- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Dancers from The Republic of Korea have scored more medal wins than any other country represented at the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (http://on.thec-l.com/1sL45sA) only two American dancers, both in the women’s junior division (ages 15-18) - Gisele Bethea and Mackenzie Richter - leaped into the medals lineup. Bethea won gold; Richter won silver.

Both 15-year-old girls said they were shocked by the win.

“I was just amazed, shocked, really,” Bethea said of her win. “I was really just astonished.”

“I wasn’t expecting anything at all. It’s so cool,” Richter said.

Bethea said the two are friends and have gotten closer during the competition. “As Americans, I guess we just, like, stuck together. But it was fun, because we were representing, and we represented well, I guess.”

Many crowd favorites will be dancing again in Saturday’s C Spire Awards Gala and Sunday’s Encore Gala.

Republic of Korea’s Jeong Hansol, 21, said he was numb at first, but reality settled in when he took gold in the IBC’s most competitive field, the senior men’s division.

Thursday night, he won raves with command and charisma in classical roles and laughs and much applause in the comedic, contemporary “Forgot Something.” The “something” was his pants; Chaplin-esque moves, a tailcoat and hat hides over hot pink briefs illustrated a funny, near universal nightmare.

Comedy’s not his usual repertory, he said, chuckling, through interpreter Howard Chong. He’ll dance “Don Quixote” in the awards gala.

Byul Yun, 19, also of The Republic of Korea, won silver. He said through interpreter Chong that he’d been to many competitions in the world, “but this one was one of the best. … This competition was one I dreamed of when I started dancing.”

Brazil scored three bronzes with dancers who earlier this week captivated an audience that responded with a near rock-star welcome and audible buzz for junior couple Yasmin Lomondo and Gustavo Carvalho and senior Ivan Duarte.

“We are so happy!” Carvalho, 18, said. Through interpreter Marisa Gamblin, they said the crowd’s energy helped so much. “They reacted to the energy they have, because as Brazilians, we have that energy. We have that response from the audience.”

Duarte, 19, said he’ll dance his contemporary “Field Boy” at the gala.

“To get a medal, any medal, is just really exceptional,” bronze medalist Aaron Smyth, 23, of Australia, said, adding he was “completely honored.”

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