For $20.17, an introduction to a whole new world at Vail Dance Festival |

For $20.17, an introduction to a whole new world at Vail Dance Festival

Carla Korbes performs George Balanchine's Elegie with violist Paul Laraia at the Dance for $20.16 program of the 2016 Vail Dance Festival. This year, Dance for $20.17 takes over the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater stage in Vail on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
Erin Baiano | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Dance for $20.17.

Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

When: Tuesday, Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $20.17.

More information: Visit

When the lights came up on opening night at the Vail Dance Festival on July 29, it was to a packed house at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. In the 29 years since its inception, word has spread: Our hometown’s two-week festival is now ranked among the best in the world by critics near and far.

The Vail Dance Festival’s renown was common knowledge to the patrons and aficionados gathered in the center seats, but not everyone in that audience was entirely clear on the experience they were in for.

John Pontefract, for example, only recently became aware that his Saturday night would be spent in Vail. He was a last-minute addition to his spouse’s corporate gathering. Somewhere in transit between his home in Portland, Oregon, and arrival at Opening Night, Pontefract learned he was about to see the finest dancers in the world in the alpine setting of the Ford Amphitheater.

Open-minded and game for something new, Pontefract was cautiously optimistic. His knowledge of dance amounted to the usual baseline exposure one receives from popular culture: Fred Astaire, Flashdance, Footloose and the Nutcracker? Check. Swan Lake? Check.

The world-renowned Misty Copeland? That’s a check, too. Pontefract wasn’t totally out of his element, but definitely swimming in new waters.

“I enjoy watching the best perform in any setting. But when you combine world-class dancers, choreographers and musicians with a venue like Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, you’ve created a unique event — one you really shouldn’t miss,” Pontefract said at intermission. “I wish I were as good at anything as Ron ‘Prime Time’ Myles is at dance.”

Festival organizers said that introducing new viewers to the experience is a big part of what the event is about. This seemed clear in the Opening Night program, which artfully walked newcomers along a fully-comprehensible tour of multiple forms of dance.

‘Experience’ Dance

It’s also clear in the overall schedule, including the continuation of what has become one of the festival’s most enjoyable evenings: Dance for $20.17.

“Dance is very difficult to describe in words, or even capture in a photo. The best way to introduce someone to all its incarnations and variations is simply for them to come and experience it,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s Martin Nieves, who serves as the festival’s manager. “This is something we keep in mind in everything we do, and it’s a core part of the festival’s vision, but Dance for $20.17 is the night we really design around that concept.”

The idea is simple: for many potential dance fans, there is a little bit of something holding them back from attending. Perhaps it’s a cultural barrier, perhaps it’s economic. Dance for $20.17 provides a set of bright, eye-catching performances that can be appreciated by anyone who’s ever tapped their feet to a beat … and that’s pretty much everyone.


The program is also quite varied (not to mention, exceptional). From Memphis Jookin’ to classical ballet and everything in between, the program is an astonishing, whirlwind look at virtually everything the festival has to offer.

This means the $20.17 ticket price provides tremendous value. The hope, say organizers, is to break down any economic barriers that might inhibit an otherwise enthusiastic dance-lover from coming to the show. Coupled with the Community Arts Access Program, which provides tickets to local families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy the festival, the Vail Dance Festival is pulling out all the stops when it comes to rolling out the red carpet to new audiences.

For Pontefract and many others, the approach is working. Whether it’s back in Portland, or in Vail again next year, he said he will most definitely be attending more dance performances in the future.

“It’s really something you want to see with your own eyes, in person,” he said. “There’s even more to it than I had imagined.”

Tom Boyd is former editor of the Vail Trail and currently serves as director of public relations and communications for the Vail Valley Foundation, which hosts the Vail Dance Festival.

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