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After a successful first year, the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre is bringing back the Vienna International Ballet Theatre, USA (VIBE USA) for an encore and plans call for it to be bigger than its debut in 2016.

“We easily could get to 300 dancers,” said Charlene Campbell Carey, VIBE USA executive director and artistic director of RMBT.

According to a news release, “Missoulians will have the opportunity to connect with international dance legends as well as rising stars as they battle it out on stage through the VIBE USA Dance Challenge. In addition, VIBE USA includes a film festival and international diplomacy conference hosted by the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Center.”

An estimated 6,000 people attended the VIBE event last year in Missoula, including dancers, guests, lecturers and artists. Kathy Weber-Bates, a local organizer, expects more this year.

“It couldn’t be a more unlikely destination, but we’ve made it,” Campbell Carey said, noting that “a lot of our people have never seen snow.”

The Olympic-themed dance challenge will run from Jan. 10-14 across Missoula and western Montana, mostly during the days at the University of Montana and throughout downtown each night. It will culminate with the Gala Finale at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Wilma Theatre. All events are free except the Saturday night Gala.

Dancers, the jury and spectators from across the world come for the event and while they’re here, Missoula shows off what it has to offer. The community opens its arms to the influx of people, she said, adding, “Once we introduce people to Missoula they love it.”

Campbell Carey said word of mouth from participants at last year’s successful event created “ripples in all the best possible ways.” People who competed last year shared about their experience with other dancers, and now both new and old competitors are coming in to town for year two’s events.

VIBE 2017 kicks off in downtown Missoula with a block party, which will include family-friendly performances, classes and discussions that will be open to the public. Montgomery Distillery, the Top Hat Lounge, the Florence building and more will open their doors for amateur dancers and spectators who want to learn the basics of square dancing, hip hop and more.

“Anyone can come see and appreciate the high level of artistic integrity and thought leadership that VIBE USA events will have to offer,” Weber-Bates said.

According to a news release, two stars to watch this year will be Andile Ndlovu of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Venus Villa, a Cuban prima ballerina from Havana.

The release continues: “Ndlovu won double gold for both ballet and contemporary dance categories at the premiere of VIBE USA BALLET competition in Montana. Ndlovu began his training in Latin America and ballroom dance at the age of 10 and is in his seventh season with the Washington Ballet. Villa began her training at the prestigious Cuban National Ballet and is in her second season with the Washington Ballet. At the age of 17, she won the Grand Prix at the Vignale Balle Competition.”

Ndlovu will be at the Tuesday night block party at Montgomery Distillery. Catch both Ndlovu and Villa during the finals in the Dennison Theater on Friday, Jan. 13, and performing together at the final VIBE USA Gala on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Wilma.

Dance isn’t the only focus of the week. Campbell Carey said it is a mix of humanities and diplomacy that brings together people. There also is a film festival, and an international diplomacy conference will be hosted by the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Center.

“It’s broader than dance,” she said.

One night, author Laurie Horowitz will host a discussion on her new book at Fact and Fiction Downtown, while films will be presented at the Roxy and the Silver theaters on other nights.

New this year is a discussion on health – both on healthy mental and physical preparation for dancers.

And with superstars flying in for feature events “you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Campbell Carey said.

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