Lil Buck, Robbie Fairchild and Melissa Toogood among stars to take the stage at Vail Dance Festival’s International Evenings of Dance |

Lil Buck, Robbie Fairchild and Melissa Toogood among stars to take the stage at Vail Dance Festival’s International Evenings of Dance

New this year, Saturday evening includes two performances

Susan Reiter
Special to the Daily
Dario Natarelli, Robbie Fairchild, Ron Myles, and Michelle Dorrance in Reunion 2021.
Christopher Duggan, Special to the Daily

The Vail Dance Festival’s popular International Evenings of Dance have become known as a uniquely exciting gathering of major dancers showcased in new and unexpected ways. This summer there is the heightened jubilation after dancers and audiences endured the pandemic-induced, long, difficult exile from regular performance venues.

When luminaries from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and BalletX perform alongside such distinctive Vail Dance Festival mainstays as Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance and Melissa Toogood, joined by newcomers Caili Quan and Byron Tittle, the enthusiasm emanating from the stage as well as from the audience will be at a new level. Not only are some of the nation’s most celebrated dancers returning to live performance – after mastering the art of the virtual – but they bring a renewed energy as they take on new challenges and welcome opportunities to cultivate their artistry.

It all comes together with International Evenings of Dance on Friday at 7:30 p.m, and Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets and more information are available at

Vail Dance Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel has filled these two evenings with veteran artists exploring new territory, alongside some of the most exciting younger dancers whose precocious talents promise great futures. Longtime Vail audiences have experienced the multifaceted talents of New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck and Lauren Lovette, and American Ballet Theatre’s Herman Cornejo, Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III over many summers. Each of these dancers has been a festival artist-in-residence (Royal is currently in the role) – as has Robbie Fairchild, who returns after several years to display the theatrical flair he added to his ballet virtuosity when he made the move to Broadway and film.

American Ballet Theatre’s James Whiteside, Devon Teuscher and Cory Stearns, as well as New York City Ballet’s Unity Phelan, Joseph Gordon, Roman Mejia, India Bradley and Christopher Grant came to Vail more recently but have made their mark in a diverse array of roles and will have multiple opportunities on these evenings. And Woetzel, who always has an eye for the newest budding talent (he brought Mejia to the fore when he was just 17) has included Miriam Nadon, a blossoming young NYCB dancer who radiates glamor and authority, as well as Philip Duclos, who is still a student at the School of American Ballet and is this year’s festival scholar-in-residence.

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The International Evenings are known for their mix of the venerable and the brand-new. The programs include excerpts from such classics as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet, and no Vail Dance Festival program would be complete without the choreography of New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine. Friday offers the second half of his 1970 Who Cares?, in which he ingeniously interpreted George Gershwin’s music with flair and inevitability. This delectable array of solos and duets will be a showcase for a cascade of veterans and newcomers alike, and will feature vocalist Kate Davis singing the classic songs the ballet is set to. Peck will deliver one of her most acclaimed roles, the “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” solo, while Nadon and Bradley will make debuts in two of the duets. Cornejo will dance the exuberantly all-American (and rarely performed) “Lisa,” solo, which Balanchine shaped to the distinctive personality and flair of the late Jacques D’Amboise. Fittingly, the festival’s performance of Who Cares? will be dedicated to the memory of D’Amboise, a monumental figure in the history of ballet and of arts education in America.

On Saturday’s program (which will be performed twice, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.), Nadon will join forces with Whiteside for their joint debuts in Balanchine’s exuberantly patriotic Stars and Stripes pas de deux. And Peck will be seen in another of her signature roles, Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, paired once with Mejia and once with Gordon. This will contrast with Friday’s appearance by Peck and Mejia who will also perform a duet recently created for them by the celebrated contemporary choreographer Alonzo King, whose company made a striking impression at the 2018 festival, and who created an acclaimed new work for the 2019 festival.

The two evenings will offer plenty that is new and daring. Collaborations flourish at the festival, as dancers who normally operate in very different spheres come together for an intensive period of creativity. Where else but at Vail would you find an excerpt from Merce Cunningham’s Scenario performed by Toogood, a veteran of his company, and Cornejo, coming to this master’s work from a completely different perspective.

Byron Tittle, Dario Natarelli, Ron Myles, Lil Buck, and Michelle Dorrance in Reunion 2021.
Christopher Duggan, Special to the Daily

Expect the unexpected in Friday’s Reunion 2021 in which beloved festival artists Lil Buck and Ron Myles blend their jookin’ inventiveness with different dance characteristic of Fairchild, Bradley, Toogood, and tap dance virtuosos Byron Tittle and Dario Natarelli. A preview of a new work by Alvin Ailey veteran and resident choreographer Jamar Roberts on Friday’s program will have Royal sharing the stage with BalletX, the festival’s company-in-residence. Also getting a preview showcase, on Saturday, is Dorrance’s newest work, which mixes and matches the incredibly varied styles of seven festival dancers.

Both these works will be part of Monday’s Now: Premieres program, which closes the festival. That evening of discovery will also include premieres by James Whiteside, Justin Peck, Tiler Peck, Cleo Parker Robinson as well as a collaboration between Lil Buck and Lauren Lovette.


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