to young people build both integrity and grace that last a lifetime,” Hackshaw said. “The Outlets of Mississippi is proud to be a sponsor of this prestigious event.”

Scholarship recipients will be selected in audition classes Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Mississippi Arts Center, 201 E. Pascagoula St. Audition class times are 10-11:30 a.m. for students ages 12-15 and noon-1:30 p.m. for ages 16-20. Eligibility guidelines for the USA IBC Dance School and Mississippi scholarships are available at Questions may be directed to Arianna Marcell, Dance School Administrator, at 601-355-9853, ext. 3.

The 325,000 square-foot Outlets of Mississippi features a collection of more than 80 leading designer and name brands with savings of up to 65 percent off regular retail prices. Visit for more information.

The USA IBC is the official international ballet competition for the United States, designated by a Joint Resolution of the U.S. Congress. The two-week event draws competitors and audiences from approximately 25 nations to Jackson. Approximately 160 students are expected to attend the Dance School. Visit for more information.

Raffle offers chance to win 2018 USA IBC ticket package

Support the USA IBC with your purchase of a $25.00 raffle ticket by Thursday, Nov. 16, and you could win a Ticket Package for the 2018 competition. The package includes one ticket to the Opening Ceremony, all Round 1, 2 and 3 performances, and the Awards Gala, a value of more than $400.

Drawing will be held at the 2017 Friends of the USA IBC Membership Party Thursday evening, Nov. 16. You do not have to be present to win.

March 2 is deadline to apply to 2018 USA IBC Dance School

The USA IBC Dance School welcomes an eminent international faculty to Jackson June 10-23, 2018, for a two-week dance intensive running concurrently with the 11th USA International Ballet Competition.

Targeted to pre-professional ballet students between ages 12 and 20, the school will enroll from 150 to 175 students who have a minimum of four years of ballet (including one year of pointe for girls). All classes will be held in the state-of-the-art dance studios of Bitsy Irby Visual Arts and Dance Center at Belhaven University.

Directing the 2018 school is David Keary, artistic director of Ballet Mississippi. Keary, who danced with New York City Ballet, has assembled a faculty with training in Russian, American, Bournonville and other ballet styles, as well as modern and jazz. The faculty members’ collective experience encompasses American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey, New York City Ballet, Kirov Ballet, St. Petersburg State Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet.

Faculty members include: Charles Askegard, Petrusjka Broholm, Carlos dos Santos, Zhanna Dubrovskaya, Fabrice Herrault, Maria Konrad, Svetlana Osiyeva, Rhodie Jorgenson and Marcus Alford.

The USA IBC Dance School offers students the unique opportunity to see world-class dance performances during the three rounds of the competition. “Seeing competitors perform nightly is the crown jewel of attending,” Keary notes. “It’s enthralling. It’s uplifting, and it gives students an idea of the level of commitment it takes to dance professionally.”

Click here for more information and to apply. Deadline for application is March 2.

Kit Whitsett Fields is 2018 USA IBC official artist

Kit Whitsett Fields has been selected as the official artist for the 11th USA IBC. Fields’ painting—to be featured on the commemorative poster, program and other promotional materials—will be revealed at a fall press conference to announce details of the June 10-23, 2018, competition.

“I never considered that I would actually be part of the USA IBC as the artist─especially with so many great artists here,” said Fields, a Jackson, Mississippi, native. “It is very humbling. Nothing is as exciting as watching the best dancers in the world competing here in Jackson. I am so proud that this spectacular competition is held in our city and state.”

The 2018 artist was selected by a committee made up of USA IBC board and community members and art professionals. Fifteen Mississippi artists were invited to submit sketches for consideration, and six artists responded with their work.

Fields began painting professionally in 1995 and has studied with renowned and accomplished artists. Her work has been juried into and received awards in multiple local and regional shows, including the Southern Watercolor Society, Mississippi Grand National Exhibition and the Mississippi Watercolor Society.  She is a signature member of the Mississippi Watercolor Society and Southern Watercolor Society, as well as a member of the Jackson Watercolor Group and the Gaddis Group. Often depicting scenes of everyday life in the south, her pieces are displayed in public, corporate and private collections.

The tradition of showcasing a Mississippi artist’s work on USA IBC materials began in 1990, when Eleanor Greaves’ painting of dance costumes (including a tutu of founder Thalia Mara) was featured. Other official artists have included Mississippians Lynn Green Root, William Baggett, Kennith Humphrey, P. Sanders McNeal, Brent Funderburk and Andrew Bucci.

CityDance Recital concludes busy school year


Sixty students in the CityDance after-school ballet program completed the 2016-2017 school year May 18 with a recital at Belhaven University Center for the Arts.

The five classes, under the direction of instructor Kathryn Wilson, presented selections from the Camille Saint-Saëns suite, Carnival of the Animals. Approximately 300 family members and friends attended.

Sponsored by the USA International Ballet Competition, CityDance provides free ballet classes, dance wear and dance shoes for approximately 75 students enrolled in the Jackson Public Schools. The program receives support by the City of Jackson and Hinds County Board of Supervisors; grants from the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, Greater Jackson Arts Council, and Mississippi Arts Commission; and donations from individuals.

Friends of the USA IBC Kentucky Derby fundraiser -Buy your ticket here!

Jockeys & Juleps is the theme for this year’s annual Friends of the USA International Ballet Competition fundraiser, a Kentucky Derby party, Saturday, May 6. Festivities will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the home of Rachel and John Ravenstein, 2377 Twin Lakes Circle in Jackson.

Be a Host Sponsor

Buy a Derby Party Ticket

Buy a Raffle Ticket

In addition to watching the televised race, guests will enjoy opportunities to participate in a Derby Day Raffle, Derby Day Winner’s Circle, and hat and tie contest. Raffle tickets, $20 each, give the purchaser a chance to win a ticket package for the 2018 USA IBC, June 10 – 23. The ticket package has a value of $497 and includes one ticket to every performance excluding the Encore Gala. With the purchase of a $25 Winner’s Circle ticket, available only at the party, you are a guaranteed winner of one of the fabulous prizes.The afternoon promises to be an exciting and eventful soiree!

Tickets are $75 per person, which includes scrumptious Derby Day fare, traditional Mint Juleps and other refreshing libations.

CFGJ grant helps fund CityDance ballet classes

The USA International Ballet Competition CityDance program is completing its second year of a three-year grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson. Through the support of CFGJ and other grantors, including the Mississippi Arts Commission and Greater Jackson Arts Council, CityDance provides ballet instruction, dance wear and dance shoes to approximately 80 students from the Jackson Public Schools. Classes are held after school at the Mississippi Arts Center in downtown Jackson.  CityDance students, under the direction of instructor Kathryn Wilson, will present their 2017 recital at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at the Belhaven University Center for the Performing Arts.

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