The Arts Blog entries for June, 2014 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

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Entries for June, 2014


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 ...