VIBE brings international ballet to Missoula

Vienna International Ballet Experience explores "State of the Heart" Jan. 10-14

On Stage
Maria Sascha Khan
Montana’s own international ballet superstar, Maria Sascha Khan, of Pine Creek, signs her new book, The Art of Movement.Photo © Sasha Gusov

VIBE – the Vienna International Ballet Experience, USA – returns to Missoula Jan. 10-14. “The State of the Heart” is the theme of the five-day international dance challenge, diplomacy conference and film festival. Legendary ballet icons will join a host of rising international stars both as part of the renowned jury and on-stage as competitors.

All events are free to the public with the exception of the final VIBE USA Gala, held Jan. 14 at The Wilma.

“This year’s theme highlights the important role of dance and the arts in building cultural connections and tearing down walls that keep humanity from collaborating for the common good,” said Charlene Campbell Carey, VIBE USA executive director and artistic director of the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre. “We are proud to be partnering with educators throughout the Missoula Public Schools and at the University of Montana in providing a world-class cultural experience for students, free of charge thanks to our sponsors.”

Last year’s inaugural event in Missoula attracted more than 500 participants. This year’s event promises more jury members, more workshops and categories. “We are proud to actively help each artist develop and prepare for an international career while also bringing a unique cultural event to our communities in Vienna and in Missoula,” said Gregor Hatala, president and chairman of VIBE International.

Montanans featured include:

  • 12-year-old Ruby Jenni, Rocky Mountain Ballet student from Missoula, returns from a semester abroad on a full scholarship she won at the VIBE USA premiere in 2016. She studied with Annarella Sanchez at her prestigious Cuban methodology academy in Leiria, Portugal.
  • Salish Kootenai dancer Louie Plant, who competed last year, will serve on the open jury and lead and direct the intertribal powwow.
  • Rocky Mountain Ballet student Katy Clay returns from Vienna, where she studied at the Sunrise Studios on a full scholarship, to compete.
  • Montana’s own international ballet superstar, Maria Sascha Khan, of Pine Creek, signs her new book, The Art of Movement, Jan. 10 at Fact & Fiction.

Also on the VIBE horizon:

Rising Star Watch: 12-year-old Antonio Casalinho of Portugal, who wowed fans at last year’s VIBE Gala at the Wilma, is returning to Missoula. Campbell Carey has dubbed him, “The Mozart of Ballet.” His father, Luis Casalinho, is a renowned conductor who will be working with the Missoula Youth Symphony throughout the week of VIBE USA.

Venus Villa
Cuban dancer Venus Villa performs during the gala Jan. 14

Must-see Gala Performer: Venus Villa, Cuban prima ballerina from Havana will perform at the final VIBE USA gala Jan. 14.

Opening events: Downtown Missoula welcomes VIBE participants at 5 p.m. Jan. 10 at Montgomery Distillery. Dancers from Africa will share rich stories and art from South Africa, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

At 6 p.m., the Missoula Youth Symphony and the Missoula Writing Collaborative join forces in the Governor’s Room at the Florence to share music and writing inspired by “The State of the Heart.” Portugese guest conductor Luis Casalinho will lead the symphony. The event concludes with a hip-hop dance class for the community.

The Top Hat Lounge hosts a Kick-off Square Dance, 5-8 p.m. Jan. 10.

The VIBE USA Dance Challenge: Jan. 10-14 at the UM Dennison Theater. Join principal dancers and rising stars from Portugal, Spain, Russia, Africa, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Colombia and the U.S. Competition is free and open to the public.

The Healthy Dancer Series: join experts from around the country for a series of discussion panels exploring mindful learning, positive self-imagery and healthy eating for dancers.

Mansfield Diplomacy Conference: community members are invited to join internationally renowned artists and experts in foreign relations for the conference, which interweaves world-class discussions and performances that explore the impact of the arts and cultural exchange on international relations.

Film Festival: Madonna’s featured dancer and partner on the Blond Ambition tour, Carlton Wilborn, will participate in a HIV discussion panel following the Montana premiere of “Strike A Pose,” Jan. 12 at the Roxy Theatre. On Friday, Jan. 13, Raymond Wong will host the Jumping Frames International Dance Festival with curated films offering new ideas and experimental ground for choreographers and dancers.

Since the premiere event in Missoula last January, 100 VIBE USA participants have gone on to receive scholarships for international training, travel and global competition. In 2016, an estimated 6,000 people attended VIBE USA events throughout Missoula.

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