When Joseph Phillips, 20, began dancing, he knew it would be his life’s passion. As a child, his mother took him to a performance where he recalls being amazed by the athleticism of the male dancers. Afterwards, Phillips aimed to fulfill his dreams, and it was not long before he made a name for himself in his native South Carolina.
Inspired by his dance instructor, Phillips decided to compete in the 2002 USA International Ballet Competition where he brought home gold and jump-started his career.
“My teacher, Stanislav Issaev, was the person who most influenced my decision to compete,” Phillips said. “He had won two gold medals as a dancer, and I wanted to emulate his legacy. Because of winning the USA IBC, I have had some great opportunities to travel around the world and perform at festivals and galas with other world-class dancers. It also helped me to join the San Francisco Ballet after graduating from the North Carolina School for the Arts.”
Now a corps de ballet member of the company, his next goal is to move up the ranks and become a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, as well as an international guest artist with world-renowned companies. Throughout his dance career, Phillips has danced most of the classical roles, including Solar in La Bayadere, Basilio in Don Quixote, Cavalier in The Nutcracker, Franz in Coppelia and El Capitan in Stars and Stripes. He has no favorite role; instead, he throws himself into whatever part he is performing at the moment.
“I get very involved in the role and always find something to inspire my dancing in the ballet,” Phillips said. “Also, with every new part, I learn and mature within my artistry.”
He recognizes that the “Olympic-style” USA IBC is not for everyone but points out how the competition experience is important because it puts young dancers together and provides an audience that feeds on the dancers’ exhilaration for their craft.
“The competition can be an invaluable experience for many young dancers because it provides an opportunity to showcase talent and cultivate performance abilities,” Phillips said. “Also, a young dancer can garner attention from prospective schools and companies on an international level. The USA IBC has opened many doors, letting me grow far more and far faster than I would have ever thought.”
Glancing into the future, Phillips says that he would love to pursue teaching after his performance career is over. He notes that he has achieved many things in his career and is proudest of a select few.
“Besides the gold medals in ballet, I’m most proud of getting the ‘key to the city’ of my hometown, Columbia, South Carolina,” Phillips said. “I’m proud of where I’m from and of all of the people who’ve supported me there.”
By virtue of a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1982, the USA IBC is the official ballet competition of the United States. The event is presented in the tradition of its sister competition in Moscow, Russia and Varna, Bulgaria, where the concept of the international ballet competition began in 1964. The eighth USA IBC is scheduled for June 17 – July 2, 2006.
For more information regarding the USA International Ballet Competition visit the official web site at