An international ballet conference is back for a third year with a new name.

Ballet Beyond Borders will bring dancers from around the world to Missoula for five days of competitions, workshops and lectures.

The event was founded in 2016 by the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre, a Missoula-based school that brings its students abroad. The conference was formerly called VIBE, or the Vienna International Ballet Experience, held in conjunction with the Vienna Ballet.

RMBT founder and director Charlene Campbell Carey said the new name reflects the connections and projects that the event has cultivated year-round.

Many of festival's events are intact: at the Grand Prix Dance Challenge, dancers of all ages and styles will compete in front of professional judges. At the Art of Diplomacy Conference, academics and artists will come together for panel discussions about the crossover in their fields and causes, and the gala opener and closers will have performances from professionals.

Carey said the grassroots support for a new type of event for western Montana has been strong. Dancers have returned for multiple years after seeing the responses and hospitality, and Missoula residents have shown enthusiasm for the art-form, from church groups to folks in ski gear.

"It's all different types, a very broad, broad cross-section of what makes Missoula, Montana," she said.

Opening night

This year, the opening gala will be held at the Wilma at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9. Patricia Kelly, the spouse of the dance legend Gene Kelly, will give a one-woman performance about his career.

Carey said Kelly's dancing and story-oriented choreography and status as an American icon made him the perfect subject for an international dance event based in the U.S.

"Everybody knows the image of Gene hanging from the light-post and his great work with 'An American in Paris,' " Carey said.

While most of the events are free, the opening gala is ticketed. To purchase, go to the Top Hat box office, thewilma.com or call 877-987-6487.

Grand Prix Dance Challenge

While registration is in flux, Carey predicted that about 200 performing artists are coming, the majority from outside the U.S., including South and Central America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

They'll compete in their respective categories from Tuesday through Friday in the University of Montana's Dennison Theatre. The public is welcome to attend, free of charge. However, the judging isn't emceed.

On Tuesday, the open category dance challenge is from 9:30 to 11:50 a.m., followed by the contemporary category from 1:10 to 5:10 p.m. On Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:50 a.m. is the ballet groups and ensembles and junior solos. After lunch, from 1:10 to 3:30 p.m., are the junior solos and ballet duets. On Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to noon are the classical children, students and senior dance challenge. From 1 to 2 p.m. are more senior solos, and professional solos are from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

The finals are Friday. The estimated times are open categories from 10 to 11:50 a.m.; the ballet from 1:10 to 4:30 p.m., video of competitors who couldn't attend in person from 4:30 to 5 p.m. and a gala sneak preview from 5 to 5:30 p.m.

The big gala finale with awards and performances is 6 p.m. at the Dennison Theatre. Tickets are available at bit.ly/2CiibJY.

Art of Diplomacy Conference

A conference on art and culture will take place with the Art of Diplomacy Conference from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, in the University Center Ballroom.

One notable speaker is Merritt Moore, who pursued a doctorate in quantum physics while developing a professional career as a ballet dancer. Faculty from Ballet Hispanico and Centro de Artes Escenicas de Panama will join Rafael Chacon, UM professor of art history and international lecturer, to examine the power of viral dance across Latin America. For a complete schedule or to register, go to mansfieldconference.org.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment editor for the Missoulian.