Skirball Center for the Performing Arts - New York University

New York International Ballet Competition (NYIBC) celebrates the life and work of Ilona Copen, late Founder and Executive Director Emerita, with a Gala Performance followed by a Dinner Dance. Featured artists at the Gala Performance include dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Limón Dance Company, New Jersey Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre. The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the first Ilona Copen Award. Award recipients, as selected by the Artistic Board of NYIBC are Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride.

Please note, tickets for this event purchased through NYU Skirball Center are for reserved seating to the performance only. For more information about the Gala that includes attending both the performance and dinner dance / award presentation please contact the NYIBC office by phone at 212-956-1520, or by email at

Click here for Gala Performance and Dinner Dance / Award Presentation tickets.
Click here for Gala Performance only tickets.

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Ilona Copen

During her lifetime, Ilona Copen worked tirelessly to unite dancers throughout the world and to encourage and educate young dancers. She was deeply committed to inspiring and changing their lives. A wise and experienced leader, she combined professional excellence with warmth and generosity. It was always her hope that NYIBC participants would go home better dancers and better people. In addition to her full-time position as Executive Director of NYIBC, Ms. Copen was a Board member of World Dance Alliance. As President of the International Theatre Institute’s International Dance Committee, she created an extraordinary annual celebration of International Dance Day at UNESCO. She also served as an invaluable Board member and advisor to numerous dance companies. Giving back was at the core of everything she did. Ms. Copen radiated the vitality of a dancer. She always reminded us, with boundless energy and zeal, that Dance is a natural and essential form of expression to be practiced and enjoyed by everyone.

Ilona Copen Award

The Ilona Copen Award is an annual, honorary award, celebrating the significant contribution to the ballet field by an individual, company or institution who or which provides young ballet dancers with: the finest educational, mentoring and cultural experiences; inspiration and encouragement to advance their careers to their fullest potential, raising their artistry, and stimulating their growth as an individual human beings.

The Award honors a recipient who or which works to further ballet as an art form by: discovering, nurturing and developing underexposed dance/ballet talent; promoting international understanding and goodwill through collaborative efforts across different artistic disciplines; upholding the traditions and history of this classical art form; and securing its future through fostering the advancement of ballet.

New York International Ballet Competition (NYIBC)

Educating, mentoring and providing performance and career advancement opportunities since 1984. This bi-annual event provides forty-eight full scholarships to talented young ballet dancers from all over the world.

Founded by Ilona Copen and Igor Youskevitch

NYIBC is a three-week intensive professional training and artistic education program that identifies and nurtures promising dancers ages 17 to 24 from all nationalities and ethnicities. NYIBC's unique format distinguishes it from all other international ballet competitions. On arrival, the dancers learn the set repertory they will dance. This provides the highest standards of fairness. NYIBC gives its participants with an exceptional opportunity to completely focus on training to perform at their highest artistic level. Artistic directors and choreographers hire NYIBC participants because they know a dancer who has been trained and mentored at NYIBC can endure the rhythm of work and life in a ballet company.

The illustrious panel of international judges awards Gold, Silver and Bronze medals accompanied by monetary prizes, as well as the Lefkowitz Award for dancers with special attributes. The Igor Youskevitch Award and the Arpino Award are offered at the discretion of Kevin McKenzie and Ashley Wheater, Artistic Directors of American Ballet Theatre and Joffrey Ballet, respectively. Beyond performance and career advancement opportunities, the dancers form a diverse international company from which lifelong associations are born.

Member World Dance Alliance (WDA). Under the auspices of the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, which was founded by UNESCO and international theater experts in 1948.

Photos by Whitney Browne.