The USA International Ballet Competition, or USA IBC, is one of the world's top competitions for ballet.〔http://www.usaibc.com/〕 Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this competition is attended by dancers from all over the world to represent their country for bronze, silver, or gold medals in a variety of categories of ballet in an Olympic-style competition.
Founded in 1978 by Thalia Mara (), the first USA International Ballet Competition took place in 1979. This first competition was given sanction by the United Nations' International Dance Committee of UNESCO’s International Theater Institute ().
In 1982, the United States Congress passed a Joint resolution designating Jackson, Mississippi, as the official home of the USA International Ballet Competition. Competitions occur every four years in Olympic style.
The International Ballet Competition (IBC) originated in Varna, Bulgaria in 1964. The competition eventually expanded to rotating annual events in (Varna ), Moscow and Tokyo. In 1979 the event first came to the United States in Jackson, Mississippi, where it now returns every four years.〔Bradshaw, Nicole, editor; “VIII International Ballet Competition”; 2006; souvenir program
〕 The rotation is currently among Jackson, Varna, New York (), Helsinki () and Shanghai (). A number of other international competitions are also sanctioned by UNESCO International Dance Council ().
After a distinguished career as a teacher in New York City, Thalia Mara moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to start a new professional company. That company has transitioned through the years and is now Ballet Mississippi and is under the direction of David Keary. In the late 1970s a group in New York City was looking for a site to hold an international competition in the United States. Thalia Mara successfully lobbied for Jackson as the site because it would give the competitors a taste of Middle America and it would help build interest in the ballet for her struggling new company.〔Interview with Thalia Mara by William Fulton in "USA International Ballet Competition 1994 Highlights" broadcast on Mississippi Educational Television in 1994.〕 When asked why the competition was held in Mississippi, Bruce Marks said "New York is New York but Jackson is America."〔Bruce Marks speaking at IBC Gala performance broadcast on Mississippi Educational Television in 1990〕
Ms. Mara put together an organization to raise funds and run the event. Hundreds of local volunteers supplemented the paid staff that first year. Capitalizing on the popularity of local sports the competition was marketed as the Olympics of Ballet.〔 That first competition in 1979 faced an extra hurdle when the Jackson Municipal Auditorium was flooded just months before the competition.〔(NWS Jackson, MS - Weather Events - 1979 Flood )〕 The last two weeks of June saw 70 dancers from 15 countries competing in front of several sold out performances.
After this first event the International Dance Committee of the (International Theatre Institute ) of UNESCO sanctioned the competition. Just before the Second USA IBC in 1982 the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating Jackson as the official home of the IBC.〔
This first USA IBC added several features that were not found in other competitions. Participants were invited to remain after elimination and encouraged to dance in a special performance at the awards gala. Every competitor and judge was paired with a local host family. A dance school was held concurrently with the competition so students could attend class with world class instructors during the day and attend the competition each night.〔
In 1994 the performance hall in Jackson, Mississippi where the USA IBC is held was renamed in honor of Thalia Mara.〔 She died in Jackson on October 8, 2003.〔(About Thalia Mara )〕
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