Dancer to Dancer
Quinn Starner performing a variation from Paquita at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS (photo by Richard Finkelstein, courtesy USA International Ballet Competition)

Quinn Starner is no stranger to competitions. The 16-year-old "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" alum has been slaying the contemporary circuit for years, winning Best Teen Dancer at The Dance Awards in 2017. But lately she's been more focused on ballet, relocating from Florida to train at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory two years ago. And while she's won awards at ballet competitions like ADC|IBC and Youth America Grand Prix, in June she upped the stakes by going to the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS—an audition-only event that's one of the world's most prestigious comps. We followed Quinn on her Jackson journey.

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Dancer to Dancer
Gisele Bethea (with partner Slawek Wozniak) earned a gold medal at the 2014 USA IBC. (Jim Lafferty)

A very elite group of young ballet dancers—including Elisabeth Beyer, Madison Penney, Quinn Starner, and Robbie Downey—are super busy right now prepping for the USA International Ballet Competition, which kicks off June 10th. One of the most prestigious comps in the ballet world, the USA IBC is held every four years in Jackson, MS, and boasts a ton of luminary alums, including Gisele Bethea, Alys Shee, Daniil Simkin, Jeffrey Cirio, Sarah Lamb, and Rasta Thomas (to name just a few).

So, what does it take to impress the judges at such a high-profile event? USA IBC jury chair John Meehan, a professor of dance at Vassar College, talked about the qualities that make a competitor stand out:

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Dance News

Once every four years, some of the ballet world's best and brightest gather in Jackson, MS, to face off in the super-prestigious USA International Ballet Competition. The event's list of alums is kind of ridiculous: Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio, The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb, American Ballet Theatre's Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane, The Washington Ballet's Brooklyn Mack and Maki Onuki, Birmingham Royal Ballet's Alys Shee...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The 2014 USA IBC kicked off on Saturday, and this year's roster of competitors includes a lot of familiar names. In the senior women category, there's Joy Womack, the vibrant ballerina who became the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet (though she left last fall after becoming frustrated with the company's politics—an unhappy ending to a fairy-tale story):

Joy Womack for Cloud and Victory (yup, she's a model, too!)

Among the junior women, there's the astonishingly self-possessed Gisele Bethea, who grabbed our attention last year when she took home the Youth Grand Prix Award at the Youth America Grand Prix:

Bethea at the 2012 World Ballet Competition USA (Siggul/Visual Arts Masters)

And the junior men group features First Position star Aran Bell, who may have been an adorable munchkin in the film but has since grown into a mature, sophisticated technician:

Aran Bell in class at the Carreño Dance Festival (Photo Rachel S. O'Hara/Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Merde to all the competitors! Click here for the full list—and stay tuned for information about winners.

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