Keeping au Courant |

Keeping au Courant

The Vail International Dance Festival might come around every year like clockwork, but times they are a-changin’. This year marks a rather ambitious lineup in concept and execution. From a new company’s debut to a marked change in performance style, there are many additions to the festival. Best of all, nothing’s been changed just to make it different; these changes are all for the good. Here’s what you should look for:

Damian Woetzel

Once upon a time Damian Woetzel visited Vail to dance at the International Evenings of Dance. One performance led to another, and he became the darling of the Vail International Dance Festival. So it’s a bit of a misnomer to deem him new to the festival ” but he’s starring in a new role this year: Artistic Director. Woetzel has taken his experience on the stage, coupled it with his immense rolodex of contacts, and produced something that promises to be greater than the sum of its parts. Welcome to the Vail International Dance Festival version

Live music

Any festivarian can wax poetic about the live music experience. There’s something magical about being in a group, listening and moving to the sounds being created right in front of you. As a performer, Woetzel’s had it both ways. He’s danced to a recording, and he’s danced while musicians played. He vastly prefers the latter. “Live music enhances the experience,” he said. “It’s a whole different level of connection.” Some of the Bravo! musicians are staying on for the first night and will be playing for the evening’s performance; violinist Jennifer Koh will play for both International Evenings of Dance. Tony-nominated Scott Wise will be calling for “Square Dance” opening night. Additionally, both Pacific Northwest Ballet and New York City Ballet are sending pianists with their dancers.

Summer residency

There are options when it comes to travel. You can visit 12 countries in 8 days, crossing borders with authority and marking cities off a list. Or you can stay put in a small town for a week, getting to know its rhythms and idiosyncrasies. Pacific Northwest Ballet is hunkering down in Vail for a while. At night they’ll be performing an ambitious program, but during the day they’ll be playing in the mountains. Hiking, biking, eating out ” look for them around town.

Debuting company

Those in the dance world know Christopher Wheeldon by name and reputation. People on the outside are just beginning to hear about him. According to Vanity Fair, this Brit is responsible for saving American dance. In an audacious move last fall, he decided to resign as resident choreographer from New York City Ballet and start his own company, Morphoses/Christopher Wheeldon Company. He’s not aiming to create traditional story-length ballets. Instead he intends to focus on young choreographers as well as artists who work in other mediums, such as painting, theater and photography. He also hopes to extend dance’s reach on the Internet, which will be a feat indeed. Though he intends to “create a new buzz for dance in New York” (New York Times) with his company, he’s doing Vail the great favor of debuting his new company at the festival.

Beyond pas de deux

This signature event of the festival spans two nights. The International Evenings of Dance enables principals from companies world-wide to perform together. The energy on stage is palpable, as the dancers try to best each other in a good-natured competition. Classical and contemporary dance have always had a spot during the performances, but usually only two dancers from a particular company are invited. This year five dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform. The company strives to promote the uniqueness of African American cultural expression and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage. They’ll help take the International Evenings to entirely new places.

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