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Voices of Past Participants of the USA International Ballet Competition 

By Liz Densmore, Director of Public Relations, USAIBC

The USA International Ballet Competition was founded in 1978 by Thalia Mara. The first competition took place in 1979, the next in 1982, and every four years since.  The hospitable town of Jackson, Mississippi provides its home. For many participants, the USA IBC has had profound affects on their lives. Here are some of their thoughts on their experiences…

Alexi Zubiria  of Venezuela:

  • “The USA IBC gave me the opportunity to appreciate how other dancers my age were doing artistically, and also to see the direction classical ballet had been evolving world wide.”
  • “The USA IBC provided me with a great deal of exposure in front of renowned dancers, choreographers and artistic directors from all over the world.”
  • “When auditioning for companies, being a USA IBC medal winner places you in a totally different status.”

Zubiria won the senior silver medal at the 1982 USA IBC after studying ballet for only five years. He is currently the Artistic Administrator at the Western Ballet, the Mountain View Ballet Company and School, in Mountain View, California. He also teaches regularly at Lines Ballet in San Francisco and has a wife and three children.

Diana Perez of the United States:

  • “Participating in the 1990 International Ballet Competition is still one of the highlights of my life.”
  • “After that wonderful experience, I performed for years in my native Puerto Rico, and in Portland, Oregon where I live now. I was also able to do guest performances with other companies.”
  • “The USA IBC opened doors for me, not just in the ballet world, but the dedication and passion it took to prepare for the competition has permeated other aspects of my life.”
  • “I will always cherish the wonderful memories of the 1990 USA IBC.”

Perez won the junior gold medal at the 1990 USA IBC. Nowadays, she teaches high school, coaches younger dancers, and has a baby daughter.

Isaac Hernandez  of Mexico:

  •  “It was a dream come true to compete and win in Jackson.”
  •  “Standing on the podium and hearing the Mexican National Anthem is something I will never forget.”

Hernandez took home the junior division gold medal in 2006. After competing in Jackson, he was offered soloist positions with the Colorado Ballet and Miami City Ballet.  He decided to continue his training for another year at the Rock School.  Isaac joined the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in September, 2007.

Joseph Gatti  of the United States:

  • “The important teachers, directors and instructors at the USA IBC really helped to expand my career.”
  • “Now many people throughout the world know my name.”

Gatti left the 2006 USA IBC as the senior male bronze medalist. He was recently promoted to principal dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet and starred in a short film with renowned ballet instructor Finis Jhung.

 Sasha De Sola of the United States:

  • “The recognition from Jackson’s USA IBC helped me land a job only two months after the competition. Mississippi was so warm and welcoming and all of the volunteers showed a true sense of southern hospitality.”
  • “The USA IBC gave me exposure to some of the greatest leaders in ballet and gave me the opportunity to meet and establish friendships with other wonderful fellow dancers.”
  •  “I learned so much from the other competitors and world-class jury, which in turn, helped me personally grow as a dancer.”

De Sola and her partner Mathias Dingman left Mississippi in 2006 with the title of Best Couple. De Sola spent 2006-2007 as an apprentice with San Francisco Ballet and became a corps member the following season.

Jeffery Cirio of the United States:

  • “The USA IBC enabled me to focus on variations for several months and to work closely with a coach.  I really grew from that experience.”
  • “The competition also helped me learn to perform under pressure.  I learned a lot about myself as a dancer - how to prepare and how to focus.”
  •  “The whole experience was pretty unbelievable for me. I was with some of the best dancers in the world and they were all so encouraging.”

Cirio took home the junior division bronze medal in 2006. He spent the following year dancing as a trainee with Boston Ballet and entered Boston Ballet II in the fall.

Brooklyn Mack of the United States:

  • “Since the USA IBC I feel that I have grown as a dancer and an artist.”
  • “Many opportunities have come my way from the medal that I received and the wide-spread respect the competition commands and the exposure it gives to all that grace its stage.”

Mack received the senior men’s silver medal in 2006. He is now a member of the Orlando Ballet where he recently performed Swan Lake.

Can history repeat itself?  Many past medalists will return to Jackson for the USA IBC’s Reunion Gala 2008 to be held on Saturday, July 12, 2008.

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