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The final triumph: the winners at Jackson.

Melissa Hayden set me straight. "These are ordinary people who come here faithfully out of a genuine love for ballet," she said at a secondround (modern choreography) session of the Fifth USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) in Jackson, Mississippi. She was correcting my comment that the audience was a name-dropper's paradise of famed dancers like herself, stereotypically looking twenty years younger than their ages; this time they spanned the alphabet from Dame Sonia Arova to George Zoritch. But they were only the most recognizable of the many international ballet company directors, teachers, regisseurs, critics, and others in an unequaled audience for the young dancers from around the world. Talk about an audition opportunity!

Hayden's point, however, is as strong as her pointes were. Partly by default, Jackson is now the largest, most impressive IBC. But generally this quadrennial event feels more like a festival. Mississippi's governor, Jackson's mayor, and an incredible two thousand local volunteers take an active part. Jackson is like a refuge, an unreal oasis where, for sixteen days, anyone you talk to really thinks that ballet is centrally important and fascinating. More than the fun of looking at the ballet bods in bathing suits at the pool and Czechs and Germans eating catfish and grits is the surreal satisfaction of answering a local cop's question about a competitor's cabrioles.

Uniquely, Jackson's IBC includes an international school of master teachers that is also open to any competitor, and contestants eliminated after early rounds stay on at the IBC's expense to attend competition events and take classes. To aid in their development, they, as well as finalists who do not win medals, get positive evaluation that includes each juror's suggestions. The 1994 competitor evaluators were Ali Pourfarrokh and Maria Grandy. Dancers from eleven countries who did not go on to later rounds worked with young choreographers in a workshop directed by Cleveland Ballet director Dennis Nahat, creating and performing a work to open the final awards ceremony gala. Nahat and Ann Reinking were the lively emcees announcing all sessions.

This year's events included special classes on the Pilates method and on the care of the injured dancer, a demonstration and performance by Chuck Davis's African-American Dance Ensemble, concerts and lectures including two by critic Clive Barnes, exhibits on Mississippians Eudora Welty and William Faulkner, special IBC exhibits on Edgar Degas and Michel Fokine (whose granddaughter lectured), and paintings and photos of ballets and former IBC winners. Add a food festival, the annual meeting of Regional Dance America, including a performance by six RDA regional companies, and a presentation of the Circle of Dance Award to Jackson's founder-artistic director, Thalia Mara, a pupil of Fokine.

Festivities began with a concert by the Mississippi Symphony in honor of Houston Ballet director Ben Stevenson; it featured a choir and vocal and instrumental soloists, all conducted by Houston's music director, Ermanno Florio. Former medalists from the Houston Ballet performed four of Stevenson's works for opening night, and guest artists--and former Jackson medalists--Katherine Healy and Jose Manuel Carreno danced the Don Quixote Pas de Deux; he was elegant as usual and she managed a series of fouettes that included quadruple and sextuple pirouettes. A gala awards ceremony concluded the festival.

By the start of the first (classical) round, the more than 200 applicants had been reduced to 131 competitors from thirty-seven countries and ended with 34 from thirteen countries; there was more than $60,000 in cash prizes given to those who won medals and awards. Among the countries represented were several that didn't exist at the last Jackson competition in 1990; for instance, there were two Germanies then and now there is one. The overall level of talent was not as spectacularly high as in 1990, but the junior women were an astoundingly strong category. Artistry was rewarded when the Grand Prix was given to Denmark's Johan Kobborg, who is beyond mere technical display. Juror Vladimir Vasiliev seemed unhappy with most of what he was seeing when I talked with him, but he and Ekaterina Maximova liked Kobborg's dancing very much indeed. It said something about the contributions of Kobborg's two coaches, Frank Andersen and Margaret Mercier, both recently ousted from the Royal Danish Ballet, and about the Bournonville tradition that one hopes won't be. I think that gold medalist Dai Sasaki is being wrongly encouraged to push for virtuosity; he's better than that, as perhaps the jury saw, and as his present Russian coaches may emphasize. Four years ago here, as a teenager with a notorious Japanese coach, Sasaki was eliminated for--rather than in spite of--spectacular but vulgar tricks. Whatever happens elsewhere, Jackson is about maintaining artistic standards and developing complete young dancers.

Here is the 1994 Jackson IBC jury: Bruce Marks (U.S.) was chair and Doris Laine (Finland) and Vladimir Vasiliev (Russia) were cochairs; jurors were Laura Alonso (Cuba), Krassimira Koldamova (Bulgaria), Konstanze Vernon (Germany), Alexander Grant (Great Britain), Ivan Nagy (Hungary), Chetna Jalan (India), Kenji Usui (Japan), Patricia Aulestia Alba (Mexico), and Yu Yong (People's Republic of China).

USA International Ballet Competition Medalist

Grand Prix City of Jackson

Award of Excellence ($10,000) Johan Kobborg (age 22) Denmark

Senior Division

Male Gold Medal ($7,000) Dai Sasaki (21) Japan

Male Silver Medal ($5,000) Yury Yanowsky (20), Spain

Female Silver Medal, First Place ($5,000) Beate Vollack (26), Germany

Female Silver Medal, Second Place ($5,000) Marina Antonova (25), Russia

Male Bronze Medal ($3,000) Igor Antonov (25), Ukraine

Female Bronze Medal, First Place ($3,000) Mariko Miyauchi (22), Japan

Female Bronze Medal, Second Place ($2,000) Alexandra Koltun (23) U.S.

Female Bronze Medal, Third Place ($2,000) Tiekka Schofield (23) U.S.

Junior Division

Male Gold Medal ($2,500) Simon Ball (18) U.S.

Female Gold Medal ($2,500) Zenaida Yanowsky (19) Spain

Female Silver Medal, First Place ($1,500) April Ball (16) U.S.

Female Silver Medal, Second Place ($1,500) Kusha Alexi-Angst (17) Switzerland

Male Bronze Medal, First Place ($1,000) Ramon Moreno (20) Cuba

Male Bronze Medal, Second Place ($1,000) Michal Matys (18) Czech Republic

Male Bronze Medal, Third Place ($1,000) Roman Rykin (19) Russia

Female Bronze Medal ($1,000) Adela Pollertova (17) Czech Republic

Awards and Scholarships

Robert Joffrey Memorial Award of Merit ($500) Alexander Pereda (25) Cuba

Jury Award of Encouragement, Female ($500) Anna Dorosh (25) Ukraine Alma Munteanu (24) Romania

Jury Award of Encouragement, Male ($500) Yu Xin (25) People's Republic of China

Best Senior Couple ($1,000) Marina Antonova (25) Igor Antonov (25) Russia, Ukraine

Best Junior Couple ($600) Adela Pollertova (17) Michal Matys (18) Czech Republic

Best Noncompeting Partner, Male ($500) Dinko Bogdanic Gregor Seyffert

Best Noncompeting Partner, Female ($500) Larisa Ponomorenko

Gold Medal Choreography Award ($2,500) Dietmar Seyffert Robert Balogh

Heinz Bosl Foundation Scholarship Tamara Marie House (16 U.S.

International Ballet Council Scholarships

Junior Division Finalist

Jose Martin Trujillo (18) Spain Wei Ying Zhang (18) People's Republic of China
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Title Annotation:1994 International Ballet Competition at Jackson, MS
Author:Simpson, Herbert M.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1994
Words:1155
Previous Article:Laying the groundwork: USA International Dance School.
Next Article:America dancing: some highlights in the history of American regional ballet.
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