Professional dancers from all over the world are in Missoula today, preparing for the Vienna International Ballet Experience, which takes place in town this week.

The contest is a stepping-stone for dancers looking for an international career in ballet and according to Destination Missoula Director Barbara Neilan, the event is a very big deal for Missoula.

"It absolutely is a big deal. Not only for Missoula, but for the United States. Never has this event or any of the rounds been held out of Europe, or out of Vienna," Neilan said. "We are very, very privileged and proud to be asked to host this event. It says a lot."

The reason why Missoula was picked out of all of the cities in the United States has to do with the achievements of the local Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater at the last Vienna International Ballet Experience.

"We were in partnership for the last two years with the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater and we have been sponsoring their international tour," Neilan said. "Charlene took two of her principal dancers and our dancers ended up taking third in the competition. First was China and second was Russia, and third was Missoula, Montana."

The dance challenges begin at noon on Tuesday at the Dennison Theater and will take place until Friday when the last event occurs at the Wilma. Most events are free to watch and are open to the public. More details can be found online at