From June 10–23, 119 competitors from 19 countries will gather in Jackson, Mississippi, for the 11th USA International Ballet Competition. Held every four years, the USA IBC has helped launch the careers of dozens of stars, including Daniil Simkin, Misa Kuranaga and Brooklyn Mack. "The 2014 competition was good, but we're making this year better," says jury chairman John Meehan. Changes include broadened age limits for competitors and a larger sum of prize money. This summer's competition also has a special focus on Marius Petipa in honor of his 200th birthday. There will be an emphasis on Petipa repertoire, and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will give a workshop for competitors on his reconstructions of original Petipa choreography. This edition will also honor the legacy of Robert Joffrey, who was a catalyst in launching the USA IBC with founder Thalia Mara. Dancers from The Joffrey Ballet will perform in the opening ceremony.
John Meehan at the 2014 USA IBC. Photo by Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy USA IBC.
Meehan heads a nine-member jury of esteemed ballet professionals, each hailing from a different country. Jury members include The Joffrey Ballet artistic director Ashley Wheater, National Ballet of China director Feng Ying and Yuri Fateyev, acting director of the Mariinsky Ballet. For Meehan, the USA IBC stands out from other competitions with its longer length and excellent conditions. "The stage is great, no one has to rehearse at 2 am and people are really more settled," says Meehan. Southern hospitality also makes a big difference. "I think people often leave having made friends in the South, which is just wonderful."