A taste of what’s to come in Vail dance
VAIL, Colorado -If you are wondering about the dance brouhaha taking over Vail, Colorado this week, Sunday is the perfect opportunity to get in on the celebration of the Vail International Dance Festival.Festival director Damian Woetzel has carefully crafted an evening that not only showcases world-class dancers, but also highlights what else the festival has to offer, like its community outreach programs, free dance lessons and its mission to educate on the arts.”Festival Highlights Spectacular is structured around introducing all the things that are being performed at the festival to give the audience an idea of what’s coming,” Woetzel says.Fifty children from the Celebrate the Beat program will kick off the evening, showing off steps they learned this summer during a week-long workshop. Celebrate the Beat is the Colorado associate of the National Dance Institute, a 30-year-old program that’s rooted in the belief that art can transform children’s lives. “I really can’t say strongly enough that Celebrate the Beat, this little performance at the beginning of the Festival Highlights, is a true highlight of the festival. It’s a highlight of the festival to offer this program to local kids,” Woetzel says. “We are teaching them creative skills, and the audience is going to be stunned.”Showing their own belief in the program, Woetzel and special guest Argie Tang will dance with the children on stage for a number or two, as well.
Another avenue of the festival is Dancing in the Streets, a free evening open to the public featuring dancing, instruction and demonstration by some of the festival performers. It gives the public a chance to learn from the masters and try some of the steps they see on stage. It was so popular in its first year last year, Dancing in the Streets returns Aug. 5 with Swing stars Naomi Uyama and Todd Yannacone. Uyama and Yannacone will swing to “Sweet Georgie Brown” during Festival Highlights to give the audience a taste of what they might learn during Dancing in the Streets.Part of the reason the festival is called the “international” dance festival is because of performers like tango king and queen Gabriel Misse and Natalia Hills. Direct from Argentina, Woetzel chose this couple to show some of the international flair of the festival, and if audience interest is piqued, they can see them later on during International Evenings.Hills describe this particular tango piece as strong and new, but at the same time traditional. The music she and Misse have chosen is one of the more contemporary tangos because they feel it’s more relevant for today’s audiences.”As a little child I had to study different forms of dances, and early on understood that artistic work and the stage were disciplines in and of themselves, but the ‘milonga’ and the dance of the dance floor come embedded in me from another source: my home,” Hills says. “There was a strong tradition and that’s the reason why I love and I dance tango.”
One of the highlights of the Highlights Spectacular is ballet stars Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel, who some of you may remember from the movie “Center Stage.” A couple in real life, Murphy and Stiefel will dance “Black Swan Pas de Deux.””The framework of the Black Swan Pas de Deux is usually classic with slight variations emerging from artistic interpretation,” Murphy says. “The version Ethan and I will be performing is the standard and classic choreography within ‘Swan Lake’ productions around the world and at American Ballet Theatre.”Stiefel and Murphy will also join Woetzel on stage for a sampling of the UpClose series, performances that pull back the curtain, educating audiences with a behind-the-scenes look at the creation process.”I was thinking about the highlights of the festival, and one of those highlights is the UpClose series,” Woetzel says. “So it occurred to me to give people who normally don’t come to the Vilar Center for those UpClose performances a little preview of what exactly that series is.”For about 10 minutes, Woetzel will talk about the piece they just performed, how it has changed and how it remains a living and breathing art piece. “It’s very exciting for the audience to participate in the creative process of dance. Dance can certainly entertain people of all levels of knowledge, but a sneak peek into the evolution of a dance generally heightens both the enjoyment and the understanding of a culminating live performance,” Murphy says of the UpClose format. “It is fascinating to observe the details and nuances that the dancers and a great coach can discover and implement during the process. I have participated in lecture/demonstrations before, and I always look forward to watching them as well. Unfortunately, these preview presentations are somewhat rare, and I’m so glad that Vail has the UpClose series as part of the International Dance Festival.”
The candid nature of UpClose performances presents an opportunity for surprise, and Woetzel hinted that he may ask Edward Villella to come up on stage. Known for his athletic style, Villella is recognized as one of the greatest male dancers to come out of America, and “The Black Swan Pas de Deux” was one of his famous roles. Villella is in town as founding artistic director for the Miami City Ballet, which will perform the third and final movement from choreographer George Balanchine’s “Rubies” during the Highlights Spectacular. The company will perform the whole piece during “UpClose with Edward Villella” Monday, when Woetzel and Stiefel will honor Villella and his career as a dancer.”I wanted to put the third movement out there so the audience gets a real sense of the company,” Woetzel says. “There’s a large number of dancers on stage, and they’ll get a sense of the choreography in hopes it whets their appetite to see the whole thing the following night.”
Chris Wheeldon and Mophoses/The Wheeldon Company has been a coup for the Vail International Dance Festival since they made their world premiere on the Ford Amphitheater stage, so it’s a given they would perform during the Festival Highlights Spectacular. For those who don’t know Wheeldon, he’s the in-demand choreographer who left his cushy residency at the New York City Ballet to form his own dance company, shocking the dance world at the undertaking, and impressing everyone who’s witnessed the new troupe. Critics from the New York Times and Washington Post followed the opening in Vail, and now Morphoses is in its third year as the festival’s resident dance company.Festival Highlights Spectacular is only a tease. But lucky for you, there’s 10 performances following to fully satisfy whatever new found love of dance it sparked in you.
What: Festival Highlights SpectacularWhere: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, VailWhen: 7:30 p.m. SundayCost: $17/$55/$75 depending on seatingMore information: Visit http://www.vaildance.org or call 888-920-ARTS