Congratulations to the 2023 USA IBC Award Winners!
After nearly two weeks and three rounds of competition performances, the USA International Ballet Competition announced the winning medalists at Friday night’s Awards Gala at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, MS. Known for launching the careers of some of the ballet world’s biggest stars (Johan Kobborg and Nina Ananiashvili, to name a couple), the IBC is a hugely anticipated event here in Jackson, drawing large and enthusiastic audiences each night. The dancers arrived on June 5 to get acclimated, with opening ceremonies on June 10 and lectures, master classes, choreographic workshops, and other special events scheduled throughout.
Held every four years, the USA IBC is part of a network of international competitions held in Varna, Bulgaria; Helsinki, Finland; and Moscow, Russia. They are intentionally spaced out to avoid conflicting with each other. This year’s competition was originally supposed to be held in 2022 but was rescheduled after the coronavirus pandemic forced Varna and Helsinki to move their dates.
The 99 competitors this year, divided into junior and senior categories and between the ages of 15 and 27, were whittled down to 29 finalists. Medalists were selected solely based on their scores from Round III. International jury members included chairman John Meehan and co-chair Lauren Anderson (USA), Paloma Herrera (Argentina), Stanton Welch (Australia), André Lewis (Canada), Feng Ying (China), Frank Andersen (Denmark), Angel Corella (Spain), and Ashley Wheater (United Kingdom). The winners performed a selection of their repertoire at Friday’s gala, with music performed live by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, while eliminated dancers from Round II performed a rousing new work by choreographer Gretchen Bernard-Newburger.
And now, without further ado…the results! Congratulations to all.
Gold ($12,000): Ryo Sasaski, 24, Japan, International Ballet Theater
Silver ($7,000): Chongzheng Guan, 24, China, National Ballet of China
Bronze ($5,000): Yuval Cohen, 20, Israel, Philadelphia Ballet
Gold ($12,000): Sayako Toku, 21, Japan, Jinushi Kaoru Ballet
Silver ($7,000): Xinyue Zhao, 23, China, National Ballet of China
Bronze ($5,000): Yunju Lee, 19, South Korea, Korea National University of Arts
Best Couple ($2,000 each): Sayako Toku and Ryo Sasaki, Japan
Gold ($6,000): Alexei Orohovsky, 16, USA, John Cranko School
Silver ($4,000): Kangwon Lee, 18, South Korea, Korea National University of the Arts
Bronze ($2,000): Zihan Kong, 18, China, School of National Ballet of China
Gold ($6,000): Mengxuan Yan, 16, China, School of National Ballet of China
Silver ($4,000): Not awarded
Bronze ($2,000): Julie Joyner, 18, USA, International City School of Ballet
Best Couple ($1,000 each): Mengxuan Yan and Zihan Kong, China
Robert Joffrey Award of Merit ($1,000): Munkhjin Ulziijargal, 23, Mongolia, State Opera and Ballet Academic TheatreJury Award of Encouragement, Male ($1,000): Corbin Holloway, 16, USA, CityDance Conservatory
Jury Award of Encouragement, Female ($1,000): Isabella Howard, 15, USA, Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy
Choreography Award ($3,000): Chen Zihao, China, “Children of the Stars”
Tutu.com Award ($4,818 each): Kyan Park, USA, BalletMet; Danielle Kleiner, Philippines, Ballet Philippines