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Why I'm Already Planning My Return To Vail Dance Festival

Tiler Peck, Christopher Grant and Roman Mejia in Peck's choreographic debut: Lincoln Square. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy Vail Dance Festival

Last week, Dance Magazine's owner Frederic Seegal visited the Vail Dance Festival. He was so excited by what he saw there that he wanted to share with Dance Magazine readers a few of the highlights that made the biggest impression on him.

Having been fortunate enough to be on the board of New York City Center when Arlene Shuler introduced Fall for Dance in 2004, I never thought that I would see anything that could rival its inventiveness, assemblage of talent and audience enthusiasm. That is, until this week when I spent fours days at the Vail Dance Festival.


As its impresario (and there is no better word to describe him), Damian Woetzel has often said that the goal of the festival is to bring dancers, choreographers and musicians together to explore and create programming that they rarely have a chance to do in their normal lives. That sounds extraordinarily ambitious, but certainly this week, reality exceeded expectations.

I will leave it to others to chronicle and review the performances, but I would like to share some of my personal highlights:

  • Being one of the few people in the amphitheater at 11:30 pm in 45-degree weather watching a rehearsal for Michelle Dorrance's Ex Pluribus One which, given the collection of talent, may only be seen once in that iteration
  • How the lighting cast shadows of the dancers on the side walls, which were bordered by birches and highlighted the forest behind the stage
  • Lil Buck on "pointe"
  • Justin Peck tap dancing
  • The voice and compositions of Carolyn Shaw (the festival's composer in residence this year)
  • The artist Andrea Selby who completed her drawings at a pace equal to the dancers
  • Tiler Peck performing in her own choreography, and singing and dancing "The Music and the Mirror" from A Chorus Line
  • Herman Cornejo floating through Jerome Robbins' Suite of Dances, which remarkably he has never performed before
  • Justin Peck's In Creases and Dorrance's Ex Pluribus One showcasing Philip Glass's extraordinary danceabilty
  • Merce Cunningham's Scenario performed by many dancers who had never before participated in his choreography

The list could go on and on. I am both envious of those who are able to attend the entire festival and already planning for next year.

Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance and Ron "Prime Tyme" Myles in Vail Dance Jam 3.0. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy Vail Dance Festival

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