welcome to vail

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My first day in Vail can only be described as baptism by fire: a thrilling, beautiful immersion into this exrtaordinary festival of artists.

Feeling a bit drowsy from my 5am flight out of Boston (and perhaps more than a bit sensitive to the high elevation?), I fought the urge to nap and tucked into the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater instead. The dancers were finishing up a light run of Jerome Robbin’s Fancy Free, the first piece on tonight’s program. As our sailors bounced away behind the set, Tiler Peck scooted out from the wings, purple leotard preceding the iconic purple dress she would wear that evening. A few notes from Vail Dance Festival (VDF) Artistic Director Damian Woetzel, a little floor work from the rambunctious Daniel Ulbricht, some lively partnering between Angelica Generosa and Marcelo Gomes before rehearsal wraps and I’m swept off to the mountains.

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Did I think Day 1 would have me standing in the mountains opening shadows on Jeff Cirio‘s face while he wades through a creek? Nope. Can anyone resist a cool kid posing on a big rock in various samples of his own wardrobe? No again, my friends. I am here to cast light on these incredible artists in any way I can, either with words or a wind-happy reflector.

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After landsliding it in several locations, it was back to the amphitheater for a quick tour of the layout backstage. With just a few hours until the start of the show, dancers ducked in and out of dressing rooms, half-madeup, wrapped in sweats and draped in earbuds. On my way out I met Miss Jan, the 15-year VDF veteran wardrobe mistress, who has special arrangements with the ladies of the Festival:

“They need to drink extra water to stay hydrated at this elevation. I promised them all I will hook and unhook their costumes for as many bathroom breaks as they need, as long as they drink extra water,” Jan says with a spirited laugh. It’s a testament: every hand here is fully committed to helping these dancers do what they do- in any capacity necessary.

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And soon it is time for just that. Excited patrons flood the promenade at peak golden hour, live acoustic music and bronze dance sculptures their amuse-bouche. I hustle into my seat just as Woetzel makes his way onto stage to greet the audience. The amphitheater is brimming with balletomanes, spreading through the puzzle-like hybrid venue all the way up into the lawn.

The word festival denotes celebration. Let’s get this party started.

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