High Altitude Society: Vail Dance Festival provides experiences to audiences and dancers alike
High Altitude Society
On Friday evening, the lawn and pavilion at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater were full of enthusiastic appreciators of dance.
The Vail Valley Foundation’s Sarah Johnson welcomed the crowd: “We ordered perfect weather for you tonight!” She then introduced YouthPower365’s Celebrate the Beat dancers, who have been practicing their routines night and day for months. She then thanked the 2019 season presenters, Jody and John Arnhold, Susan and Jeff Campbell, and Oscar and Agnes Hsu-Tang, and underwriters Marge and Phil Odeen, whose dedication has made it possible for the Vail Dance Festival to achieve an extraordinary level of success over its 31 years.
Artistic director Damian Woetzel charged onstage with a warm welcome, inspired by the children’s performance that featured a guest appearance by professional dancer James Whiteside.
“Great to have everybody here tonight,” Woetzel said. “What you just witnessed is classic Vail Dance Festival community. … You saw James Whiteside leading them, just after doing a world premiere for American Ballet Theater last Saturday, performing throughout the Festival and then getting involved in what goes here in the Valley with these kids. That is the classic model of this Festival. It is not simply a performance, not simply the highest level of dancing and music that you can possibly dream of, but it also is how we do this for the community, with you and for you, and all together. … So welcome to this which is truly the signature evening of the festival, the International Evenings of Dance.”
There were musical highlights, tender moments, massive athletic feats and audience favorites throughout the performances. For many fans of dance, George Balanchine’s “Apollo,” which launched his career with music by Igor Stravinsky, is a favorite. The evening’s performance featured Calvin Royal III of the American Ballet Theatre in his debut, joined by Unity Phelan of the New York City Ballet.
One-Time Only Performances
Each time you see a piece, like an excerpt from “Antic Meet” with choreography by Merce Cunningham, it will be different.
“As a dancer, I dreamt of a festival, of a place where I could go and try new things and dance with new partners, to learn new parts and have ballets made for me, to meet musicians that would inspire, to see education programs grow; and that is what we have built over these years here in Vail,” Woetzel said.
Betty Ann Woodland is a longtime local who covers social events including fundraisers for nonprofits, local happenings and soirees of all kinds. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.