Ramona Pansegrau – From IBC to Jacob’s Pillow

Below is a continuation from Music Director Ramona Pansegrau on her activities at the International Ballet Competition preparing for opening night, and then heading across the country to Jacob’s Pillow.

A few of the international jury & teachers, including Lauren Anderson, former principal at Houston Ballet, Ashley Wheater, director Joffrey Ballet, and Nina Ananiashvili, director of Georgia State Ballet

One of the things I love about coming to the competition, besides seeing wonderful dancers, is encountering friends and colleagues from all over the world.  You never know who will step into the elevator – an artistic director, a world famous ballerina, a friend from 30 years ago.  It is such a delight to reconnect and catch up.  The ballet world is such a small place – it seems you can find common ground with mutual friends, mutual companies, mutual beloved repertory – it’s just a joy.  Tonight was one of those times.  We were to gather in the lobby of the hotel to go to the governor’s reception.  One by one, as people joined the group of those waiting, new faces were greeted with hugs, kisses, loud delighted salutations – all in a variety of languages.  The gardenbuffetcacophony of meeting again made everyone smile, myself included.  We traveled in a caravan to the event – Edward Villella, Tatiana Tchernova, Nina Ananiashvili, and about eight more lauded names in the ballet world.  As I always expected, a car that fits eight normal people can hold about 12 dancers….

So, the preparation is over and the actual competition finally starts tomorrow night with the opening ceremonies.  I’ve gathered music, fixed orchestra parts, rehearsed the orchestra and all that culminates tomorrow with dress rehearsal and the opening of the X USA International Ballet Competition.  Stay tuned!


Maxim & Anna-Marie speaking with students.

studio_JacobspillowThe opening ceremonies of the IBC have been over for 24 hours – and since then, I’ve flown half way across the country to Jacob’s Pillow and spent the evening in an 18th century Inn having dinner with former ballerina and now internationally known ballet teacher and stager – Anna-Marie Holmes, and famed ABT principal ballet dancer Maxim Belerokovsky. What a weekend! Back to the IBC – the Saturday afternoon orchestra dress rehearsal went well, but the evening opening gala was spectacular. The parade of nations, with dancers proudly following their flags on to the stage as they entered through the audience, the entrance of the jury as they were cheered and warmly greeted by the audience, the torch – carried to the stage by Joseph Phillips, former gold medalist, and the lighting of the cauldron – all moments indelibly etched in my mind – each of which was accompanied by musical selections played by the Mississippi Symphony – creating unforgettable moments. The evening was very emotional for me, and one I feel so privileged to have conducted. So, the competition has hit the ground running – they will have 2 rounds of competition daily, eliminating dancers at the end of round 1 – which is a classical round. Round 2 will follow, with 1 session per day, with competitors showing their contemporary works. More eliminations. Round 3 will begin in a week – and I’ll return to keep on eye on what works remain and therefore may be chosen for the final galas. Hopefully, I can eliminate some pieces from the orchestral repertory – and the orchestra can stop practicing some of them!

In the meantime, I’m here at the Pillow. Tomorrow I start the day playing a master class for Maxim with the ballet program students – 22 promising young dancers chosen from around the world. In the afternoon, I’ll work on repertory works, staged by Anna-Marie, and former Royal Danish ballet director, Dinna Bjorn. In the evening, I’ll teach a music class/lecture to the students, followed by attending a talk by Joseph Morrissey, administrator for artistic planning and touring for the Hong Kong ballet. I’ve known Joseph since he was a ballet student at Boston Ballet and sang in my ‘Nutcracker’ chorus. I love it when that happens!  Hong Kong ballet opens the festival here on Wednesday. Oh, yeah – it’s also my birthday. What a great way to spend the day!


Ramona Pansegrau at IBC – Music Selections

Here’s an update from KCB Music Director Ramona Pansegrau as she guest conducts at the International Ballet Competition! In this guest post, Ms. Pansegrau discusses how the music is chosen for the awards gala. Surprisingly, the orchestra only has enough time for one rehearsal before the performance!

Rehearsal Venue

Today I spent most of the morning and afternoon checking music.  Preparing the orchestra for Jackson is a bit of a journey.  Actual preparation started months ago.  The orchestra plays the opening ceremonies with predefined music.  However, the awards gala at the end of the competition is an entirely different matter!  The winners are chosen after the final round of competition in the third week.  From the repertory the winners have competed with, a gala program is chosen – and that is what the orchestra will play.  I am usually called in to the jury room after the winners have been determined – which is well into the early hours of the morning.  At the point the gala program is decided, it’s usually around 3 am.  My orchestra rehearsal with that music is at 11 am – a mere 8 hours later.  That means the orchestra will have one rehearsal alone to prepare – and I have to have every piece of music that the competitors have competed with over 3 weeks available for them.  Kudos to Richard Hudson, the Mississippi Symphony librarian who keeps track of the boxes of music that come in over several months.  I borrow, rent, or buy what I can find – sometimes writing things out from audio recordings – whatever it takes.  The orchestra has piles of scores to practice, some of which are very difficult.  So for tonight’s rehearsal, I rehearsed music for Saturday as well as taking the opportunity to touch on a few of the larger pas de deux that may show up.  We crammed as much into that 2 1/2 hours as humanly possible – and the orchestra was really wonderful as I did my energizer bunny imitation moving through the repertory.  For the opening ceremony, I actually got to chose works that fit the occasion – as a ballet conductor, that’s a luxury, as I usually play the repertory chosen for the season.  So, on Saturday the evening with open with an orchestral overture – I’ve chosen the wonderful “invitation to the Dance” by Weber.  The jury will enter to Act 1 Scene 1 of Swan Lake – a rousing, joyous work.  The parade of nations – yes, just like the Olympics – will be to Pomp and Circumstance 4 (not your high school graduation Pomp – that’s number 3) – and the flame will be lit to the inspiring music of Copland – Fanfare to the Common Man.  Next rehearsal is Saturday afternoon for a dress and then Saturday night is the opening.   Tomorrow – all the jury arrives, dancers start teaching in the theater as Jackson goes into full gear – and the evening is a reception at the governor’s mansion.  Much more to come!


Guest Post – Music Director Ramona Pansegrau

Ramona_PansegrauRamona Pansegrau, Kansas City Ballet’s music director, leads a busy life over the summer! Guest conducting and playing the piano for various events and competitions around the nation are just a few of the things that occupy her summer months. Currently, Ms. Pansegrau is in Jackson, Miss., for the International Ballet Competition the Olympics of ballet as a guest conductor and music director. To give us some insight into this elite competition, she will be providing a few blog posts during her stay in Jackson.

Hello from Jackson, Miss. my first stop on a 3-week whirlwind of conducting and performing.  I arrived today in Jackson for the USA International Ballet Competition.  I’m guest conductor and music director for the competition and will conduct the opening ceremonies on Saturday night.  On Sunday, I fly to Jacob’s Pillow in Beckett, Mass., where I’ve been music director for the ballet program for 12 years, and will help prepare the final performance on Saturday, June 21.  Then on June 22, I fly back to Jackson for the final week of the competition and will conduct the Awards Gala on Saturday June 28, and the Encore Gala on Sunday the 29th.  

Ramona_IBCPassWhew! I thought it might be interesting to give a little flavor of what it’s like to be involved with these events, so I’ll be posting a bit each day, or as time allows.  First of all, the IBC is the Olympics of ballet.  It occurs every 4 years in Jackson by decree of Congress.  I’ve been involved for a few decades as competition pianist at the beginning, then music director, and now conductor.  Competitors come from all over the world and are judged by a panel of renowned international judges.  Most of the competitors are already here, rehearsing with their coaches in various venues all over the city.  Saturday night is official opening with the parade of nations, official torch lighting, followed by a grand southern party.  Tomorrow is my first orchestra rehearsal with the Mississippi symphony so more tomorrow!

~ Ramona