The evening of the Opening Ceremony began in dramatic fashion with a spectacular thunderstorm and an awe inspiring downpour, beginning at 6:00 p.m. We delayed our departure for the theatre in hopes of a slowdown in the rain, but time finally determined that we should make a break for it. The Thalia Mara Hall is a nicely renovated version of an older civic auditorium. There is no covered, direct access from any of the surrounding parking facilities, so everyone arrived with their gala finery well soaked. (This Seattleite was well served by a London Fog Maincoat, sturdy galoshes and a good umbrella, arriving virtually unscathed.) The curtain was delayed past the 7:30 starting time due to many patrons' struggles against the elements.
A full orchestra has been engaged for the Opening and Closing events of the IBC -- the Mississippi Symphony, conducted by Andrews Sill, recently appointed as music director of Milwaukee Ballet. The ceremony began with "The Star Spangled Banner," performed by Guy Hovis with a microphone, which proved to be altogether unnecessary. The orchestra, by way of an overture, performed Rimsky-Korsakov's "Dance of the Tumblers." A scrim was lifted to reveal the IBC panel of judges and the workshop faculty arrayed in chairs onstage. Next, a "parade of nations," consisting of all of the competitors in ranks by the country they are representing, including a flagbearer, processed from the back of the hall and onto the stage, taking their places standing on choir risers behind the judges and faculty. The competitors were attired entirely in black warm-ups and long crew neck t-shirts bearing the logo of Capezio squarely across the hips. They acquitted themselves well during the remaining speeches and tributes comprising the first third of the program, inasmuch as they were forced to stand in tight quarters on risers under hot lights. Unlike singers under similar circumstances, the dancers know better than to lock their knees and capitulate forward in a dead faint as occasionally happens with choir members.
Welcoming remarks were thereupon delivered by IBC Executive Director Sue Lobrano, who thanked her staff of approximately 15; William Mounger, Board Chair of the IBC, who thanked the donors and informed us that the IBC costs about $3 million to produce; Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, who singled out two of the competitors to come to the microphone and deliver welcoming remarks -- one a dancer from Cuba, who welcomed the audience in Spanish, one a recent high school graduate from Los Angeles -- and exhorted the competitors to return from the competition and by example encourage others to strive for excellence; and finally, from Paul Terlizzi, President of Capezio and IBC National Honorary Chairman.
We were next introduced to Cynthia Harvey and John Meehan, who will be serving as MCs for the competition rounds and who had the assignment of introducing all of the members of the IBC Jury and teaching staff, all of whom were successfully introduced, despite the fact that Ms. Harvey's script apparently lost the last page and she was forced to rely upon memory recall to come up with the right names for the last few teachers.
Continuing the "Olympics of Dance" theme, 2002 IBC Junior Gold Medalist (*not* 2006 as listed in the program!) appeared at the back of the darkened hall with a lighted torch, processed down the aisle, onto the stage, proceeded to center stage where a truncated version of the Olympic flame resided. He thereupon genuflected to the jury and handed the torch over to jury chairman Bruce Marks, who, with some difficulty, succeeded in lighting the flame.
With this, we recessed for intermission and to check on the weather. The storm had passed and the evening air was steamy and sultry. I will pass the torch over to Dean for his comments on the first actual dancing of the evening, which got underway after intermission.