The celebration of next year’s USA International Ballet Competition kicked off Wednesday morning at Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson. The hall will also house seventeen performances within the competition, which will begin June 10 and run through June 23, 2018.

One hundred ballet dancers, ages 14 to 28, from approximately 40 states and 25 nations will be taking their talents to Jackson to compete in one of the world’s most prestigious dance events. The USA IBC is a two-week “Olympic-style” competition where tomorrow’s ballet stars vie for gold, silver and bronze medals; cash awards collectively totaling $100,000; and professional contracts.

“There is incredible power in the arts to inspire and influence. I believe that to be the mission of the IBC, and that is also the mission of the city of Jackson,” said Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “We’re most appreciative of this moment as we look to provide the very best to our citizens. It is competitions like this that truly raise the value of living in our city.”

Unveiled at Wednesday’s kickoff, the 2018 commemorative poster features a watercolor painting by Jackson artist Kit Fields. “To have my work selected for the poster is very humbling, especially with so many great artists in Mississippi,” she said.

An opening-day ceremony will honor Robert Joffrey, the dancer and choreographer who worked with USA IBC founder Thalia Mara to launch the Jackson competition in 1979. The ceremony will feature a guest performance by Joffrey Ballet dancers. Joffrey chaired the first three USA IBC juries.

Former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer John Meehan will chair the 2018 jury. “The USA IBC is about more than medals,” Meehan stated in a press release. “It’s a celebration of dance that reflects the highest standards of artistic excellence.”

For the first time, spaces in the Jackson Convention Complex will be transformed into rehearsal studios for visiting dancers. A couple of blocks over, an arts and lectures series and a film festival will take place at the Russel C. Davis Planetarium. Just north of downtown, more than 100 competitors will make Millsaps College their temporary homes for two weeks. And just minutes down the way, Belhaven University will host the USA IBC Dance School, held concurrently with the competition. 

The most recent USA IBC took place a little over three years ago and generated a total economic impact of $12.1 million for the state of Mississippi, according to a study by the Department of Economic Development at the University of Southern Mississippi. More than 40,000 people attended the competition, the USA IBC Dance School and other special events.

Ticket package sales for access to the competition and its events open to International Ballet Association members Jan. 12, 2018, and to the public Feb. 12, 2018. Individual tickets go on sale March 19, 2018. Group discounts are available by advance reservation.

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Sereena Henderson managed Mississippi Today’s social media and reported on Mississippi culture from August 2016 until June 2020. She was also a member of the engagement team and curated and delivered the daily newsletter. Sereena, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a graduate of the Ole Miss School of Journalism and New Media.

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