Belhaven University Shares Close Connections with USA IBC

July 7, 2023 (Jackson, Miss.) - Faculty, students, and alumni from Belhaven University’s Dance Department all had major roles in the 12th USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) this summer. This event on June 10-23 remains one of the oldest and most respected dance competitions in the world.

From selection committee member, dance school administrator, and artistic administrator to assistant stage manager, production crew, and dance school counselor, Belhaven dance professionals contributed their expertise to this prestigious competition. The University also hosted USA IBC Dance School. Some of the world’s best dance instructors were on campus training students who came from around the world just to be a part of the program.

Krista Bower, Chair of Belhaven’s Dance Department, served as USA IBC’s Dance School Administrator in 2010 and 2014, and Dance School Assistant in 2006. "The USA IBC provides incredible opportunities for Belhaven University dance students, faculty, and alumni to engage with a world-class dance event in Jackson, Mississippi,” said Bower. “We are honored to provide support and staff for this event and to host the USA IBC Dance School in the Bitsy Irby Visual Arts and Dance Center."

Professor of Dance Ravenna Tucker Wagnon was part of the prestigious USA IBC Selection Committee. She reviewed over 330 applications and selected the top talent to be presented at the 12th USA IBC. Arianna Marcell, Belhaven University’s Specialty Instructor of Dance served as the assistant stage manager at Thalia Mara Hall. She formerly served as the USA IBC’s Dance School Assistant in 2014, Artistic Manager for the Reunion Gala in 2016, and Administrator of the Dance School in 2018.

Andy Leatherman, Belhaven’s Director of Dance Production, served in his second season as the assistant to the production manager. In this role, Leatherman prepared the studio rehearsal spaces at the Jackson Convention Center, oversaw facilities for the USA IBC Dance School, and assisted with preparations at Thalia Mara Hall and in the City of Jackson.

Belhaven University dance alumna Sara Berry-Lee ’19 served as the artistic administrator for the USA IBC. In this role, Berry-Lee oversaw competitor schedules, jury procedures, and complex performance details. Several current dance majors were also involved in key roles. David Bowen, Dottie Burt, and Violet Pasqua were employed as production assistants. Gabby Godwin and Naomi Tharp served as counselors in the USA IBC Dance School.

Belhaven University has a long, connected history with the competition. During many previous competitions, the University was known as the International Village. Belhaven housed competitors, students, and visitors from around the world. Competitors would use the dance studios for practice and classes. The USA IBC Dance School students have been housed in Belhaven’s residence halls for many competitions. Students began using the Bitsy Irby Visual Arts and Dance Center studios for their classes in 2018, when the competitor classes were moved to the Jackson Convention Complex. In June 2023, all five Belhaven dance studios were utilized for classes including ballet, contemporary, pointe, variations, pas de deux, repertoire, and jazz. The two-week Dance School culminated with a student performance and award ceremony in Belhaven's Center for the Arts Concert Hall.

About USA IBC:

The first International Ballet Competition premiered in Varna in 1964 and eventually grew into a cycle of ballet competitions that rotated among the three cities of Varna, Moscow, and Tokyo. With the help of local, national, and international endorsements, combined with the energy and commitment of the citizens of Jackson, the first USA International Ballet Competition was held in June 1979, featuring 70 dancers from 15 countries. In 1982, the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating Jackson as the official home of the International Ballet Competition.