Vail Dance Fest documentary film airs Thursday on PBS |

Vail Dance Fest documentary film airs Thursday on PBS

Daily staff report

VAIL — The beauty and grace of the 2011 and 2012 Vail International Dance Festivals will be on full display tonight as the new documentary film “The Altitude of Dance,” premieres on all Rocky Mountain PBS affiliate stations throughout Colorado at 8:30 p.m.

Two years in the making, the 26-minute film by Nel Shelby and Christopher Duggan chronicles the dance festival, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this coming summer, July 28 through Aug. 10.

“The airing of this film is groundbreaking from a television perspective,” said Duncan Horner, vice president of marketing for the Vail Valley Foundation. “The arts in general are highly protective about their content, so creating an opportunity like this for others to experience world class dance is truly a privilege. We hope that it will take us one step closer towards making dance more inclusive and in turn, broaden the global audience.”

Set against the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, “The Altitude of Dance” follows two summers of world-renowned dancers and choreographers that flock to Vail, creating lasting friendships that continue to celebrate the world of dance.

“This film by Nel Shelby captures the spirit of the Vail International Dance Festival,” said festival director Damian Woetzel. “In addition to documenting the marvelous dancers that grace our stages each year, ‘The Altitude of Dance’ gives a glimpse behind the curtain to a world that audiences very rarely see.”

MOVES moves

The film showcases the debut of New York City Ballet MOVES, the traveling component of the preeminent ballet company, while also featuring dance stars from around the globe sharing the stage of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater for the International Evenings of Dance performances.

In addition to performance footage, the film also takes the audience behind the scenes of the festival, with artist interviews including Herman Cornejo, Tiler Peck, Matthew Rushing, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Wendy Whelan and Woetzel offering their insights on the thrill of performing in Vail and pairings with dancers from other companies for the first time.

The artists-in-residence segment of “The Altitude of Dance” features Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, including “Lil Buck” rehearsing with the Celebrate the Beat students at Avon Elementary School and the live performance on stage.

The process of creating and premiering new works in Vail with artists that have never performed together is also examined, with footage featuring Christopher Wheeldon’s 2011 premiere of “Five Movements, Three Repeats” and Brian Brooks’ 2012 premiere of “FALL FALLS,” along with interviews with Wheeldon, Whelan and Fang-Yi Sheu.

“We are extremely excited to have this film premiere as we get ready for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Vail International Dance Festival,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation, the nonprofit organization responsible for the festival. “It is a wonderful tribute to the magic and vision that Damian has brought to the festival.”

The origins of the Vail International Dance Festival can be traced back to 1989. As the Vail Valley Foundation and the town of Vail began to explore and expand the programming possibilities at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, a unique opportunity presented itself; the famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow had embarked on its first tour of the United States in nearly 20 years and was looking to fill a cancelled engagement. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We are eternally grateful to the town of Vail for the dedicated partnership we have enjoyed in bringing world class dance to Vail for the past 25 years,” Folz said. “It’s not often that you find such a tremendous public-private partnership that truly works, day in and day out.”

This year, dancers from all over the world will convene in what the New York Times has called a “United Nations” for dance, as the Festival embarks on its 25th anniversary season. Once again paying homage to its legacy as a melting pot of nations, traditions and styles, as well as the fusion of iconic classics and new works by both renowned and emerging choreographers.

Nel Shelby Productions is New York’s premier source for dance videography, documentation services and live streaming. Founder Nel Shelby is deeply dedicated to the preservation and promotion of dance. In addition to her numerous and diverse collection of dance clients, she also serves as the resident videographer for the Vail International Dance Festival.

For additional information on the festival or the foundation, visit

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