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Damian Woetzel Celebrates 10 Years as the Artistic Director of the Vail Dance Festival

Woetzel coaches Misty Copeland and Joseph Gordon. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy M. Craig and Associates.

This summer, former New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel celebrates 10 years as the artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival. “Everything I do is about the cumulative process," he says. “When I look back, it's to see how we got here. Yes, it's been 10 years, but I'm thinking: What are we doing this year?"


Vail has established itself as a premiere dance destination, both for audience members—who can expect to see huge stars, world premieres and diverse dance styles—and for artists drawn to the festival's emphasis on growth and education. “There are many ways to spend your time outside of your main company," Woetzel says. “Vail gives dancers a chance to develop. It's risky for them and requires a certain level of commitment. I think those who come back are ones who want that experience."

Woetzel plans to build on the festival's forward momentum. “We're focusing on premieres and new work," he says. “Building a festival is a layering process, and I'm excited to create a laboratory that ends up onstage." —NLG

Highlights from this year's Vail lineup, July 30–August 13, include American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston as artist in residence, BalletX as the company in residence and other performers spanning styles from tap to tango. Get tickets: vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival.

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

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