Vail Dance Blooming & Booming Under Damian

August 7, 2012

Damian Woetzel’s enthusiasm for dance is contagious. As artistic director of Vail International Dance Festival, he engages and educates the audience with each introduction to each dance. On Monday night, in his zeal to give us the experience of dancing to live music, he even got the whole crowd of 1,300 or so on its feet to learn the opening phrase of Balanchine’s Serenade, with musicians from Brooklyn Rider playing the Tchaikovsky live. It was well worth it because the audience reacted warmly to every piece that night. I heard sighs and wows at the end of most of the ballets. They appreciated the beauty they were given, and they trusted Woetzel’s gifts.

Damian Woetzel. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy VIDF.

For a ballet guy, Damian has really plunged into other types of dance: postmodern, hip-hop, ballroom, and TV dance. He’s putting high art and popular art on the same footing at Vail. In doing so, he’s building audiences for all kinds of dance everywhere.

In a previous blog about Damian I compared him to Diaghilev, and I feel that way even more now. Not in the sense of making visual/dance/music collaborations, but in the sense of bringing together dancers and choreographers in new configurations. He put together PNB’s Carla Körbes with Eric Underwood, and ABT’s Herman Cornejo with Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga. In the program I saw, “Now: Premieres” at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, he commissioned new works: a beautiful, moving Lamentation Variation by Doug Varone, a duet for the ultra flowing Wendy Whelan by and with Brian Brooks, and a quartet by Christopher Wheeldon that brought the Graham powerhouse Fang-Yi Sheu together with three NYC Ballet dancers. (I’ll post a blog about the show in the next couple days.)

Carla Körbes of Pacific Northwest Ballet and Eric Underwood of The Royal Ballet in Balanchine’s
Agon at the 2010 VIDF. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy VIDF, © Balanchine Trust.

Tonight is a whole evening of the Martha Graham Dance Company. The Vail festival continues until Saturday.

Herman Cornejo of American Ballet Theatre and Misa Kuranaga of Boston Ballet rehearse
Giselle at the 2010 VIDF. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy VIDF.