Damian’s last dance in Vail? | VailDaily.com

Damian’s last dance in Vail?

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyDamian Woetzel, director of the Vail International Dance Festival, rehearses "Sinatra Suite" at Ford Ampitheatre on Wednesday. Woetzel, who retired from the New York City Ballet this year, will perform the piece during the International Evenings of Dance. It is his last scheduled dance.

VAIL, Colorado ” This weekend could be our last chance to see Damian Woetzel dance.

A principal dancer with the New York City Ballet since 1985, Woetzel retired from the company earlier this summer, but plans one final dance in Vail before moving on to the next stage of his career.

“It’s the final one scheduled,” he said. “We’ll see ” I imagine there might be a few more special projects that I might want to be involved with here and there but my focus has now shifted to doing other things.”

Woetzel, who is the director of the Vail International Dance Festival, will perform “Sinatra Suite” during the International Evenings of Dance tonight and Saturday at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

“I chose to do that because it’s the right place, the right piece, the right time,” he said. “It just feels right, and to get to do something I’ve always wanted to do, it’s like a bonus.”

Set to five Frank Sinatra songs, Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite” is a romantic work. Woetzel, who has never performed the piece, will dance with New York City Ballet soloist Tiler Peck and finish with a solo.

Woetzel has been enchanted by “Sinatra Suite” ever since about 20 years ago, when he saw a film of Mikhail Baryshnikov performing it.

“To finish with a debut is kind of an odd thing and kind of wonderful,” he said. “I actually have to work on it. It’s not like I know it.”

Woetzel’s favorite part of the dance is the solo at the end. “One for my baby” cues up: “It’s a quarter to three/There’s no one in the place cept you and me..” and he performs a dance about being alone. For Woetzel, the solo evokes the feeling he gets after a performance, when the empty stage is glowing with a single light called the “ghost light.”

“It’s an incredibly magical atmosphere: Empty stage after the performance, ghost light, and this solo has all of that feeling,” he said. “It’s after, and you have this beautiful song and you do your little meditative dance and you pick up your jacket and walk off the stage.”

Woetzel said he feels good physically and didn’t retire from the New York City Ballet this past June because he had to. “I’m loving dance still and there’s no regrets in any way so it’s the right time,” he said. “And I’m 41. I had a good run.”

In the next stage of his career, Woetzel will continue to serve as director of the Vail International Dance Festival. He is the artist in residence at the Aspen institute, where he has been doing policy work on things like cultural diplomacy and arts education. Woetzel also serves on presidential candidate Barack Obama’s arts policy committee.

Perhaps fittingly, Woetzel chose to perform his last dance at an event that brings together dancers from across the world.

In fact, he danced at Vail’s first International Evenings of Dance in 1993. Woetzel performed George Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes,” a moment he remembers as exciting.

“The first time you walk on that stage and see the mountains all around you, it’s really quite special,” he said. “So that’s what I picture most of all: The atmosphere surrounding it, and there was a lot of excitement because it was the first, debut performance.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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