As the Vail International Dance Festival swings into its 26th season on Sunday night, Artistic Director Damian Woetzel said a current of collaboration is what audiences will see flowing throughout the festival.
“Some of the artists are working together for the first time, and I am looking forward to those collaborations,” he said. “Also, many of the artists are featured in different performances across the festival, so it’s important to go to a couple performances because you see them in all these different lights.
“It’s like seeing a great singer sings different songs,” Woetzel continued. “That kind of opportunity for the artists, as well as for the audience, is what the festival provides.”
New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck said the festival is growing because the dancers get to do so many types of dancing, not just ballet.
“I think what makes the festival so special is that it is everything you want to see in dance in like two weeks,” she said. “Damian brings in so many amazing dancers from different places, and you get to see so much.”
Opening night on Sunday will preview artists and companies to be featured throughout the festival. Peck and festival artist-in-residence Herman Cornejo will perform principal roles in George Balanchine’s “Rubies” alongside the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Monday night will bring in the Pennsylvania Ballet again, with an evening filled with Balanchine choreography, featuring New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild as a guest artist, who said in a recent phone interview that he can’t wait to share the stage with dancers who he has never danced with before.
Woetzel said the performance will highlight the classic serenade, but the Vail venue brings it to a whole new top notch tier.
“If you haven’t seen it in the amphitheater, it’s like seeing it no where else on earth,” he said. “The ballet is just a miracle, but they’re also going to do a violin concerto, which is the first time ever in Vail, with Robbie Fairchild to add new context.”
On Friday, Aug. 1, and Saturday, Aug. 2, the amphitheater will host two International Evenings of Dance. On one of the evenings, Fairchild will dance with Cornejo for a special rendition of “Concerto 622.”
“I have never done a pas de deus with another man; I’ve never partnered with on and I have never been partnered, so it will be a unique experience for me and hopefully for the audience,” Cornejo said. “It’s a piece of trust and friendship and I’m glad Robbie Fairchild is the other person.”
Woetzel said he is especially excited for the new material that will be performed in the NOW: Premieres show on Aug. 4, which is also one of the nights you can see New York City Ballet newlyweds Peck and Fairchild dance together. They will perform with BalletX for a new work by choreographer Matthew Neenan.
“Another one that is really an exciting night is the night of world premieres,” he said. “It’s a night of actual world premieres; these ballets and dances are created especially for this night, so it’s all new and it’s a lot of people working together for the first time, and it’s something that is absolutely unique.”
On Thursday, Aug. 7, the Martha Graham Dance Company will premiere “At Summer’s Full,” a new arrangement of the 1940 Graham classic “Letter to the World.” Peck, Fairchild and Cornejo will all appear as special guests in the performance.
“They are going to re-frame it for us, so it’s actually a world premiere in a sense by Martha Graham, which is kind of a crazy notion,” Woetzel said. “So I know that I can expect the genius of Martha Graham on stage, but it’s going to have a new framework, and it’s going to have these great ballet stars in the midst of modern dancers giving a different input.”
It’s something you will have to be there to see in order to appreciate the depth of the work and the inevitably rich performances, Woetzel said.
“I have seen Herman rehearsing it, and Robbie and Tiler as well, and I am just really excited to have it on our stage,” he said.
A perfect place to dance
Cornejo described Vail as an “enchanted place.”
“It’s a delight to work under the direction of Damian Woetzel and everyone around him who is making this festival possible,” he said. “This is my first year as a resident dancer, and I am very much looking forward to it.”
And be sure to catch the seamless chemistry on stage between Peck and Fairchild. Married in June, the dancers share a life together off stage as well as in the limelight, and they are headed to perform at the Vail International Dance Festival for the first time as a married couple.
Peck said she and Fairchild always look forward to the two weeks that they get to come to Vail every summer.
“I think it’s so fun,” she said. “We go fishing and get to bring our dogs.
“I think what we both love about Vail is just how amazing of a place it is,” Peck said. “It is so nice to have that as a backdrop for the stage.”