2010 USA IBC contemporary competitors. Photo by Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy USA IBC.
In the contemporary round at ballet competitions, dancers often perform wildly varying styles—it’s not uncommon to see neoclassical pointework followed by barefooted modern dance. But the USA International Ballet Competition, which runs every four years and returns June 14–29 to Jackson, Mississippi, hopes to standardize its contemporary category to make judging less subjective. This year, competitors who advance to Round II will work directly with choreographers Trey McIntyre and Matthew Neenan. “We decided it would be beneficial to the dancers if they not only get to learn pieces by highly acclaimed choreographers, but also have the choreographers work with them,” says executive director Sue Lobrano. “And the jury and audience will be able to see how well each dancer grasps the requisite contemporary choreography.”
In March, the competitors were given online access to videos of the selected works. Soloists will perform excerpts of pieces by McIntyre, who contributed one dance to each division (Junior Men, Junior Women, Senior Men and Senior Women); pairs chose one of two Neenan works per division. Dancers were responsible for learning the choreography on their own. Once the 99 competitors arrive in Jackson, McIntyre and Neenan will lead one-hour group coaching sessions before the judges, chaired by former Miami City Ballet artistic director Edward Villella, evaluate.
Dancers who move on to Round III will also perform a prepared contemporary solo or duet of their choice, choreographed in 2010 or later so that the works, says Lobrano, are “truly contemporary.”