Considering the size of Vail, the level of talent glissading out of local dance studios like the Vail Valley Academy of Dance is pretty astonishing. Take Dancer Jonathan Royse Windham, recently named to Dance Magazine's 25 Dancers to Watch list, the dancer began studying at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance at age 14. Now he performs with Gallim Dance, a Brooklyn, New York-based contemporary dance company. Damian Woetzel, the artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival took notice and now Windham will return to Vail for this summer's festival, dancing on July 28 as part of the opening night's 25th anniversary celebration. He'll share the stage with heavy hitters in the dance world, such as Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild from New York City Ballet and International tango stars Analia Centurion and Gabriel Misse.
Attend Saturday's Vail Youth Ballet Company Student Showcase and there's a good chance that in 5 or 10 years you'll be musing "I remember seeing them on stage at Battle Mountain High School way back when."
Twenty three dancers from the company will take the stage tonight, performing their own choreography as well as some recognizable fare.
"Almost everything on the program has been choreographed by the students," said Anne Powell, artistic director of Vail Youth Ballet Company and the artistic director/owner of Vail Valley Academy of Dance, which celebrates its 25th anniverary this year. "We help them with casting a bit, so they don't use too many dancers, but they chose their own music and choreograph to that music. They have to put together the costumes, and figure out the lights.
"I'm really proud of how they handled themselves," Powell said. "It's a chance for them to not only take responsibility and have the experience of being the choreographer and see what that's like, but also to see it through to the end and work with their peers. To do that puts them in a leadership role; it's great practice for lots of other things - like life."
In between tryouts for summer dance intensive programs and a four-day trip to New York City, the dancers have spent the last two months rehearsing for the show. Attendees will be treated to a diverse evening of dance. There's classical, contemporary and even some musical theater on the program. A group of 3-year-olds from the Tippy Toes and Tumble class will perform with some of the older girls. The audience will also see two ballet variations, one from "La Esmeralda," which was first presented by the Ballet of her Majesty's Theatre in 1844 London and one from "Raymonda," a Russian ballet that dates back to 1898.
Seventeen-year-old Katherine Sayre dances solo in the Esmeralda piece, which she picked because "it's a really fun piece and exciting to do a variation I haven't done before," she said.
"The student showcase is exciting because it's mostly student choreography and a totally different show than what we usually do," Sayre continued. "It's different styles of dance, not just straight ballet, and it'll be really fun for kids because it's a more upbeat show."
The Battle Mountain High School junior has been dancing since she was one of those "break-your-heart-cute" (Powell's description) little 3 year olds. Fourteen years of hard work has paid off for Sayre. This summer she'll take part in two summer dance intensives: the American Ballet Theatre Collegiate Program and Miami City Ballet.
For now though she's focused on tonight, and the part she's most excited for:
"We get to dance our favorite piece, 'Crunchy Granola Suite,' by Bob Fosse," she said. New York choreographer Parker Esse set this piece on the Vail Youth Ballet Company last fall and it was an audience favorite at the company's winter show, earlier this season at the Vilar Center.
"We had such raves after we did it in the winter, everyone was like 'Can we do this again?'" Powell said.
"It's a crazy piece, seven or eight minutes long and super hard, but it's so fun," Sayre said. "The audience loved it last time."