A huge aspect of the festival in Vail is collaboration. New partnerships that dive across company and country boundaries, that emerge between dancers, choreographers, musicians, and movement styles. Most of these new partnerships are tested for the first time in Vail, several weeks or even days in advance of their debuts. For this reason, mornings and afternoons at Vail are often just as thrilling as the spectacular evenings. Rehearsals are spread out among three venues in Vail: the Vail Mountain School, the Vilar Performing Arts Center, and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater itself.
Over the long weekend I spent in Vail, I got to observe and film rehearsals at all three spaces. At the Amphitheater on Saturday morning, the classics shone: the music of Drigo, Tchaikovsky, Chopin (and occassionally, some mambo) reverberated throughout the mountains. Later in the afternoon, I watched Christopher Wheeldon rehearse Wendy Whelan, Tyler Angle, Craig Hall and Fang-Yi Sheu at the Vail Mountain School; a new work set primarily to the music of Max Richter. I really love getting to film dancers at the Mountain School. The rugged backdrop of the school gym, transformed into a sunlit ballet studio for the festival, actually creates this magical aura of workmanship and creation. It’s the idea that beauty and grace occurs in the most unpredictable of places; that it is intensified when viewed in the simplest of environments, stripped of performance glitz and seen only for what it is at its core.
I got goosebumps watching Wendy and Tyler rehearse Wheeldon’s new pas de deux. It is set to Max Richter and Dinah Washington’s moving “This Bitter Earth”- I heard that Chris had planned to use Shostakovich and changed his mind on the plane to Denver.
Watch Wendy and Tyler rehearse the piece at Vail Mountain School here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IotMSNYbrX0
Here is some more footage of the Wheeldon rehearsal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSgpQ8iu8uk&feature=related. Featured is the unparalleled mondern-dance master Fang-Yi Sheu, who dances a pas de deux with Craig Hall (of New York City Ballet) [the clip also features some more of Wendy and Tyler]. I loved Craig and Fang-Yi together. She has this rare, exquisite quality that is at once feral and extraordinarily feminine, and it goes beautifully with Craig’s strong, powerful movement.
Here are Fang-Yi and Craig in performance at UpClose: Premieres, an evening which saw the debut of Wheeldon’s work, as well as the premiere of an ensemble piece by Emery LeCrone (set on dancers from Colorado Ballet), and new works by Richard Siegal, Trey McIntyre, and Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley.
Always memorable at VIDF is seeing Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga and American Ballet Theatre’s Herman Cornejo dancing together.
Here is a montage of best moments from their appearances at the past two festivals, including excerpts from Diana and Acteon Pas de Deux (2011), Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire (2011), Pas de Deux from Don Quixote (2010) and Pas de Deux from Giselle (2010): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRbIDOszddg&feature=channel_video_title
And I could devote an entire entry to VIDF Artist-in-Residence Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley but in the interest of sharing while I have your attention, you MUST see this clip if you have not already. The clip features Lil’ Buck performing the “The Dying Swan” ala Memphis Jookin’ in an unforgettable partnership with the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and it went viral when Spike Jonze published it online (Festival Director Damian Woetzel produced and directed the performance, and introduces the duet in the clip above). Lil’ Buck has arms that rival both Pavlova’s and Plisetskaya’s: they are virtually boneless and ripple ceaselessly and effortlessly they way that only waves should be able to. His feet are unbelievably flexible; he not only bourrees in his sneakers as though en pointe, but also balances on the side of his arch while collapsed in an ecstatic backbend toward the ground. His Dying Swan is whimsical and moving… simultaenously light-hearted and startlingly emotional as he curls up in one last breath and taps Saint-Saens’ last notes on the sole of his shoe. Lil’ Buck’s jookin style is almost entirely self-taught, and though he did study ballet with the New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, he started relatively late, at age sixteen…which is astounding as he has the plasticity of a dancer who has been at the barre for years.
Here he is in performance:
- Erica Sheftman