The Arts Blog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Arts Blog


April 7, 2017

Oscars Rules Change for Animation, Documentary

By micah_smith

Several major changes are in store for the upcoming 90th Academy Awards following a meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Board of Governors on Tuesday, March 28.

March 29, 2017

The Return of Fondren After 5

By amber_helsel

After Chane announced earlier this month that he would no longer do Fondren's First Thursday, the event's future was up in the air. However, Fondren Renaissance Foundation recently announced that it will come back as Fondren After 5. Here is some information about the new FA5 directly from

Rotating presenters • Ever Changing Activities • Always Family Friendly

Fondren After 5 – Always First Thursdays – is a neighborhood open house, presented by the merchants and restaurants of Fondren – with opportunities to enjoy good food from one of our nearly two dozen restaurants, bakeries, bars and coffee shops and shop with our unique mix of merchants, mixed in with street-side fun.

In April, Duling Avenue, presented by Hals & Mal’s, Babalu Tacos & Tapasa, Saltine Oyster Bar, Abita Brewing and New Belgium Brewing, is the focus of activity with “Duling Avenue Live.”

Future months include:

May – Fondren Reniassance’s Arts Eats & Beats June – Duling Avenue Live July – State Street Concert Series August – Duling Avenue Live September – Duling Avenue Live October – State Street Concert Series November – Jackson Indie Music Week December – Fondren Renaissance’s Fondren Unwrapped

Welcomed by Fondren Renaissance, whose mission is to empower others to build a better Fondren!

CORRECTION: The original version of this story said Fondren Renaissance Foundation has taken the reins of Fondren After 5. However, for each event, different organizations and businesses such as FRF, Hal & Mal's and Saltine Oyster Bar will be in charge of FA5. The Jackson Free Press apologizes for this error.

March 16, 2017

Stray at Home Announces This Year's Makers

By amber_helsel

This year's Stray at Home is at Smith Park on May 13. This morning, organizers announced the 2017 makers. Here they are:

Alena G Vinet Designs

Blackjack Wax Co.

Bean & Bailey Ceramics

Lo Lady Fashion

Dot Products

Samara Thomas

Sam Clark Art


Ellen Langford

Mermaid's Purse

d+p Design Build

Bridgman Pottery

Wild and Free Designs


Wascome Woodworks

The Lovely Bee


Moxie Floral


Homegrown Studio

Melody & Shaun Thortis

Elizabeth Fowler

DCZ Designs

Moonflower Photography

LCJ Jewelry

Cristina Leis Calligraphy

Blending by Betty

Bailey Armstrong

Phelan Harris


For more information, visit

February 24, 2017

2017 Oscar Predictions

By amber_helsel

by Tyler Edwards

As a society, we love to project feelings and analogies on to big cultural events—the Patriots coming from behind for a shocking last-minute win the Super Bowl is just like Donald Trump winning the election, right?

Well, the Academy Awards are no different. The nominees all seem to represent some part of our current culture: America’s growing diversity in the African American and queer “Moonlight,” the plight of poor white America in “Hell or High Water,” the escapism of “La La Land,” the Trumpian patriotism of “Hacksaw Ridge” and the hard fought battles women of color face in “Hidden Figures.”

Despite living in tougher times post-election, this year’s batch of Oscar nominees are actually an encouraging beacon of diversity. After last year’s #OscarSoWhite controversy, the Academy decided to acknowledge an incredible slate of talent and diversity this year.

And while most of the awards appear to be “La La Land”’s to lose, don’t count out of some of the dark horses! So here is a handy guide to help you not lose your office Oscar-pool.

Best Picture

Predicted win: “La La Land” Dark Horse: “Hidden Figures”

Winning Best picture seems like a foregone conclusion for the hit musical “La La Land.” Despite being a movie about jazz staring two white people, “La La Land’s” escapism and joy—and Hollywood loving to award movies about itself—this is the safest bet for the night’s most coveted award. “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” are stunningly beautiful and poignant films, but they just aren’t going to have the popular appeal that “La La Land” does to bring home the Best Picture award. If anything does have a chance at upsetting “La La Land,” my money would be on “Hidden Figures.” While not the best film of the year, it’s the highest grossing of all the nominees and the way the best picture voting works could allow it to slip in under the radar.

Best Actor

Predicted win: Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) Dark Horse: Denzel Washington (“Fences”)

This award was in the bag for Casey Affleck and his incredible performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” but some late breaking sexual assault allegations have put a damper on some of his award-season buzz. While still the front-runner, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Denzel Washington take home the award for “Fences.”

Best Actress

Predicted win: Emma Stone (“La La Land”) Dark Horse: Natalie Portman (“Jackie”)

“La La Land” is going to rack-up on the lion’s share of the awards, but the only acting recognition it is going to get is for Emma Stone’s sure-fire win for Best Actress. Natalie Portman’s turn as Jackie Kennedy was the front-runner early on, but all the buzz around her performance seems to have faded. That being said, it’s never smart to count out Meryl Streep!

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted win: Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) Dark Horse: Dev Patel (“Lion”)

“Moonlight” was probably my favorite movie of the year, and while I would love ...

February 9, 2017

Rankine Lecture Postponed, Panel at Millsaps

By micah_smith

Poet and playwright Claudia Rankine has postponed her lecture at Millsaps College due to inclement weather in New York. The 2016 McArthur fellow and Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, was scheduled to speak on her book, "Citizen."

February 8, 2017

FFT the Remix

By amber_helsel

Ever since Chane's announcement last year that the future of Fondren's First Thursday was up in the air, many people have speculated what will happen to it. Fondren Renaissance Foundation put out a press release on FFT this morning. Here is the release verbatim.

Jackson, MS—Fondren's First Thursday, the monthly neighborhood street party held in Historic Downtown Fondren, will return on March 2, 2017 - with a twist.

Event organizer Ron Chane says "FFT Remixed" will be a new system of alternating presenters each month to expand the depth of creativity of the two-year-old event.

Included in this year's FFT slate are three State Street Concert Series events presented by Sneaky Beans and Rooster's, showcasing a headlining main stage act; the return of Fondren Renaissance's Arts, Eats & Beats, a 15-year-old Fondren tradition; a special art-focused night helmed by the Mississippi Museum of Art; and FRF's Fondren Unwrapped, on a new date, Dec. 7. Three FFT "Throwbacks," presented by Studio Chane, round out the year and will follow a structure similar to past year's first Thursday events. Two of these, June and September, will offer vendors opportunities.

"This event has taken two years to reach its creative maturity," says Chane, who will continue to guide and support the full roster of events for 2017. "This is still a positive night of people enjoying people, seeing our neighborhood from different perspectives. There will be an ebb and flow with much more variety. In short, something for everyone."

The events for 2017 are:

  • March 2 - State Street Concert Series presented by Rooster's and Sneaky Beans
  • April 6 - Fondren's First Thursday Throwback presented by Studio Chane
  • May 4 - Arts, Eats & Beats presented by Fondren Renaissance
  • June 1 - Fondren's First Thursday Throwback presented by Studio Chane
  • July 6 - State Street Concert Series presented by Rooster's and Sneaky Beans
  • August 3 - End of Summer
  • September 7 - Fondren's First Thursday Throwback presented by Studio Chane
  • October 5 - State Street Concert Series presented by Rooster's and Sneaky Beans
  • November 2 - Art Night presented by Mississippi Museum of Art
  • December 7 - Fondren Renaissance's Fondren Unwrapped presented by Bank Plus

For more information: Ron Chane - FFT - Jim Wilkirson - Fondren Renaissance - Byron Knight - State Street Concert Series - Nathan Glenn - State Street Concert Series - Julian Rankin - MS Museum of Art -

April 8, 2016

Midnight Modern Spotlight: Art in Flesh

By amber_helsel

Tonight, visitors can experience the Mississippi Museum of Art's "When Modern Was Contemporary" exhibit with the Party of the (Mid) Century benefit at 7 p.m., which leads way to Midnight Modern at 11:30 p.m.

The mid-century party, which is black and white formal attire (masks are encouraged), features a curated dinner, a live theater performance from New Stage Theatre, music and cocktails. Midnight Modern will have special exhibition tours, midnight snacks and more. But it will also feature something else … body painting from Art in Flesh.

Art in Flesh is the brainchild of artist Robeka Steam. The Boynton Beach, Fla., native says she started doing special-effects makeup after graduating from the Tom Savini's special-effects makeup program at the Douglas Education Center in Pennsylvania in 2004. Ever since a photographer commissioned her for body painting in 2007, she says she's done everything from children's parties to club events to college-campus meet and greets. She moved to Little Rock, Ark. in 2014, and then to Jackson in 2015.

She started doing her work under the name Art in Flesh around 2011. For it, she collaborates with other artists on body-paint designs. They have done many designs such as cyborgs, zombies, a fallen angel, a marble statue, Mother Earth and a frozen Ice Queen, among many other designs.

She says her favorite part of body painting is the fact that the canvas is living and breathing.

"Your canvas interacts with you; they laugh with you; they giggle," she says. "It's more personable. It's fun seeing the transformation. Each time you go into a body paint, it's a challenge, but in a wonderful way. You're constantly pushing yourself to do something different. I'm constantly thinking about different ideas, sketching, looking at reference. I never believe you're too good for reference. I always believe you've got to look at something."

In Jackson, she often works with DJ Rozz on events such as glow parties. She also did body painting for the Zombie Bash JXN Con after party at Hal & Mal's last December, among other events.

At the October 2015 Museum After Hours at the Mississippi Museum of Art, Steam and artists Jensen Jones and Carra Faith Spencer painted pop-art zombies. When she heard about the Midnight Modern, she approached Julian Rankin, the director of marketing and communications at MMA, about painting models like the works in the "When Modern Was Contemporary" exhibit. For the event tonight, she has about 12 to 15 models and is working with people such as Boston, Mass. artist Annie Medrano, Hattiesburg artist Chris Holzinger, Jackson area artist Anna Yoakum and Hattiesburg makeup artist Tori Faith to bring the pieces to life.

Steam says she's most excited about doing a body painting based on the art of Lee Krasner, who was Jackson Pollock's wife. "I really liked her work, and how she went about her process was contemporary and modern art. (It had) a lot of shapes and colors," Steam says. "I thought it would be really fun ...

April 7, 2016

Tonight is the April FFT

By amber_helsel

It's April 7, the first Thursday in April, which means Fondren's First Thursday is tonight.

Among the local vendors who will come out tonight and celebrate (including Jackson Free Press), other events are planned as well. The event begins at 3 p.m. today. At 7 p.m., teams can race down Duling Avenue in the Duling Dash. The teams, which are composed of two to three people wearing their wackiest clothes, have to compete in racing segments that include a shopping-cart push, toilet ride (you read that right) and a crab crawl. The winning team will receive, T-shirts, gift cards and other swag. Entry for the race is free. For teams who didn't get a chance to sign up before FFT, they will have a chance between 5 and 6:30 p.m.

The sixth annual Walk Against Traffick Jackson is also tonight. Those who want to participate can sign up at or at FFT itself. The event's proceeds will support The Hard Place Community's work against child sex trafficking. The event is from 5 to 9 p.m. The starting point is in front of Fondren Corner (2906 N. State St.). Participants will walk around Fondren, and the event will consist of about 10 miles. Groups are encourage to have six to 10 walkers with an individual fundraising goal of $100. People can make the donations themselves, or they can ask sponsors to support them for $1 per mile for 10 miles.

The Hustlers will play at Duling Hall from 5 to 8 p.m., and the Patterson Blaylock Photography Gallery will have live music from 5 to 8 p.m., as well as art from Laurin Stennis. The JXN Escape Room will bring a mini escape room to the Pix/Capri Theater from 6 p.m. until.

FFT will also have free DIY T-shirt printing, an outdoor pop-up art gallery, crowd-participation art, a Sneaky Beans dance party, a grand opening of technology start-up incubator Mantle, a Fondren Plaza music festival, a Mississippi Museum of Art pop-up event, a Kidzone, Duling Market, free outdoor yoga, craft beer, cornhole, dogs, food trucks, restaurant specials and other things.

For more information, visit the Fondren's First Thursday Facebook page.

March 24, 2016

Remembering Jim Dollarhide

By amber_helsel

Last week, the Mississippi film community lost a legend.

On Thursday, March 16, Jim Dollarhide's home near Lake Cavalier in Madison went up in flames, and on Wednesday, March 23, Madison County Coroner Alex Breeland confirmed that they found the filmmaker’s body in the wreckage.

Dollarhide was born in 1952 in Greenwood, Miss., where his father, Roger Freeman Dollarhide, ran a record store called Dollarhide Music Shop.

Jim attended Murrah High School and originally planned to become a photographer. When he learned that the United States Army was going to reinstate the draft, he joined to be part of the photo corps. Ultimately, he only spent six weeks in the army and later earned his GED. After that, he received a full scholarship for photography at Hinds Community College.

After Dollarhide dropped out of college, his friend, Sergio Fernandez, asked him about working on a TV commercial. It was then that he discovered his love for cinema.

In 1977, he founded Imageworks. After Jackson flooded in 1979, filmmakers Vilmos Zsigmod and Mark Rydell asked Dollarhide’s company to shoot footage for a 1984 film called "The River," which starred Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek.

After years of working under the Imageworks moniker, Dollardhide closed the company in 1998, though he started Dollarhide Film only a short time after.

Besides national commercial spots for brands such as Scope and NyQuil and award-winning campaigns, including his anti-tobacco spots, Dollarhide was best known for his documentaries. He scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary with the film "LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton," which made the connection between poverty and the lack of education opportunities for African Americans in the Mississippi Delta. The film won an award for Excellence in Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001. He also won the award for Best Director in the 1995 International Monitor Awards for "Harmonies: A Mississippi Overture."

In more recent years, Dollarhide created a B.B. King documentary for the B.B. King Museum in Indianola. The museum won a Muse Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in museum media, for the film in 2009. Dollarhide, along with filmmaker Gregg Wallace, had been working on updates to the documentary since King's death in 2015.

A wake for Jim Dollarhide will be at Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888) Thursday, March 24, from 5 to 9 p.m.

March 23, 2016

Middle Mississippi Writers Guild

By amber_helsel

If you're a writer in the Jackson metro area who has been looking to socialize with other writers, a new chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild is forming in central Mississippi.

Here's a news release from the Mississippi Writers Guild:

MADISON, MS: The Mississippi Writers Guild announces the formation of its newest chapter, the Middle Mississippi Chapter, which will serve members from Hinds, Rankin and Madison Counties and beyond. The Mississippi Writers Guild was formed in November 2005 to fulfill the need for a statewide writers organization. With a mission of advancing and preserving literary arts in Mississippi, the MWG’s motto is “No Writer Without a Voice.”

The first meeting of the Middle Mississippi Chapter will be Saturday, April 2 at 2:00pm in the private meeting room of Corner Bakery on Grandview Boulevard in Madison. The group is open to anyone who writes or has an interest in writing. Dues can be paid directly to the Mississippi Writers Guild by visiting their website at

There are currently eight chapters of the MWG in the state, including Hattiesburg, Jackson, Meridian, Natchez, Newton/Neshoba County, Tunica, Golden Triangle and Yazoo City. The new Middle Mississippi Chapter will be the ninth chapter in the state.

“This is the most densely populated part of the state, with the highest number of writers,” said Susan Marquez, who is organizing the new chapter. “I see so many writers who are hungry to learn more about writing as a profession. They want to know more about the craft of writing, how to write a winning book proposal, options for publishing, and how to market and promote a book. We will have guest speakers each month who will address these topics and more.” In addition to monthly meetings, there will be special workshops during the year, as well as an annual statewide conference.

This year’s conference will be held in Natchez August 5th and 6th, which coincides with both the Natchez Tricentennial and the 10th anniversary of the Mississippi Writers Guild. Special guest will be best-selling author Greg Iles, who will receive the second annual Mississippi Writers Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It's a new, fresh day for writers in this area,” said MWG president Galen Mark LaFrances. “I'm all in favor and will work hard to make this new chapter a huge success.”

For more information, visit the chapter's Facebook page at or email Susan Marquez at

March 21, 2016

Crossroads Kicking Off Film Fest With 'The Hollars' Screening

By amber_helsel

This year, Crossroads Film Festival, which is is March 31-April 3, kicks off with a screening of 'The Hollars.'

John Krasinski, who most recently starred in '13 Hours,' directed and starred in the film, which shot in locations in the Jackson metro area such as Fondren, Methodist Rehabilitation Center and St. Dominic Hospital in 2014.

“I am delighted that Mississippians will have this opportunity to get a sneak peek of this great movie filmed across the area,” said Robbie Fischer, Mississippi Crossroads Film Society president, in a blog post on the festival's website. “This screening celebrates the culmination of many Mississippians’ talents and Tom Rice’s commitment to make movies in his hometown.”

Crossroads will screen the film at the Malco Grandview Cinema in Madison beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information, go to the Crossroads Film Festival blog post.

September 16, 2015

Number Three Most Artistic Town

By amber_helsel

Jackson has made it to the top three of a pretty cool list: We're no. 3 on Matador Network's Top 10 Most Artistic Towns in America. We've made it among the likes of cities such as New Orleans, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Marfa, Texas, Sante Fe, N.M., and Detroit. Matador Network used three criteria for the cities: Their art scene is relatively small, emerging artists have access to a low cost of living, and it has a strong community of visual artists, musicians and filmmakers. Congrats to Jackson's artists!

September 10, 2015

Help Syrian Refugees, Shop Local

By amber_helsel

Here's a great way to contribute to a great cause while also keeping shopping local in mind: today, Sept. 10, and tomorrow, Sept. 11, Thimblepress is teaming up with Tennessee business Little Things Studio and other small businesses around the country to aid Syrian refugees. If you shop Thimblepress online today and tomorrow, the store will donate all proceeds to World Relief, which is working with refugees who are fleeing from the violence in Syria. For more information, visit or

September 3, 2015

A Day to Celebrate Creativity

By amber_helsel

Today, Sept. 3 is gearing up to be quite a day for the Jackson arts community. Fondren's First Thursday begins at 11 a.m., and other artist and businesses will have cool events tonight. Here's some of what to look for.

Power & Light Press Pop-up Shop at Thimblepress While this isn't in Fondren, it's still a pretty cool event. Kyle Durrie, who owns Power and Light Press in Silver City, N.M., combines her craft with pop culture and humor. From 5 to 8 p.m., she will be at Thimblepress (113 N. State St.). Deep South Pops will sell popsicles outside on the business' vintage truck, and other refreshments and drinks will be available. For more information, visit or, find the event on Facebook.

The Fourth Annual Cedars Juried Art Show Along with Jan and Lawrence Snow and Butler Snow, the Fondren Renaissance Foundation hosts the fourth annual The Cedars Juried Art Show. This year's guest juror is Myrna Colley-Lee. The 80 selected works represent 64 artists from 20 cities in Mississippi. Some of the Jackson artists include Jonathan Berry, Theresa Haygood, Elizabeth Robinson, Jasmine Cole and William Patterson. The event is from 5 to 8 p.m., at The Cedars in Fondren (4145 Old Canton Road). The exhibit will hang through Sept. 30. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. For more information, find the event on Facebook or visit

The Wonder Lab open house Fondren creative incubator The Wonder Lab has its open house tonight at Fondren's First Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, find The Wonder Lab (2906 N. State St., Suite B-8) on Facebook. To see a gallery of The Wonder Lab during its renovations, see the Jackson Free Press' gallery.

Fondren's First Thursday after party at Soul Wired Cafe After the fun on Fondren's First Thursday, Soul Wired Cafe in midtown (111 Millsaps Ave.) will have an after party beginning at 10 p.m. The event is $1. For more information, find the event on Facebook.

For more information on Fondren's First Thursday, find the event on Facebook or visit

February 20, 2015

New Stage Theatre Has a New Website

By amber_helsel

Take a look here:

Playwright Jane Reid Petty founded New Stage Theatre in 1965. In the theater's 49th season, New Stage has put on plays such as "All the Way" and "One Man, Two Guvnors," which shows through March 1.

September 4, 2014

Support Mississippi Indie Filmmaking

By amber_helsel

Story on the 48 Hour Film Project by Jordan Sudduth

Nearly 200 filmmaking cast and crew participated Aug. 15-17 in the resurrected Mississippi competition of the 48 Hour Film Project—an international organization that promotes independent filmmaking through awareness and competitions. With a required character, prop, line of dialogue and genre, each of the 15 teams set out to produce (write, film, edit and musically score) a short film, between four and seven minutes in duration, within a 48-hour timeframe.

While it may sound easy to some, that is simply not the case. The process is grueling, adrenalin inducing and a test of skill for all involved.

With the recently wrapped “The Hollars,” which John Krasinski of “The Office” directed and starred in, and the soon-to-film “Dixieland” and “By Way of Helena,” which stars Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth, the Mississippi film industry continues to be on the move. With the increasing awareness of what our state has to offer, both independent and major filmmakers and their proponents are garnering more attention than ever.

Official judges for the 48 Hour competition included film-industry professionals who either live in or have strong Mississippi ties. The unveiling of the judges will take place at the premiere.

Whether you are a film buff or just someone interested in something new, this is a great event to support not only the these 15 participating teams, but the Mississippi film industry.

The premiere screening of all 15 films is Sept. 4 at the Malco Grandview Theatre (221 Grand View Blvd., Madison, 601-898-7823). The event starts at 7 p.m. and costs $10 per individual. After the screening, the filmmakers will host a Q&A session, and audience members can vote for their top-three favorite films. For more information, visit and

Jordan Sudduth organized this year's 48 Hour Film Project.

June 19, 2014

USA IBC Moves to Round Two

By amber_helsel

June 18 concluded the first eight cycles of the USA International Ballet Competition. Round one, which included 91 dancers, ended with 54 dancers moving to round two.

Eighteen senior male dancers have moved to round two, along with 14 senior female dancers, seven junior male dancers and 15 junior female dancers. The countries with the most dancers entering the round are Japan, the U.S., the Republic of Korea and Brazil.

Here are the competitors.

Senior Males

Aaron Smyth (Australia)

Andile Ndlovu (South Africa)

Byul Yun (Republic of Korea)

Dae Han Na (Republic of Korea)

Gantsooj Otgonbyamba (Mongolia)

Ilya Artamonov (Russia)

Ivan Duarte (Brazil)

Jeong Hansol (Republic of Korea)

Ji-Seok Ha (Republic of Korea)

Jun Tanabe (Japan)

Kota Fujishima (Japan)

Mengjun Chen (Peoples Republic of China)

Mozart Mizuyama (Brazil)

Nayon Rangel Iovino (Brazil)

Rodrigo Almarales (Cuba)

Sebastian Vinet (Chile)

Steven Loch (USA) Telmo Moreira (Portugal)

Senior Females

Arianni Martin (Cuba)

Ga-Yeon Jung (Republic of Korea)

Heewon Cho (Republic of Korea)

Hitomi Nakamura (Japan)

Irina Sapozhnikova (Russia)

Jessica Assef (Brazil)

Kaori Fukui (Japan)

Melissa Gelfin (USA)

Olga Marchenkova (Russia)

Shiori Kase (Japan)

Sirui Liu (Peoples Republic of China)

Tamako Miyazaki (Japan)

Ye Lim Choi (Republic of Korea)

Yui Sugawara (Japan)

Junior Males

Aran Bell (USA)

Blake Kessler (USA)

Daniel Alejandro McCormick-Quintero (Mexico)

Gustavo Carvalho (Brazil)

Jinsol Eum (Republic of Korea)

Taiyu He (Peoples Republic of China)

Yue Shi (Peoples Republic of China)

Junior Females

Ami Naito (Japan)

Gabrielle Chock (USA)

Gisele Bethea (USA)

Katherine Barkman (USA)

Mackenzie Richter (USA)

Mizuho Nagata (Japan)

Olivia Gusti (USA)

Paula Alves (Brazil)

Paulina Guraieb Abella (Mexico)

Rieko Hatato (Japan)

Romina Contreras (Chile)

So Jung Lee (Republic of Korea)

Victoria Wong (USA)

Yasmin Lomondo (Brazil)

Yoshiko Kamikusa (Japan)

"The dancers competing in the 2014 USA IBC are presenting a high caliber of artistic performance and skill,"USA IBC Executive Director Sue Lobrano said in a press release. "Anticipation is high moving into the Contemporary Round II."

The competition hits the pause button tonight, June 19, though, as the Trey McIntyre Project gets ready for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Lobrano said at a press conference that this will be one of the group's last performances. Round two begins June 20 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit

June 18, 2014

International Ballet in Jackson

By amber_helsel

Before now, I had hardly watched any ballets. I saw "The Nutcracker" live once when I was in elementary school and again at after a pep rally in high school. I own that soundtrack plus a couple more ballet scores, but other than that, the world of dance is a mystery to me.

But one of the perks of my job at the Jackson Free Press is receiving opportunities to cover events such as the USA International Ballet Competition. After the coverage we did in preparation for the event, I wanted a chance to see how it all came together and exactly what the big deal was about surrounding this event.

The USA International Ballet Competition began in 1979, with ballet dancer, author and educator Thalia Mara and a host of others spearheading it. People always wonder why the competition is here out of all of the incredible cities in the nation. The answer? Mara saw a need for more arts and a bigger dance community in the south. The USA IBC is one of only four ballet competitions that International Theater Institute of UNESCO has sanctioned in the world. The others are in Moscow, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Varna, Bulgaria. Like the Olympics, USA IBC occurs every four years, and this is its 10th cycle and 35th year.

The committee's organizers seem to have pulled out all the stops for this year's competition. On opening night June 14, a succession of speakers, including Mayor Tony Yarber and USA IBC Director Sue Lobrano, took the stage, delivering speeches on how proud Jackson is to see so many faces from so many places. Audience members watched an inspiring film about the USA IBC's history and then dancers from all around the world walked down Thalia Mara Hall's long aisles, a member of each group carrying the flag of their native country. 2002 USA IBC junior gold medalist Joseph Phillips, who is from the U.S., lit the competition's torch and stood in the middle of the 91 dancers who hail from 20 different countries.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet performed "Innervisions," a modern dance work set to Stevie Wonder songs. In leaps and bounds and turns, the troupe sent the audience to a place of love, heartbreak, self-fulfillment, beauty and the fullness of a life well-lived.

June 16, I headed to Thalia Mara Hall to cover session four of round one. Competitors included American dancers Megan Wilcox, Savannah Louis, and Olivia Gusti; Japanese dancer Mizuho Nagata; senior Korean dancers Ga-yeon Jung and Ji-Seok Ha; Mexican dancer Daniel A McCormick; Chinese dancer Mengjun Chen; Brazilian dancer Mozart Mizuyama; Phillipine dancer Jayson Sarino Pescascio; and Russian dancer Olga Marchenkova.

The dancers performed variations from ballets such as "Flames of Paris," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Swan Lake." The most impressive performances,—at least to a inexpert ballet spectator like me—were the pas de deux. Such grace and strength seem to be required, and the crowd cheered loudest at the end of those performances.

Mizuho Nagata performed the ...

February 26, 2014

Mississippi Arts Commission Gears up for Poetry Out Loud

By amber_helsel

The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) recently released the names of the semi-finalists for its 2014 Poetry Out Loud competition.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation created the Poetry Out Loud competition to encourage students in grades 9-12 to learn about poetry through memorizing and performing poems. MAC says that the program helps students develop public-speaking skills, self-confidence and reading comprehension. Students also learn about their literary heritage through poetry.

The contest starts at the classroom level and goes from there, with students from each region—north, south and central—of Mississippi advancing to the state level.

This year, MAC chose nine semi-finalists, three from each region:

Danielle Cameron, Sumrall High School Joy Carino, Starkville High School Corey Davis, Clinton Christian Academy Lawson Marchetti, Jackson Preparatory School Asia Montgomery, Columbia High School Casey Park, The Washington School, Greenville, Miss. Whitney Porter, Independence High School, Coldwater, Miss. Andre Vincent, Ridgeland High School Victoria Wilson, Mississippi School of the Arts, Brookhaven, Miss.

Each contestant will recite two poems from a 600-poem anthology. Three finalists will then read a third poem, and MAC will award them first, second or third place. The winner of the Mississippi Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest will receive $200 and the school will receive $500 to purchase poetry books. The state champion will go to the Poetry Out Loud nationals, where he or she will compete for $50,000 in prizes and school stipends. The National Champion will receive $20,000.

The semi-finalists will recite poetry at the state finals March 6 at 1 p.m. in the Mississippi Public Broadcasting studios (3825 Ridgewood Road). The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Archive by year

2014 2015 2016 2017