Congratulations to the 2023 USA IBC Award Winners! –

After nearly two weeks and three rounds of competition performances, the USA International Ballet Competition announced the winning medalists at tonight’s Awards Gala at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Mississippi. Known for launching the careers of some of the ballet world’s biggest stars (Johan Kobborg and Nina Ananiashvili, to name a couple), the IBC is a hugely anticipated event here in Jackson, drawing large and enthusiastic audiences each night. The dancers arrived on June 5 to get acclimated, with opening ceremonies on June 10 and lectures, master classes, choreographic workshops, and other special events scheduled throughout.

Held every four years, the USA IBC is part of a network of international competitions held in Varna, Bulgaria; Helsinki, Finland; and Moscow, Russia. They are intentionally spaced out to avoid conflicting with each other. This year’s competition was originally supposed to be held in 2022 but was rescheduled after the coronavirus pandemic forced Varna and Helsinki to move their dates.

The 99 competitors this year, divided into junior and senior categories and between the ages of 15 and 27, were whittled down to 29 finalists. Medalists were selected solely based on their scores from Round III. International jury members included chairman John Meehan and co-chair Lauren Anderson (USA), Paloma Herrera (Argentina), Stanton Welch (Australia), André Lewis (Canada), Feng Ying (China), Frank Andersen (Denmark), Angel Corella (Spain), and Ashley Wheater (United Kingdom). The winners performed a selection of their repertoire at tonight’s gala, with music performed live by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, while eliminated dancers from Round II performed a rousing new work by choreographer Gretchen Bernard-Newburger.

And now, without further ado…the results! Congratulations to all.  

Senior Men

Gold ($12,000): Ryo Sasaski, 24, Japan, International Ballet Theater

Silver ($7,000): Chongzheng Guan, 24, China, National Ballet of China

Bronze ($5,000): Yuval Cohen, 20, Israel, Philadelphia Ballet

Senior Women

Gold ($12,000): Sayako Toku, 21, Japan, Jinushi Kaoru Ballet

Silver ($7,000): Xinyue Zhao, 23, China, National Ballet of China

Bronze ($5,000): Yunju Lee, 19, South Korea, Korea National University of Arts

Best Couple ($2,000 each): Sayako Toku and Ryo Sasaki, Japan

Junior Men

Gold ($6,000): Alexei Orohovsky, 16, USA, John Cranko School

Silver ($4,000): Kangwon Lee, 18, South Korea, Korea National University of the Arts

Bronze ($2,000): Zihan Kong, 18, China, School of National Ballet of China

Junior Women

Gold ($6,000): Mengxuan Yan, 16, China, School of National Ballet of China

Silver ($4,000): Not awarded

Bronze ($2,000): Julie Joyner, 18, USA, International City School of Ballet

Best Couple ($1,000 each): Mengxuan Yan and Zihan Kong, China

Special Awards

Robert Joffrey Award of Merit ($1,000): Munkhjin Ulziijargal, 23, Mongolia, State Opera and Ballet Academic Theatre

Jury Award of Encouragement, Male ($1,000): Corbin Holloway, 16, USA, CityDance Conservatory

  • Corbin Holloway wears a red sleeveless top and red footless tights. His body faces the back of the stage and he does a penche with his left leg behind him, reaching his right arm out and stretching his left arm up and back.
  • Isabella Howard does a high grnad battement with her right leg and leans her body over to the left, clasping her hands. She wears loose purple pants and a purple tube top and dances in front of a black backdrop.

Jury Award of Encouragement, Female ($1,000): Isabella Howard, 15, USA, Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy

Choreography Award ($3,000): Chen Zihao, China, “Children of the Stars” Award ($4,818 each): Kyan Park, USA, BalletMet; Danielle Kleiner, Philippines, Ballet Philippines

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