Vail Dance Festival tips, taps into town | VailDaily.com

Vail Dance Festival tips, taps into town

Leigh Horton
Special to the Daily

in just a few short days, dancers, musicians and choreographers hailing from places ranging from New York City to Brazil will gather to wow audiences at the Vail International Dance Festival.

The festival begins Monday, when audiences will watch some of the world's best dance talent performing new movements to new music. The Vilar Performing Arts Center, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and other valley stages will become centers for artistic development, places where some of the world's finest dancers and choreographers practice their creativity.

Happy Feet

Tap dancing genius Savion Glover will open the festival with a characteristically high-energy performance. Millennials may remember him from Sesame Street in the 1990s. A younger crowd will recognize Glover as the inspiration for Mumble in the 2006 Disney hit "Happy Feet." Because Glover has shared his talent with children, he is credited with reviving interest in tap dancing for a new generation.

Glover is sure to please the Vail audience with crisp footwork, joyful performance and awe-inspiring ability.

"One of my favorite things is performing in the amphitheater," he said. "I love the outside and every time I'm in Vail the audience is very hospitable and the reception is very nice. I love being up there and in the outdoors."

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The Ford Amphitheater venue gives Glover the opportunity to try fresher and looser dances.

"For me, sometimes dancing outside determines what tunes I choose to play. A lot of times, it makes me want to play more festive music," he said. "Being outside reminds me of doing something more festive rather than composed."

Damian Woetzel, director of the International Dance Festival since 2007 also a former principal dancer in the New York City Ballet, calls Glover "the greatest tap dancer in the world," saying that his performances are signature statements for the Festival. Opening with Glover is a coup for the festival, which has a global reputation for inviting the best talent.

Dancing to a different beat

The festival also is the ideal place to test new material. Several companies will premier material and learn from artists specializing in other styles. On Aug. 4, a program entitled Now: Premiers will include collection of six new performances by artists such as Lil' Buck and the New York City Ballet. Choreographers from the New York City Ballet and Pam Tanowitz also will introduce work during this event.

The ability to dance several styles while specializing in one is a common theme in the dance world. The International Evenings of Dance will share a unique array of styles, according to Woetzel.

"These evenings will include everything from modern dance to classical dance to contemporary ballet. Dancers today are a very skilled group who are versatile in so many ways," he said. "They cherish that versatility and the ability to switch between choreographers."

The festival unites an adventurous group of dancers and choreographers, and Woetzel hopes that artists will take advantage of working beside other artists who specialize in different types of dance.

"Even the best ballroom dancer or ballet dancer can learn from street dancers, and vice versa," he said.

Despite the innovations, this year's festival will not neglect the classics. George Balanchine, creator of the New York City Ballet and one of the most beloved and talented choreographers, will be honored on Aug. 5 and 9.

The Aug. 5 performance at the Vilar Performing Arts Center will be a rehearsal-style display of "Apollo" with music by Stravinsky. By demonstrating the development of this creation from its original 1928 performance to its final show before Balanchine's death in 1983, the audience will have the unusual opportunity to watch dancers and choreographers work together to create a finished ballet production.

Leonard Bernstein, former assistant conductor and music director of the New York Philharmonic, inspired this performance. He encouraged open rehearsals where he would explain the music to the audience. Woetzel wanted to recreate this experience with the Up Close performances at the festival.

"I always thought that it was so exciting," he said.

Korbes' farewell

The Aug. 9 show will provide an overview of the Balanchine's vast portfolio. This is a bittersweet performance that both honors this towering dance figure and marks the end of a career. The night will include his Pas de Deux and Elegie. Brazilian dancer Carla Korbes, a principle dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet and former dancer with the New York City Ballet, is closing her hugely successful career at the Balanchine Celebration.

With such a stellar lineup, it's easy to understand why the festival marks career development. While audiences buy tickets and prepare to feel clumsy as they admire the infinite grace of visiting dancers, the festival does much more than inspire valley residents and visitors to sign up for dance lessons. Dancers entertain audiences at night, and develop their careers during the day.

It is a pleasure to witness world-class dancers in any setting. However, in Vail a sunset is a picturesque backdrop for the New York City Ballet, sure to charm even the most devoted dance aficionado. Being close enough to see muscles quiver while an artist is en point in the Vilar is a privilege. Aspen leaves and Gore Creek are a fitting framework for great artists dancing. Watching these artists in a setting such as the Ford Amphitheater or the intimate Vilar is an opportunity not to be missed.

What to Know

The Vail International Dance Festival officially opens on July 27 with Savion Glover and runs through Aug. 5.

Performances will be held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, and the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.

For performance details, ticket, and seat information, visit http://www.vaildance.org.