welcome to vail


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.


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.


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.


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.

ballet on broadway

broadway ballerinas

If you read Pointe or Dance Spirit Magazine, or keep an ear to the wings of the David H. Koch Theater, you may have already heard that several of NYCB’s favorite ballet dancers are dipping their callused toes into the lights of Broadway.  The first dancer to challenge her Balanchine-technique with musical theater is Ms. Tiler Peck, who will star in Susan Stroman’s Little Dancer, a show based on Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged 14 sculpture, and one that was created exclusively with Peck in mind.  Proving they are as in sync career-wise as they are romantically, Tiler’s NYCB-dancer husband, Robbie Fairchild, will take on the title role in Christopher Wheeldon’s adaptation of the Gene Kelly classic, An American in Paris (of course), which premieres this season in Paris, before making its move to Broadway.  However remarkable (and adorable) as this power-couple may be, it’s Robbie’s sister Megan Fairchild (also a principle with NYCB) who has really caught my attention.  Opening this month, Megan will star in Broadway’s revival of the On The Town, (sort of an expanded version of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, in ballet terms).  It’s exciting to see ballet dancers who aren’t afraid to be more than just bunheads- and their versatility and acting skills are seriously impressive!  Check out Ms. Fairchild in rehearsal for her “Miss Turnstiles” number, in which-as the story goes, she just has been chosen as New York City’s prettiest subway-riding lady of the month (oh, the 1940s and their taboo behaviors, gotta love it)…

I love that choreographer Joshua Bergasse really challenged her, creating an epic, action-packed scene that takes some serious stamina.  And Ms. Fairchild conquers everything he’s thrown at her with the finesse of a true professional- from quick petit allegro to complicated lifting sequences, all culminating in a mènage and a considerable amount of fouettés.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it!  Really hoping to make it to the Big Apple to catch this one live…



photos via here and here