The USA International Ballet Competition (USA IBC) is one of the year’s most anticipated events in the world of performing arts. Among Bulgaria, Russia, and Finland serving as host-countries to the world-renowned competition, America’s official international ballet competition is held in the Deep South, in Jackson, Mississippi. In mid-June, dancers will gather from 19 nations to participate in the World Cup of ballet, competing in classical, contemporary, and combined categories, with the hopes of stunning jurors and audience members alike.
It can be difficult, as an average viewer, to decide what the judges (known as “jurors” in the world of dance) actually look for when assessing a competitor’s performance, as dance is an art form and not a sport. Spectators who know little about ballet may not recognize the degrees of difficulty in the dancers’ pirouettes and cabrioles as jurors and experienced dancers will.
So, what is it that makes a dancer stand out, and what advice is useful to those who have little familiarity with the finer points of ballet? John Meehan, 2018 jury chair of the USA IBC and professor of dance at Vassar College in New York, offered a few tips to those who may be attending the competition for the first time.
The USA IBC is a two-week, “Olympic”-style competition where tomorrow’s ballet stars vie for medals, cash awards, company contracts, and scholarships. The event is designated as the official international ballet competition in the United States by a Joint Resolution of the Congress. Presented under the auspices of the International Dance Committee, International Theatre Institute of UNESCO, the USA IBC is held every four years in Jackson, Mississippi, in the tradition of sister competitions in Varna, Bulgaria, and Moscow, Russia. The USA IBC is a member of the Council of International Dance and the International Federation of Ballet Competitions. Both the USA IBC and its founder, Thalia Mara, are designated “American Masterpieces” through a National Endowment for the Arts initiative.