Celebrating 35 Years of Ballet

USA IBC Best Senior Couple, 2010: Zhang Xi (left), bronze medalist, and Cao Shuci, gold medalist, both of China.

Every four years, aspiring ballet professionals from all over the world trek to Jackson, Mississippi, to compete in the USA International Ballet Competition. America's official international ballet competition will celebrate its 10th installment, June 14–29. The 2014 Dance School and Teacher Training Program will run in conjunction.

This year, Edward Villella (DT, January 2013) is international jury chair and Luigi (DT, September 2003) is the first jazz master to serve as honorary chairman. Luigi's appointment might seem a surprise choice for a ballet competition, but executive director Sue Lobrano views it as a chance to honor him for a lifetime of achievement. "He's a legend," she says. "We just wanted to thank him for what he's doing for dancers."

Former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and American Ballet Theatre dancer Roni Mahler will lead the teacher training program. Those who take part--instructors both with and without students in the competition--will get the chance to observe the dance school and competition classes and attend a Balanchine panel led by Villella.



Photo by Richard Finkelstein, courtesy of USA IBC

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Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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