JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The opening ceremonies for what's been called "the most important competition in North America" kicked off Saturday in downtown Jackson.
Hundreds filled Thalia Mara Hall to welcome 100 of the world's best dancers for the opening ceremonies of the International Ballet Competition.
"I think people are going to be shocked. This is the highest level of dancing you're ever going to see," said Bruce Marks, chairman of the IBC jury.
Held every four years in Thalia Mara Hall, 2010 saw a record number of applicants, all competing for gold in the Olympic-style competition.
"I've been training for nine years and it's become my life. Every day, 10 to 6, 6 days a week. It just becomes who you are," said Phillip Fedulov, a competitor representing the United States. "It's completely indescribable. Your heart is racing. And you just can't think about anything and it just comes out of you, you're dancing."
A parade of flags representing the 34 countries that have a stake in this year's IBC was one of the highlights of the opening ceremonies.
"It's very interesting to see how ballet is around the world. Because there are people coming from everywhere," said Nathalie Fernandez, a competitor representing Belgium.
A performance from the Bad Boys of Dance was another highlight. Rasta Thomas founded the dance company. After winning IBC gold in 1998, Thomas said headlining the IBC's opening ceremonies had special meaning.
"It's a wonderful honor. It feels just like coming home and coming full circle. I'm just very fortunate to be able to put my spin on what I think dance should look like today," said Thomas.
Meanwhile, the Magnolia state's getting a big economic boost. The IBC had a $7.5 million impact back in 2006, and organizers are expecting a similar boost this year.
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