Leap Into Vail Dance Festival, Starting Friday

Leap Into Vail Dance Festival, Starting Friday

Well done back! More and more artists are bringing the pinnacle of their careers to the stage, this time in the form of dance, although live music is also gaining traction. The Vale Dance Festival starts on Friday and runs until August 7.

Whether you're a newcomer or a festival veteran, Friday's star-studded opening night will showcase many of this year's companies, including the Martha Graham Dance Company, LA Dance Project, Brazilian tap dancer Leonardo Sandoval, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater and BalletX. This is a great way to plan your next steps for choosing other presentations you want to attend.

Music as a base

While the focus has been on artists-in-residence for many years, the Vail Dance Festival launched its Composer-in-Residence program in 2018, "music drives everything we do here," says festival director Damien Watzel.

Carolyn Shaw, the youngest composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for music, returns to the Vail Dance Festival this year as the Leonard Bernstein Composer-in-Residence. He and New York City Ballet choreographer Justin Peck are creating a new piece.

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"He works experimentally and excitingly with the central choreographer Justin Peck. It's beautiful," Woetzel said.

Rooted in tradition

While the festival has always pushed the boundaries of dance by mixing ballet, modern contemporary dance, tap, street dance and many other styles, one form of its history is the legendary Martha Graham Dance Company. The company returns this year for a busy Saturday night as well as other collaborations during the festival.

Saturday's program begins with Graham's classic "Errant Into the Maze," derived from the myth of Theseus who wanted to defeat the Minotaur in a labyrinth. In Martha Graham's version, a hero meets the half-man, half-beast not once, but three times before he finally submits. When Graham first danced, he was exploring a mythic journey within himself.

The evening continues with the performance 'Cave' by the company of the international dance star Daniil Simkin. Daniel's goal was to incorporate the techno club dance scene into a rave event.

“As a precursor to this larger concept, Hofesh Schechter was invited to create a dance for the Graham dancers for the proscenium stage. The result is a collective and visceral experience of movement with a powerful and circular shared kinetic energy," reads the description of the Voile dance festival.

The orchestra closed Saturday's performance with "Cantile for Innocent Comedians", written by Graham in 1952. The poem of the same name written by Ben Bellitt in 1938 inspired the work Polydic, composed of eight virtuosic vignettes for dancers, celebrating the various elements of nature: sun, earth, sky, water, fire and death. The original work was called Magic, but only a fraction of the recording survives, notably Graham's "Moon". This 2022 version is a reinterpretation of the original based on Graham's stylistic sketches.

"Having the Martha Graham Dance Company join us again this year for a series of performances and events is a symbol of the tradition and innovation we continue," said Woetzel.

Another essential piece of dance history is Sunday's "Upclose Mr. B: George Balanchine's 20th Century." Balanchine founded the New York City Ballet. The evening celebrates Balanchine's choreographic genius with an all-star cast of dancers. The meticulous performance, directed by Wetzel and Balanchine dancer Heather Watts, featured excerpts from Balanchine's ballets, including Apollo, Prodigal Son and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Renowned author Jennifer Homans will be a special guest on "Mr. B: George Balanchine's 20th Century."

Other highlights of the festival

This year's Artist-in-Residence Adji Sissoko introduces the kora, an ancient stringed instrument from West Africa, while choreographing a new solo on stage. Of course, she will appear in several other roles during the festival, including Alonzo King's Epilogue with American Ballet Theatre's Calvin Royal III on opening night and The Dying Swan.

In keeping with the spirit of pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance, companies from East and West bring a lot of energy to the festival. LA Dance Project returns to Ford Amphitheater Monday night with a contemporary lineup; Festival quartet presenting three songs with the Brooklyn Rider Company. On Wednesday night, the festival moves to Villa's Performing Arts Center with Solar Music, as the company makes its festival debut.

"Directed by Brazilian dancer/choreographer Leonardo Sandoval and bassist/composer Gregory Richardson, tap dance and live music unite in the award-winning production I Didn't Come to Stay, joyfully celebrating the connections between tap dance's Afro-diasporic roots and Afro-braz music program," So Description Dance and Afro-braz.

This year, the International Dance Night includes three shows from 4 to 5 August. Each offers a variety of acts, including Ukrainian ballroom dancers, although some repeat if you don't get all three. From ballet and modern to tap and street dance, the shows showcase new collaborations as well as daring collaborations and debuts.

"It's all in one place," Woetzel says of the wonderful styles and artists from around the world.

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On August 6, Sophisticated BalletX returns to VPAC earlier this year after its excellent performance of Sid: A Hero's Journey. This time, the ballet features "Love Letters," a look at choreographer Kylie Kwan's childhood in Guam; and Peck's "Become a Mountain."

Colorado's amazing new contemporary ballet company DanceAspen NOW: Returns August 7 as part of first performance. The company also participates in the free "Dancing in the Park" performance on August 3rd at the Avon.

In addition to 10 world premieres and four new musical compositions, Val Dance makes dance accessible and accessible with presentations on August 1 $20.23 Night of Dance, Dancing in the Park and Dancing in the Streets, and dance podcast conversations.

The festival concludes on August 7 with "Now: Premiere", featuring new works choreographed by Lil Buck, Sissoko, Matthew Neenan, Peck, Kwan and more.

“Last night was the culmination of imaginative work, thinking and working through what could have been. That's really the heart of the festival," Wetzel said. "It's a big sequel, with brand new stuff."

Known for innovative collaborations between dancers, musicians and choreographers, the festival allows artists to expand their dance vocabulary in Vail and around the world.

“It's about the next step... There is something new, another step for artists and composers. This is what artists come for and what audiences expect. It's great to see all these incredible artists in different roles," said Woetzel. "The festival brings new ideas and new energy year after year. It's like an ever-growing company."

Vail Dance Festival 2023 dates to be announced

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