Beyond tutus |

Beyond tutus

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyVivienne Ramsey and David Howland have become festival favorites with their exhibition ballroom dance. Howland dreamed of being a tap dancer when he was young. Ramsey was drawn to the dramatic side of ballet. They've fused their visions in their ballroom dancing.

The Vail International Dance Festival isn’t 15 years old by some fluke of fate. It’s been painstakingly grown by dedicated people, loyal supporters and excited audiences over the years, and this year is no different.

Instead of resting on their laurels and using the same formula – it works, after all – the Vail Valley Foundation has added a new evening of dance to the traditional line-up. In addition to the International Evenings of Dance, the Choreographer’s Collection and the evenings dedicated to particular dance companies, this year sees the debut of “Steppin’ Out,” a veritable who’s who of ballroom’s best.

Tickets are now on sale for the festival, which runs from Aug. 1-12, 2003. The evenings usually sell out, so locals are advised to plan ahead. “We expect this festival to be our most entertaining ever,” said Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz. “The variety of dance and talent we’re showcasing is extraordinary. The program offers something for everyone from ballroom dancing to classic ballet.”

International Evenings of Dance

The International Evenings of Dance are the darlings of the festival. A quick-moving performance, principal dancers from various companies showcase some of the numbers they’re most proud of. From classical Russian stories to modern, strobe light-infused dances, variety is the name of the game.

“The artists really enjoy these evenings tremendously,” said Producing Artistic Director Katherine Kersten. “They know of the other artists of course, but they don’t usually have the chance to get to know them. It’s fun to be on stage with top dancers from other companies. Of course there’s a certain electricity about the dancers, a very friendly competitive buzz, which transfers over to the audience.”

The Choreographers Collection

This will be the fifth year for the Choreographers Collection, wherein a new up-and-coming choreographer is commissioned to create a piece specifically for the dance festival. For the first time, a female choreographer has been selected. Julia Adam from San Francisco Ballet was an up-and-comer last year, when she was commissioned for the 2003 festival. Kersten describes her as highly in demand, now. She has choreographed a dance to be set on Atlanta Ballet, America’s oldest established ballet company.

“When a choreographer works on a dance, he or she is setting it,” explained Kersten. “We select a very strong regional company every year to be partners with us. As an organization, we gift the dance back to the company. That’s our responsibility as an arts organization as we further the art of dance.”

Local dance fan Judy Alexander has underwritten the Choreographers Collection since its inception.

Soloists from Teatro Alla Scala in Milan

La Scala is one of the world’s most prestigious theatres. Located in Milan, there is a river running beneath the stage. Opera singers often position themselves down and right, because they feel the river helps their voice carry out into the audience better. The theater is currently in the midst of a two-year renovation, so both the resident opera and the ballet companies are performing elsewhere.

La Scala is sending an ensemble of 16 soloists from Teatro Alla Scala, by permission of the artistic director.

“It’s a very good representation of the company,” said Kersten. “It will be a mix of classical and contemporary. And something rather special – Robert North, an American living in Europe, is choreographing a world premiere to be debuted at the festival.”

Dance Cuba!

Lizt Alfonso’s Dance Cuba! was unable to perform last year due to new visa laws in the United States enacted 10 days before the festival. Based in Havana, the 30 dancers and musicians feature a blend of Spanish flamenco, African dance and Cuban rhythm. Unlike most companies, they rehearse with live musicians.

“In Cuba, their souls are into it, and their music,” said Kersten. “I wish we could have more open exchanges with them, artistically.”

Steppin’ Out

New this year is “Steppin’ Out,” featuring six couples of ballroom champion fame. Each couple will perform their own dances, including fox trot, waltz, jive, samba, cha cha cha and swing. They will also perform as a group.

“This is going to be an absolutely smashing evening,” said Kersten. “Audiences will absolutely adore this night. Ballroom dance aficionados will be thrilled by this production.”

Festival favorites Vivienne Ramsey and David Howland, exhibition ballroom champions, will be part of this evening.

“It’s going to be so entertaining that we predict everyone will be dancing in the aisles,” said Kersten


The Vail International Dance Festival is a project of the Vail Valley Foundation, and has been underwritten by the Giordano Family Foundation.

For more information or to buy tickets, call the Vilar Center Box Office at 845-8497, or, to purchase tickets and specific seats, visit the Web site at

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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