VAIL — While the world at large may not know of Vail as a birthplace for dance creations that move on to metropolitan cultural hubs the world over, anyone involved with the Vail International Dance Festival for the last 25 years is well aware that every year, the two-week Festival spawns a series of masterpieces that go on to inspire audiences on stages all around the globe. This summer once again will play host to an entire night of these important debuts.
“The idea that it happens in Vail first and goes on to New York and other cities … it gives a wonderful feeling to the enterprise,” said Vail International Dance Festival Director Damian Woetzel. “Over the years we’ve had many premieres, and many have gone on to have other lives. That’s one goal, and the other is to put dancers and choreographers together in interesting ways.”
Unusual pairings is a theme in this year’s collaborations for new works. This means taking a fixture of contemporary dance like Larry Keigwin and his modern dance specialists and teaming up with principal dancers from New York City Ballet. Or modern dance star Fang-Yi Sheu collaborating with Memphis jookin’ dancer Ron Myles, Brian Brooks putting the physical strength of a few select dancers to task, or jookin’ star Lil Buck simply creating a new dance with his multi-dimensional talent for merging dance styles. And, going big for its silver anniversary, the 2013 Festival will host a world premiere by modern dance pioneer Paul Taylor.
NOW, hosted by Woetzel, comes to the Ford Amphitheater stage on Monday. All the choreographers begin with a vision, that is then given color and life during the stretch of days that the dancers rehearse while in Vail. The energy is fast and flowing.
“They rely on the element of risk which is always present when you try something new,” Woetzel points out. “Maybe it’s something about the pines, the mountains or the altitude, but they want to try something they wouldn’t in their home theaters. The premieres really are about the creative process. Not only for the public to see something brand new, but also for the artists to feel they are the clay, the actual stuff of creativity. It’s not redoing what has been done elsewhere, but a fresh creation.”
Here’s a small taste of what you’re going to see on Premieres night:
Paul Taylor’s new work is inspired by the songs of Stephen Foster, the 19th century songwriter known as the “father of American music,” who composed such classics as “Oh! Susanna” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” The actual shaping of the piece will happen once all the dancers of the Paul Taylor Dance Company are present in the rehearsal room with the choreographer. The work will be Taylor’s 139th dance creation — today, the 82-year-old genius has nearly 60 years of choreography to his name, and he commented on differences and similarities he faces in 2013:
“I work faster,” he said about how his process has changed. “Dancers learn quicker. I am still inspired by things I see or things I read.”
As far as why he is choosing Vail for the honor of a world premiere he simply said, “It’s a beautiful setting,” and, referring to friend and Festival Director Damian Woetzel, ”because the Festival is run by one of the best directors in the business.”
Larry Keigwin and his company will collaborate with several New York City Ballet dancers, among them Festival Artists in Residence Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, — to perform a 16-minute piece called Canvas. A very short snippet of the piece was recently unveiled at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, but Keigwin won’t know the solid details of what the entirety entails until the dancers arrive and rehearse vigorously in his small studio in Green Mountain Falls. The inspiration behind the piece’s name is those moments in which a blank canvas awaits the onslaught of color, depth and Keigwin’s specialty: humanity.
“It’s an opportunity to clean the palette, clear the slate like a blank canvas,” Keigwin said. “The dance floor is a very big canvas in which I can paint rather than choreograph. I don’t know what the outcome will be. I think these particular dancers will handle anything. It’s a two-way street. The vocabulary will end up being casual. It will have a humanistic touch. I want them to feel like humans on stage, not dancers.”
Keigwin has enlisted an original musical score by composer Adam Crystal, formerly of the rock band Fischerspooner, to complement the accessible appeal of the piece: “His music is cinematic and sweeping. It’s very orchestral. It has a very contemporary, classical vibe,” Keigwin explains.
Charles ‘Lil Buck’ Riley
Lil Buck is a Festival favorite, famous for hypnotizing audiences with his ultra-liquid movements. The style is a street dance technique that originated in his hometown of Memphis, and is known as “jookin’”. A 2011 VIDF Artist in Residence, Riley has since appeared with Madonna as one of the featured performers in her 2012 Super Bowl XLVI Half-Time show and on her 2012 MDNA Tour. He’s also been featured on The Colbert Report, performed in a solo-show with Yo-Yo Ma at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge directed by Woetzel, and is currently appearing in Cirque du Soleil’s new Michael Jackson show “One” in Las Vegas. In other words, he’s everywhere, including Vail where he will make a new piece continuing his goal of bringing “jookin’ “ alongside more established dance idioms, sharing the stage with new ballet, contemporary and modern dance creations.
Brian Brooks, whose work is renowned for showcasing no-holds-barred intense physicality and raw emotion, last year teamed up for a duet with New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan; which was then shown in New York and embarks on an international tour inthe next months. This season in Vail, Brooks will be mixing an eclectic selection of talent comprised of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Carla Körbes, New York City Ballet principal dancer Tyler Angle, and Vail native Jonathan Royse Windham, who primarily performs with New York’s Gallim Dance troupe.
Another mainstay of the festival, Taiwanese-born New Yorker Fang-Yi Sheu’s premiere is likely to be the most striking when it comes to a melding of styles. An elegant and beloved icon of the modern dance world, Sheu will be working with Memphis jooker Ron Myles, breaking new ground for both artists.
“It’s going to be an exciting mix of two worlds,” Woetzel said of the collaboration. “They’ve both been here at the Festival, breathing the same air — but she’s a modern dance star and he’s a Memphis jookin’ dance star. It’s going to be two strong personalities, and two different stage presences and dance styles coming together in an unprecedented way.”
“They rely on the element of risk. Maybe it’s something about the pines, the mountains or the altitude, but they want to try something they wouldn’t in their home theaters.” Damian Woetzel