- Associated Press - Friday, March 21, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The USA International Ballet Competition invited 109 competitors from 21 countries to compete in Jackson this summer, and withdrawals have already whittled that number to 102 and 20 countries.

That’s not unexpected, as injuries, jobs, other commitments and money can play a role in whether dancers who applied are actually able to make the trip to Jackson and compete.

The 2014 USA IBC will be held June 14-29 in Jackson, Miss. The IBC is not a numbers game, but one of artistry. Decisions by dance adjudicators on the selection panel weeks ago are final. The invitees are the invitees; there is no waiting list.

Four Brazilian dancers who applied and were invited can’t come because of lack of money. One cited the difficulty of getting a sponsor for ballet in Brazil; “love to go … but we cannot afford the expenses,” she said by email. Other Brazilian dancers mentioned that flight prices were high because of the World Cup in Brazil about the same time, IBC artistic administrator Hannah Renegar said.

“We had so many Brazilian dancers who applied and auditioned, and then to see four dropping out, my first thought was … it may have something to do with finances,” which can run into the thousands, IBC executive director Sue Lobrano said.

Dancers are responsible for furnishing costumes for all three rounds. Sometimes, those are borrowed. Other times, they’re made specifically for variations competitors will dance, Renegar said. For contemporary works, they may need to commission a choreographer or get rights to a performance that already exists, both of which cost money. Some turn to community fundraising to help foot the bill.

“You have thousands wrapped up in costumes alone,” Lobrano said. It’s not unusual for dancers to go through a pair of pointe shoes a week when they’re training at this level. “Then, you have the airfare.”

The IBC is not able to provide airfare for dancers, but the Peggy Mize Foundation provides a $1,000 stipend, to be used any way they want, for dancers moving forward into Round III of the competition. It’s not awarded until dancers reach that stage.

“We always hope that that would encourage more dancers to attend,” with the potential of a cash award for finalists, medal or no, Lobrano said.

Among competitors coming, the United States supplies the highest number with 32. Coming next are Japan, with 16 (following one dancer’s withdrawal), Brazil now with 10 and the Republic of Korea with 9.

“We have heard back from most all of the dancers,” Lobrano said.

The 102 competitors include 30 senior women, 28 senior men, 33 junior women and 11 junior men.

As in 2010, there will be significant representation by Asian dancers, with competitors hailing, too, from the Peoples Republic of China, the Philippines and Mongolia.

The country count is fewer than in 2010, but not fewer than other previous competitions here, Lobrano said.

The selection panel judged competitor applicants based on their unique artistry.

“Overall, their choices were unique and different in styles of dancers,” Lobrano said. “We were fortunate to see a lot of different types.”

Competition spectators will be, too.

“This adds a lot of spice to what we’re going to see” in the competition, Labrano said.

Dancers vie for medals, company contracts and scholarships in America’s premiere competition.

The renovation of Thalia Mara Hall is proceeding “dead-on schedule,” CDFL architect Colby Dearman said, “and I’ve actually had things showing up before time.”

The USA IBC, held every four years in Jackson, is the official ballet competition of the United States, by a joint resolution of Congress.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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