I don’t think I will ever forget the afternoon of Sunday, August 1.
I knew that the weather would be somewhat menacing and I was a bit concerned about how the Celebrate the Beat kids would fare that night, opening for Pacific Northwest Ballet in their Broadway tribute. The festival had provided each child with two vouchers for lawn seating, and I was terrified that all those parents who had waited weeks to see their kids perform for the first time would drown in a torrential downpour and swear off dance forever (…ultimately quite the opposite). So a bit apprehensively I went on my way to the amphitheater on Sunday and resolved to spend as much time inside as possible, getting everything ready for the children.
I was going backstage when I heard the strains of a violin playing Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel.” There are a few pieces of music that always make me cry; this is one. Of course I dropped everything and ran to the stage. There, PNB Soloist Rachel Foster and Principal Jeffrey Stanton had just begun to rehearse Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain Pas de Deux. Before my eyes the wind grew more and more forceful, the trees behind the two swayed with the rhythm of the breeze, and every strain of the violin was suddenly complemented with this haunting swoosh. Rachel’s hair billowed in the wind every time Jeffrey rocked her in his arms in those carousel-like spinwheels. There were about twenty people in the audience and you could hear a pin drop. As Rachel and Jeffrey stood facing each other motionlessly, Jeffrey gave her a silent kiss on the forehead and I heard the first bolt of lightning. Then the thunder came. No one dared move. The downpour had instantaneously become so strong that it was hard to hear the violin, but magically and very naturally it became a necessary extension of the music. As they lay on the floor at the end, a final clap of thunder resounded in the mountains, and all I could make out on the faces around me was otherwordly awe.
Here is a video I compiled of those unforgettable moments:
In summary: weather hasn’t stopped the dance. Yesterday at the performance of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, all audience members with lawn tickets were upgraded to regular seats. I would even venture to say that the thunder only heightened the drama. A ballet needn’t have a name like After the Rain to benefit from some precipitation; Paul Taylor’s Promethean Fire is a lesson in atmospheric dance. Dancers shot up into the sky to Bach’s “Prelude” and it was as though thunder was written into the score. What an exhilirating and passionate performance by all the Paul Taylor dancers; it was justly rewarded by one of the most instantaneous standing ovations I’ve observed here yet. Promethean Fire was preceded by Company B and Piazzolla Caldera - lucky for me as The Andrews Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schein” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Michelangelo 70″ top ninety percent of my On-the-Go playlists. Company B evokes the vibrations of the 1940s as America was drawn into the Second World War; my favorite section is still “Rum and Coca-Cola” which was danced with so much instinctual charm. Piazzolla Caldera got me really excited for the tango program next week, Romper el Piso, brought here by Natalia Hills and Gabriel Misse from Buenos Aires. When I was 16 I traveled to Buenos Aires with my parents and fell in love with the tango- my mom and I spent 6 nights straight at tango clubs then, so I am very excited for the public milonga in the Betty Ford Gardens on Saturday, led by Natalia and Gabriel.
Several PNB dancers are still in the house for either International Evenings of Dance or Tuesday’s $20.10 program, which will feature a range of dances from Black Swan Pas de Deux to Balanchine’s Who Cares? PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal has remained in Vail with his six dancers who will perform this week; this morning he taught company class on stage, which was joined by several of the dancers who have already arrived to prepare for the gala, including American Ballet Theatre Soloist Daniil Simkin. PNB had a fantastic residency; I loved watching Damian coach PNB Principal Lucien Postlewaite as Riff in ‘Cool’ from West Side Story Suite and I could watch millions of interpretations of Tharp’s ‘That’s Life’ section from Nina Sinatra Songs. Corps dancer Carli Samuelson’s fuschia tulle dress in “Forget Domani” was gorgeous and I’ve been listening to “One for my Baby (and One More for the Road)” on repeat for the past two days. I’m beginning to think that all ballet should be seen only in the mountains.
Check back for a video montage of PNB in class and in rehearsal.
Lastly, School of American Ballet (SAB) Faculty Member Suki Schorer arrived on Sunday and taught two morning master classes for dancers in the Vail area. Suki was my teacher at SAB for five years and I never in a million years could have believed that I would take her class once more.The dancers loved Suki’s Mr. B anecdotes- i.e. the $10 note in between a dancer’s thighs to ensure that the fifth position stayed nice and compact back in the days when a $10 bill actually amounted to something - and now there’s word Suki might teach company class this week. She’s also been dancing the tango - in New York and in Buenos Aires - for over a decade and will be joining Natalia and Gabriel at the Up Close: Tango rehearsal this Saturday.
Oh yes- Wendy Whelan, officially landed and checked-in. So looking forward to seeing her in After the Rain again…
That’s all for now, check back soon! Remember to check the Vail Valley Foundation YouTube Channel/Vail Internation Dance Festival Playlist for lots more performance footage, as well as the Flickr channel for photos from the resident photographers, Caitlin Kakigi and Erin Baiano.