/118 dancers make the cut for USA International Ballet Competition

118 dancers make the cut for USA International Ballet Competition

Susan Jaffe murmurs, “She’s beautiful,” She was amazing. No question. Wes Chapman agrees. This is a likely shoe-in for the 11th USA International Ballet Competition, (IBC), in Jackson in June. The IBC selection committee is made up of former principals of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and dance leaders. They review hundreds upon hundreds to decide who dance lovers will see on the stage this summer. On screen, the next competitor appears. This prompts comments about her overdeveloped muscles and poor training. Chapman says, “She has the potential.” She needs to take it up a notch.” Next Chapman: “Good… but …”. Jaffe describes her as “a little messy, but strong, and pretty.” She’s a good friend. They’ve been working together for two days, and now it is lunchtime. Chapman turns around and smiles sweetly at IBC staff after the last dance. They’ll then get into the deliberations. In 1979, the IBC was established in Jackson. A joint resolution by the U.S. Congress designated Jackson as the IBC’s official home in 1982. The International Theater Institute of UNESCO sanctiones the IBC in Jackson every four years. It is renowned for its illustrious history and high quality of judging. The USA IBC will bring attention to Jackson from June 10 through 23. It will be a two-week festival that celebrates dance. Competitors from all over the globe will compete for medals, cash awards and scholarships, as well as company contracts. There will be three rounds of contemporary and classic ballet. The first culling took place at The Westin, where the selection committee met. There were more than 300 applicants from 27 countries. The United States had the largest number of applicants. South Korea and Japan were next. The largest group was made up of junior females aged 14-18 years old. For Gisele Bethea, 15,’s gold medal win at Jackson 2014, USA IBC’s Brenda Trigg says, “We have called this ‘the Gisele Effect’.” The selection committee was charged with evaluating the 289 submissions. Some were submitted as soloists while others as couples. This would reduce the number of competitors by approximately two-thirds. Mona Nicholas, USA IBC executive Director, says, “It’s a pass-or-fail, basically.” Jaffe and Chapman have been friends since ABT. They also emceed 2014 USA IBC together. He is the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ dance chairman. She is the North Carolina School of the Arts’ dean of dance. Chapman states that they have similar jobs and do a lot in evaluating young talent. The process evaluates dancers’ artisticity, musicality, physicality, and technical skill. They say it’s not a tedious task, even though they had to sit through 20 variations of “Esmeralda”. Chapman admits that it can get monotonous, but they are used to this as judges for other types of ballet competitions. As they watch, a slew of checkpoints flash through their heads. “We are looking for their training. Are they well coordinated? Are they correctly utilizing their muscles? Are they able to approach the steps with clarity? Can they support the steps with strength? The list includes their port de bras, neck use, and clean footwork Jaffe. “We are from the same company. She says that she thinks we share very similar tastes and rarely disagree on the topic of who should be in the contest. Chapman states that it is usually quite obvious from my point of view very quickly. “There have been a few instances when we were proven wrong. In those cases, we would look at more solos to be sure and then we would go back and say, OK this kid was right.” Some even admitted to screaming, in order to keep their excitement from being overwhelmed by the sight of a strong and skilled dancer. Jaffe smiles, having gotten the best IBC preview. “I think it will be a really exciting contest.” At the conclusion of the deliberations, 118 dancers were chosen (plus five non-competing partners), representing 19 countries. Notifications were sent earlier this week to those applicants who did not make it through. The chosen 118 will now receive invitations. Trigg states that the set comprises 53 junior competitors (14-18 years old) and 65 senior competitors (19-19-28 years). Twenty of them are competing as couples, while a few others are returning competitors. In the coming days, names of competitors will be revealed. Three gold medalists from last year’s Moscow International Ballet Competition, and a Grand Prix winner of the Youth America Grand Prix New York finals are among those invited. All three applicants applied to compete at Jackson. The medalists were met by USA IBC leaders at the Moscow IBC. They all agreed that they wanted to visit Jackson. We love Jackson!'” Nicholas says. So, everyone knew Jackson. This is the dance competition that everyone wants to be part of. We’re known for being fair and honest. It’s a great time for them to be together. Even if they are eliminated, we invite them stay,” take class with Mathew Neenan, choreograph for an award-winning piece, continue to network, and be seen by company director. “Many of our competitors might not win a gold medal, but they’ll still get a job.” USA IBC ticket packages for the USA IBC are now on sale. This includes the opening ceremony featuring a performance from Joffrey Ballet dancers, the three rounds of competition in contemporary and classical ballet, and the awards gala. Individual tickets will be on sale starting March 19.