But for the second year in a row that I have been so lucky to be at these performances, the International Evenings galas at Vail have been anything but predictable. Musical selections for the works performed ranged from Chopin to Ingrid Michaelson; Duke Ellington to Philip Glass; mambo to Drigo. Styles of dance ranged from contemporary ballet to modern dance, and from ballroom dance to purely classical ballet and then some memphis jookin’. The result was a delicious sampler of every kind of movement. There was something for everyone, and for this reason I feel like it’d be the ideal evening to introduce someone to the art of dance. When you see a gala run smoothly between an excerpt from the romantic Lady of the Camellias, a sexy, flashy mambo number, a Graham ode set to traditional spiritual music and the crowd-pleasing thirty-two fouettes from Black Swan pas de deux - and around you you see an incredibly diverse and happily rapt audience - you wonder if the standard gala formula could be rewritten to become this varied and inclusive.
There was not one free seat in the entire amphitheater and the lawn was packed with families, couples and friends huddled together on blankets. It’s truly a magical environment and it’s fascinating to observe the shift in energy as the night goes on. At the beginning, you’ll hear some rustling here and there, the pop of a champagne bottle and the clashing of cubes in its companion ice bucket, a child squealing with delight. By intermission the sun has set and the audience has settled into a blissful, moonlit quiet. Unsurprisingly the second act on Friday was punctuated by Bach, Camille Saint-Saens, Phillip Glass and Gyogi Ligeti: the strains of the cello, played by the great Mike Block, and the piano, played by the brilliant Cristina Pato (who earlier in the night led the Celebrate the Beat! kids on the Galician Bagpipe!), provide the most perfect accompaniment to this evening idyll.
Also beautiful was The Orchard, choreographed by Festival Director Damian Woetzel to the music of Philip Glass. Carla Korbes and Tyler Angle danced. The piece reminded me a bit of Robbins’s Afternoon of a Faun. Set onstage, practically amidst the Rockies, is a spare ballet barre, and a piano stands at the side. The two dancers come together slowly, moved by a mutual fascination and curiosity, and the ballerina floats as though through water in her partner’s arms for much of the piece. It ends with both seated at the piano, picking out a few of Glass’s notes. As the lights dim, she rests her head on his shoulders.
I got to film Carla and Cory Stearns of American Ballet Theatre rehearsing the Act II Pas de deux from Swan Lake on Friday: watch the video montage here- Carla Korbes and Cory Stearns rehearse White Swan Pas de Deux. Carla and Cory are so visually stunning together and have wonderful chemistry, particularly for dancing together for the first time. I hope that they’ll get a chance to dance again together soon.
It’s easy to see that dancers love coming to Vail - it’s such a beautiful and unique experience to perform outdoors. And added perks: Misa Kuranaga and Herman Cornejo spent a few hours during the afternoon relaxing in the woods behind the theater and icing their feet in the cold creek water!