USA IBC’s Tenth Opening Ceremony, Thalia Mara Auditorium June 14, 2014

5 Jul

Opening Ceremonies are known for honorifics; USA IBC’s Tenth such was no exception; speeches, mercifully short preceded a handsome display of past and present to familiar music played by the Mississippi Symphony directed by Ramona Pansegrau.

The slightly yellow-hued printed pages named the event The Gertrude C. Ford Opening Ceremony. Ford was serious about the arts, a student of Shakepearean literature and an accomplished musician, and married to Aaron Lane Ford, an attorney and one time U.S. Congressman. Established in 1991, The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation’s focus is on education, health and youth services, 2008 assets listed as over $45 million. Support of music is a consistent theme; in the recent Thalia Mara Auditorium renovation, the orchestra pit bears Ford’s name.

Comments about the renovation are elsewhere, including the post-Ceremony reception.

This year a quartet from the Mississippi Chorus replaced the usual soprano soloist leading the Star Spangled Banner, sparing us the possibility of screeching at the high notes. The honors for the U.S. flag and Mississippi State were accomplished by the Germantown High School Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard, notable for the quartet’s varied size and serious demeanor.

Twenty-five year veteran Sue Lobrano’s opening remarks were followed by Tony Yarber, the handsome African-American Mayor of Jackson; short, congratulatory, welcoming. He was followed by Haley Fisackerly, Board Chair of the USA IBC and completed by 1982 Senior Gold Medalist Janie Parker, representing Luigi, the Tenth Competition’s Honorary Chairman. She stated her qualifications arose from classes in modern dance and jazz in Atlanta, Georgia prior to study at the North Carolina’s School of the Arts.

Down came the screen to run Celebrating 35 Years at the USA IBC. Edited by John Stockwell of Times Fly Productions, the audience was treated to glimpses of Thalia Mara teaching class, a brief second or two of Robert Joffrey, and a kaleidoscope of winners. The video warrants being attached to the USA IBC Web page.

Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance #4 provided the background for the ninety some competitors to march down Thalia Mara’s left aisle, cross below the stage and step up, the first of any group or a single competitor bearing the flag of the country represented. Garbed in black sweats and hooded jackets courtesy of Capezio Ballet Makers, Inc., youth and its energy caught the throat, swelling the chest with near patriotic fervor, the pleasure of their massive presence.

Flags ranged behind them, the competitors stood as the Jurors and the Dance School Faculty were introduced to the strains of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Included were the Competition’s Host and Hostess, Wes Chapman and Susan Jaffe. Finally, to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Joseph Phillips, USA IBC’s Junior Gold Medalist in 2002, strode with distinct measured stride down the same left aisle, climbed the stairs to lit the Competition Torch, raised back stage center. Everyone clapped and it was time for intermission.

Complexions, the New York City-based company of thirteen dancers, founded by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson in 1994, was the post intermission invited company, dancing a 2013 Rhoden choreography titled Innervisions, to a suite of Stevie Wonder songs, the work partially supported by the NEA and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, partnering with the City Council.

What a talented mix of dancers that Complexions presents demonstrating multi-culturalism at its best and most skilled! From all parts of the U.S. – Long Island, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington State, Ohio were represented; not surprisingly, a number of the locations have high schools emphasizing the arts. Cuba, Japan and Korea also contributed to the mix. Women whose thighs or height precluded membership in any company of note’s classical corps de ballet yielded nothing in technical brilliance, phrasing or presence, to their more willowy sister dancers. They plunged briefly into the arms of partners or in equally short sisterhoods to the over-miked voice of Wonder. As baseball rookies or contract players, the men’s walk and physique yielded nothing to those already in the game. The collective energy level spilled across the footlights as easily as simulated fog, but did not dissipate; it continued throughout the disparate choreography performed. There was no sonata allegro form in the dance witnessed and perhaps just one discernible ensemble phrase of any length. Virtually everyone commented on one small dancer performing downstage left whose ability to fall to the floor and raise himself with equal swiftness testified not only to a flexible spine but abdominal muscles of major flexibility; he was mesmerizing. Little wonder that, beyond the loose format, the audience gave Complexions a roaring ovation, standing.

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