The Winger calls. I am stepping out of longtime lurkdom to document some of what is going to be a whirlwind two and a half weeks in Vail, CO at the 2010 incarnation of the Vail International Dance Festival, spearheaded by Winger blogger, and Festival Artistic Director Mr. Damian Woetzel. Damian has been shuttling back and forth between all the different (gorgeous) venues around here and confirming that everyone is settled with piano accompaniment, studio space, rehearsal time, smooth check-ins, etc., so I’m here to provide some running commentary.
Erica Sheftman, 20. Former School of American Ballet student (‘99-‘08), Fiorello H. Laguardia HS grad, current Harvard undergrad and festival intern.
My first intern experience was helping to register close to seventy elementary students for Celebrate the Beat!, a dance workshop initiated by Jacques d’Amboise with an annual summer residency at the festival. Directed by the amazing Tracy Straus, the week-long program culminates in a special presentation by CTB dancers this Sunday, August 1 at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail’s stunning outdoor amp housed amidst the Gore range of the Rockies and the beautiful Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
The kids will open for Pacific Northwest Ballet, in their “Broadway, Ballet and Beyond” program, featuring The Winger’s Carla Korbes in Benjamin Millepied’s 3 Movements and Mr. B’s Duo Concertante, as well as Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain Pas de Deux, Robbins’ “Cool” from West Side Story Suite, and my personal favorite, Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs. In tribute to the ballyhoo of Broadway, the kids are rehearsing a group dance to a medley of Leonard Bernstein and Marvin Hamlisch, among others; they shuffle between A Chorus Line and West Side Story as though they’d been born doing it, they mambo like nobody’s business. It’s hard to believe that some of them have been dancing for only four days, and all of them are high-kicking to One (singular sensation) for the first time in their lives. It’s been so inspiring to have the kids run to class out of breath in the morning and to watch them feel more and more at ease with abandoning themselves to impulse.
Savion Glover and Eddie Palmieri, along with their respective ensembles Bare Soundz and The Otherz, opened the festival this past Tuesday. I’d seen Glover perform once at ABT’s Opening Night Gala at the MET Opera House, preceding Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca in Roland Petit’s Carmen Pas De Deux; it was an altogether different experience this time around at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The interplay between Glover and Palmieri was unbelievable; they fed off of each other, and undoubtedly the air of the place was inspiring. People dancing and popping champagne, cooled in ice buckets, on the lawn; the occasional vehicle and the less frequent mosquito; the suspense of an impending thunderstorm and a final champagne reception with “Empire State of Mind” reverberating through the mountains….it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. There’s nothing like it.
On Wednesday, I watched Damian rehearse NYCB principals Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz in a suite of Chopin/Robbins dances, including excerpts from Other Dances, Dances at a Gathering, and a piece originated by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride that hasn’t been seen since 1979, but was filmed live for the well-known “Baryshnikov at the White House” telecast. The last time I saw Other Dances was at NYCB in 2008, when Julie Kent joined Damian in it as a guest in his farewell season, so I loved watching him demonstrate once more. Damian spoke a lot about Robbins; his specialized form of cool nonchalance and reticence in musicality, in movement, and in gesture….
Pacific Northwest Ballet arrived late on Wednesday night, and was already in the studio on Thursday morning. Artistic Director Peter Boal taught company class, which was combined with the dancers rehearsing Larry Keigwin’s Aug. 6 world premiere (set to Aretha Franklin!): Peck, De Luz, NYCB Principal Robbie Fairchild, and Sokvannara Sar (of Dancing Across Borders). VIDF staff finally loaded-in the amphitheater following the NY Philharmonic’s residency (lots of us went to hear Andrey Boreyko conduct selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet; Boreyko closed with an encore of the Garland Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty that had all of us ballet nerds doing balancés on the lawn). PNB company class took place onstage at the Amphitheater and dancers rehearsed Balanchine’s Square Dance and Serenade, and Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels.
Finally, on Thursday night, Larry and Damian led more than one hundred spectators at the Arrabelle Square in Lionshead Village in Fosse’s Rich Man’s Frug at what has become a traditional VIDF event, “Dancing in the Streets.” Afterwards, Damian, Larry and his dancers broke it down to some Gaga, Beyonce, and yes, some “Empire State of Mind”. Lots of the Celebrate the Beat kids were in attendance; they got to fouetté and put a ring on it with some of the leading dance stars in the country.
More to come soon. In the meantime, follow the links below to enjoy festival photos and videos.