News Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Logan McSwain, communications manager
704.372.0101 x2765

North Carolina Dance Theatre artistic leaders, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride, to receive the first Ilona Copen Award from the New York International Ballet Competition in New York City on March 22, 2011

Charlotte, N.C. – North Carolina Dance Theatre’s artistic leaders, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride, were chosen as the first recipients of the New York International Ballet Competition’s (NYIBC) Ilona Copen Award. The artistic board of NYIBC unanimously voted for Bonnefoux and McBride.

NYIBC celebrates the life and work of Ilona Copen, late founder and executive director emerita, with a gala performance at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts at New York University on March 22, 2011. The performance is followed by a dinner and dance including the presentation of the Ilona Copen Award to Bonnefoux and McBride.

The gala performance features artists from major dance companies including NC Dance Theatre principal dancers Alessandra Ball and Addul Manzano in George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux. Other companies scheduled to perform are Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, America Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, Limón Dance Company and New Jersey Ballet Company.

“Bonnefoux and McBride have provided young ballet dancers with the finest educational and cultural experiences,” said NYIBC executive director Jacques Burgering. “These elements were so important to Ilona and are crucial for the NYIBC competition as a whole.”

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, and the inspiration and encouragement to advance their careers to the fullest potential.

The award honors a recipient who or which works to further ballet as an art form by discovering, nurturing and developing dance 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.

For more information on NYIBC and the Ilona Copen Award visit nyibc.org. 

More Information

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, born in France, began his dance training at age 10 at the School of the Paris Opera Ballet. At age 14, Bonnefoux joined the company of the Paris Opera Ballet, and by age 21, he was named Danseur Etoile, a title reserved for the most distinguished dancers in France. Bonnefoux went on to dance with the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets before being invited by George Balanchine to dance with New York City Ballet. After 10 years with NYCB, Bonnefoux dedicated himself to work as an artistic director, choreographer and teacher. Bonnefoux served as chairman and artistic director of the ballet department in the School of Music at Indiana University. Since 1983 he has been the artistic director for the ballet company and the school at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., Bonnefoux joined North Carolina Dance Theatre as artistic director in 1996 and was named president in 2003. His wife, former New York City Ballet star Patricia McBride, serves as associate artistic director. Together they received a lifetime achievement award from The Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, N.C., in 2008. Bonnefoux has added new works to Dance Theatre’s repertoire, attracted talented dancers from all over the world and championed the effort to build a new facility for Dance Theatre. In June of 2010, Dance Theatre opened the Patricia McBride & Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance.

Patricia McBride

Patricia McBride began her dance training in her hometown of Teaneck, N.J., before receiving a scholarship to the School of American Ballet. An apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet followed and shortly thereafter McBride was asked to join the corps de ballet. Within a year, George Balanchine choreographed a solo for her in The Figure in the Carpet. McBride attained the rank of soloist in 1960, and by 1961, at 18, she became the youngest principal dancer in NYCB. She spent three decades with NYCB and danced for five American presidents. Balanchine created leading roles for her in many memorable ballets, including Harlequinade, Tarantella, the “Rubies” section of Jewels, Brahms-Shoenberg Quartet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Coppélia, Union Jack, Who Cares? and Vienna Waltzes. Jerome Robbins choreographed principal roles for her in his Dances at a Gathering, In the Night, The Goldberg Variations, Dybbuk, Opus 19 and The Four Seasons. Her years of performing under Balanchine’s direction have gained her the expertise and approval necessary to restage many of his master works. McBride joined North Carolina Dance Theatre in 1996 as associate artistic director. She also serves as a master teacher at NC Dance Theatre School of Dance and Chautauqua Ballet’s School of Dance. McBride is married to Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and they have two children.

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 return home better dancers and better people as a result of their experience. In addition to her full-time position as executive director of NYIBC, Copen was a founding board member of World Dance Alliance. As president of the International Theatre Institute's International Dance Committee, Copen 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 and artists. Giving back was at the core of everything she did. 


North Carolina Dance Theatre is a Charlotte-based ballet company focused on performing, inspiring and educating through artistically excellent programming. Led by internationally acclaimed President and Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, NC Dance Theatre is known for its strong dancers and versatile repertoire, ranging from classical ballet to bold, contemporary works. In June 2010 NC Dance Theatre moved to the Patricia McBride & Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance in Uptown Charlotte. The Center houses the Company’s administrative offices, rehearsal space and School of Dance. For more information visit ncdance.org.

North Carolina Dance Theatre is supported, in part, with operating support by the Arts & Science Council. Dance Theatre is also supported by individuals, corporations, and local and national foundations, the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.