Vail International Dance Festival fuels dreams of intern Meredith Steinke | VailDaily.com

Vail International Dance Festival fuels dreams of intern Meredith Steinke

Jennifer Geisman
Special to the Daily

Year by year, Meredith Steinke has become more engaged with the Vail International Dance Festival, growing her own abilities in dance, learning the ins and outs of the dance world and using her encounters with the world’s top dancers to fuel and guide her passion for the performing arts.

VAIL — When you think about a summer internship, the first thing to come to mind might be stuffy suits and corporate offices. But that's not what it's like when you are accepted into the Vail International Dance Festival's summer internship program.

At this three-week internship, suits are replaced with colorful costumes, and young eyes are exposed to an unparalleled, behind-the-scenes look at the life of the world's greatest dancers and choreographers. It is a rare, fast-tracked, total-immersion experience into the world of the arts.

Understandably, it's a tough gig to get. No wonder it attracts students from all over the world. It also appeals to Vail's own community of talent, helping foster a new generation of dancers and performing arts aficionados.

Entranced early

One such student, Vail native Meredith Steinke, became entranced with the festival early in life. Year by year, she became more engaged with the event, growing her own abilities in dance, learning the ins and outs of the dance world and using her encounters with the world's top dancers to fuel and guide her passion for the performing arts.

"Working for the Vail International Dance Festival has been one of the best experiences of my life," Steinke said. "It has impacted my visions, work ethic and connections around the world."

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Like most internships, the opening salvo was not full of glory. She began with a small bit part, taking on larger roles year by year.

"Each summer, my responsibilities grew. I assisted with multiple National Dance Day events, created promotional flash mobs and continued to help grow the internship program," Steinke said.

Between festivals, she developed her ability in dance and musical theater. During the Vail International Dance Festival, she became known for her abilities to organize and support the sometimes-hectic backstage aspects of the event.

"Meredith is a truly talented person with incredible drive and empathy; she has a bright future both on and off the stage," said Martha Brassel, director of development for the Vail International Dance Festival.

Injury setback

As many successful performers can attest, gaining entry into the hyper-competitive world of performing arts is a difficult, uncompromising process. In the fall of her sophomore year at Chicago College of Performing Arts, Steinke tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, a setback that required a year off to recover at home and do rehab with Howard Head Sports Medicine. This time off was accompanied by a fear that precious time lost might make the crucial difference in her career.

"The recovery was very challenging at first. I truly thought it was the end of my dance career," Steinke said.

The setback held one silver lining: In 2015, while recovering, Steinke joined the Vail Valley Foundation to help with the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships and then filled a critical role with the Vail International Dance Festival as festival coordinator. Many remember the famous 2015 wrap video, Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off."

"Working full time with the Vail Valley Foundation was such a joy. There are so many intelligent staff members that I had the honor to learn from every day. Each day in the office was new and exhilarating," Steinke said.

As festival coordinator, Steinke worked closely with Brassel and the festival's artistic director, Damian Woetzel. Steinke's responsibilities included leading the internship team, assisting with the organization and execution of the festival fringe events, donor events, artist and staff hospitality, rehearsal and transportation schedule, post-performance dinners and acting as a liaison between the festival artists and festival management team.

"I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with my role models in the dance world. It fueled my passion and dreams to pursue a career in the performing arts," Steinke said. "This experience not only gave me a taste of the professional dance world, but also shed light on the business side of performing arts."

Steinke's experience working with the festival is at the heart of what helped her recover both physically and emotionally from her knee injury.

"What I learn during the festival is to believe. Moving forward with this experience, I've never been so energized and eager to pursue my own dreams," Steinke said. "Every summer, I was inspired by some of my favorite dancers right before my eyes. Watching them rehearse all day, interact with the community in my hometown and witness some of the most breathtaking performances was invaluable knowledge to take away."

Her determination, passion and experience gained at the festival are already paying off. This summer, she landed a summer job at the renowned Stagedoor Manor Summer Camp as assistant choreographer, dance teacher and counselor.

Vail International Dance Festival schedule

• Dorrance Dance in Concert — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• UpClose: Vail’s Dance Festival with Damian Woetzel — 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek

• Dancing in the Park — 5:30 p.m. (gates open at 4:30 p.m.) Thursday, Aug. 4, Avon Performance Pavilion at Harry A. Nottingham Park, Avon

• International Evenings of Dance I — 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• International Evenings of Dance II — 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• NOW: Premieres — 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• Dance for $20.16 — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• Dance Theatre of Harlem — 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek

• Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance — 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• Ballroom Spectacular — 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• Dance TV — 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

For a full schedule, including Master Classes and fringe events, visit vaildance.org or call 888-920-ARTS (2787).