ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT Culture in the Vail Valley

Just Dance

Innovative performances. World premieres. Extraordinary debuts. More than 150 dancers, musicians, composers and choreographers creating 11 performances. Numerous public events celebrating dance and music. This is what we can expect from the 31st season of the Vail Dance Festival (VDF). A spectacular event, under the artistic direction of Damian Woetzel, that is world-renowned.

A retired principal dance with the New York City Ballet, Woetzel, now president of The Juilliard School, was named artistic director of the Festival in 2007, and soon established the event as a place to see both major dance stars and up-and-coming-performers.

“Breathing the Rocky Mountain air, we seem to let go of rules,” says Woetzel. “Bringing together so many distinct voices sets the scene for some highly creative craziness.”

And, certainly, each performance at the VDF will be a unique experience, beginning with an opening night that will feature New York City Ballet principal dancer, Festival Artist-In- Residence Lauren Lovette, a preview appearance by the Cuban contemporary powerhouse Malpaso Dance Company and artists from the American Ballet Theatre. George Balanchine’s Serenade, performed by Colorado Ballet with guest artists from the New York City Ballet and music by the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, will conclude the evening.

What follows are ten more days of celebrating an array of talented performers collaborating in a mélange of dance styles that will leave the audience wanting more.

Lovette’s reign as festival Artist-In-Residence will have her taking on roles, not only as a dancer, but as choreographer of a new ballet for the NOW: Premieres performance, and starring in a new work choreographed by Hope Boykin to the music of the Festival’s Leonard Bernstein Composer-In-Residence Caroline Shaw. Lovette will also teach master classes and participate in community activities.

“I am always looking for options that yield something unexpected,” Woetzel once told the New York Times. “What I really crave is to get into these unique venues and make something that really hasn’t been done before, where people are without a net, and you have no idea what is going to happen.” And, this season’s festival exemplifies Woetzel’s philosophy with the UpClose performance mesmerizing the audience.


Titled JUST Dances, the production will explore the powerful relation of dance to the world we live in; focusing on how movement can create social impact. M.A.I. (Movement Art Is) cofounders Lil Buck and Jon Boogz, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and choreographer Hope Boykin and Lovette will perform in this rehearsal-style performance, which has become an audience favorite.

Actually, every performance presented at the festival is an audience favorite because of the uniqueness each possesses — such as having Memphis jooker Lil Buck collaborate with a classical ballet dancer. For instance, NOW: Premieres will feature new works and collaborations by a select group of adventurous voices in dance and music, including Lovette, Shaw and New York Ballet principal dancer and choreographer Tiler Peck.

Each night of the Vail Dance Festival is an absolute celebration! The American Ballet Theatre returns to Vail, with special guests, to celebrate its heritage and future with masterworks from its repertory. Philadelphia’s BalletX, a festival favorite, returns to present its first full-length story ballet, The Little Prince. Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company will make its debut, featuring works expressly made for the troupe by noted choreographers Ronald K. Brown and Sonja Tayeh. And, the legendary Martha Graham Dance Company will present a program of classics and new works, featuring the Graham Masterpiece Appalachian Spring, set to the iconic Aaron Copland score, performed by the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra.

And then there are the International Evenings of Dance (IED) I and II, when a brilliant cast of dancers from around the world takes the stage in these signature festival performances. The IED II performance, showcasing dancers from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and the New York City Ballet, will feature a world premiere from legendary choreographer Alonzo King, with an original score by jazz pianist, composer and performance artist Jason Moran.

Of course, the specially priced Dance for $20.19, when guest artists and companies come together with their fans to celebrate their love of dance, is always a special evening. The joy it brings so many people, of all ages, is palpable.

Closing night’s festivities will feature Ballet Hispánico, returning to Vail with a new program for that evening. As well, a post-performance on-stage fiesta with a live salsa band — for all — will be celebrated.

As Connie Flach, a dancer with the Grand Rapids Ballet company once told Dance Magazine, “The moments dancers create onstage are fleeting: That is precisely what makes them treasures. The combination of factors that come together to create a show can never be recreated again — there are too many variables. Therefore, every single viewer leaves with a party favor. They get to hold on to their specific perspective of that evening’s unique experience” And the Vail Dance Festival is truly a unique experience.