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Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will revive "An Evening with Pianist Joyce Yang" this weekend in Aspen. Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, Courtesy of ASFB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Vail Dance Festival Races to the Finish Line

This Sunday, Vail Dance Festival wraps up an eventful few weeks jam-packed with premieres, collaborations and guests. The final week of the festival has us looking forward to appearances from American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Hispánico and more.


Vail's NOW: Premieres Includes New Michelle Dorrance Work for ABT

On August 6, Vail's NOW: Premieres program features new works commissioned for the festival. Choreographers include New York City Ballet star Tiler Peck (making her festival choreographic debut), Lauren Lovette, Justin Peck and Claudia Schreier, who is creating a ballet on dancers from Ballet Hispánico. Tap maverick Michelle Dorrance is also choreographing a piece on American Ballet Theatre, the second of Dorrance's three works on the company this year. Watch some of the same choreographers' premieres at the 2017 edition of NOW below.

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Patricia Delgado in Pam Tanowitz's "Solo for Patricia 2017." Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Vail Dance Fest Enters Its Second Week

With half a month devoted to creating new art in the midst of stunning nature, Vail Dance Festival seems a dancer's paradise. Last week marked American Ballet Theatre's festival debut. The second week of performances, starting July 30, brings even more amazing ballet, with dancers and choreographers presenting a slew of new collaborations and premieres. Get the scoop on each program below.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet Takes the Vail Stage

July 30-31, Alonzo King LINES Ballet presents two different programs. The first performance, is a free, family-friendly event held in the Avon Performance Pavilion. The second, held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, presents two works by King: Sand, a piece from 2016 set to jazz music, and Biophony, an exploration of the Earth's diverse ecosystems.

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Catch Royal Winnipeg Ballet for free this week at Ballet in the Park. Photo by Daniel Crump, Courtesy RWB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


American Ballet Theatre Makes Its Vail Debut

The Vail Dance Festival is best known for bringing together diverse performers to create outside-of-the-box collaborations. This summer, the festival's 30th anniversary, American Ballet Theatre gets added to that mix. July 28–29, 15 company members will dance the festival premieres of Alexei Ratmansky's Souvenir d'un lieu cher and Serenade after Plato's Symposium, as well as Jerome Robbins' Other Dances with New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck. ABT will also collaborate with tap choreographer Michelle Dorrance. She's creating a trio of new works for ABT this year, coproduced by Vail, the second of which she'll present at the festival. "It always broadens a dancer's perspective to cross-pollinate with their peers," says ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie. "It gives them an opportunity for independent thinking and self-evaluation." For Vail artistic director Damian Woetzel, incorporating the company into the festival reminds him of the magical sense of camaraderie that he felt as an NYCB principal when running into ABT dancers after their respective Lincoln Center performances. "Vail builds on that," says Woetzel. "We bring dancers together to create our own special community." —Chava Lansky

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Carla Körbes and New York City Ballet's Zachary Catazaro rehearse at Vail in 2014. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Carla Körbes announced in September of last year that she would retire at the end of the 2014–15 season—her last performance with the company will be on June 7. Fortunately for her fans, Körbes isn't quite finished dancing: She'll serve as an artist in residence at the 2015 Vail International Dance Festival in Vail, Colorado.

Festival director and former New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel is thrilled to have Körbes on board. “I shared the stage with Carla at New York City Ballet, and I've watched her grow up," he says. “She's ready to explore new things, and I'm happy to be able to give her that opportunity."

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On tour or at home, a technical rehearsal is the one chance to see how the lights, music, scenery and costumes will come together before the audience arrives. Ordinarily, there is plenty of work to be done, but imagine having to tech a program at an elevation of 8,000 feet during sporadic storms, on a stage that is not entirely sheltered from the rain and is surrounded by evergreen-clad peaks as far as the eye can see. Welcome to the Vail International Dance Festival.

Jim Leitner, now in his eighth year as technical director and lighting designer at the VIDF, plays a different, but always indispensable role at each show. “In the nine days of performances and rehearsals [at the festival], I worked some 150 hours,” he says, adding that some of those hours are more supervisory, while other times he is designing cues, loading in props, or up on the scaffolding replacing or refocusing lights. For the “Different Dimensions” program, which included Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, nandanse and Smuin Ballet on August 2, Leitner worked with three different companies that had three very different sets of technical needs. 

The tech for San Francisco–based Smuin Ballet was first that day. The company arrived with a lighting designer and stage manager, so to prepare Smuin’s Fly Me to the Moon, Leitner turned his booth over to them, lingering in the background in case there were questions about the space or lights. Leitner is well aware that, for crew and performers, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater takes some getting used to. “It’s handsome, but it’s not very flexible: no wings, no flies, nothing to make the tech easier,” he says. 

One of the challenges particular to this space is the erratic weather. “This space gets so hot and so cold quickly,” he says, adding that the rapid temperature changes have a drastic impact on the floor, which expands and contracts with the weather. Pulling the floor taut at the beginning of the day, before the companies arrive to tech, usually prevents it from being an issue during the rehearsals. 

The day’s second technical rehearsal was with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, and it required a little more hands-on attention. Walsh brought only his technical director, so for his ballet, Katharsis, the festival’s stage manager called the cues and both Leitner and the company’s tech director made sure the piece ran without a hitch.

Lauri Stallings’ tech for her work for nandanse, Bacchus’ Vessel, proved the most demanding. In addition to having to finish setting light cues (an electrical storm the night before had derailed the process when it was only two-thirds complete), Stalling’s tech person didn’t show up. Leitner gave Stallings a crash course in calling light cues. “She would say, ‘cue 43,’ but then she didn’t say the magic word,” Leitner recalls. For the cue to be acted on, the crew has to hear the word “go.”

During the hour-and-a-half stage time that each company gets to tech, the dancers are also busy fine-tuning their use of the stage.

“There’s a huge adjustment, in that you’re pushed back by the space,” says Michael Levine, of nandanse, and also a member of The Joffrey Ballet. “You [always] have to find your leg and your center, [but] that’ s amplified in an outdoor space, because you’re competing with the environment around you, which is so much bigger. You feel that size, and you’ve got to create a larger scale. You’ve got to push yourself even more.”

Add to that the challenge of dancing at a high elevation. The festival has employees available to administer oxygen if necessary. Walsh chose to bring in his company early to deal with the thinner air. By the time tech rehearsal came around, the company had already been dancing in Vail for almost a week. “I wanted to make sure they were secure with the altitude,“ says Walsh. “A couple of them were sick the first night, so I’m glad that we got that out of the way.”

Difficulties aside, the sheer beauty of the setting may be another distraction, but it’s a pleasant one. “I love dancing out here,” says Lisa Keskitalo of nandanse and a former member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. “You’re onstage and if you get a moment, you can just look and see these majestic mountains. [Being here] gives you some nice perspective on what you’ re doing and why you’ re doing it.”


Cari Cunningham is currently pursuing an MFA in dance at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is the dance critic for The Daily Camera.

Each year the Vail International Dance Festival, helmed by former New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel, presents a festival of dance stars in Vail, CO, from July 27 through August 10.

Vail's programming regularly features top ballet dancers from around the country, and this year's artist in residence will be none other than soon-to-retire Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Carla Körbes. Other ballet stars include New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns, American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland, Isabella Boylston and Herman Cornejo, and Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio. Former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan will also perform. 

In the "Now: Premieres" series, choreographers Silas Riener and Rashaun Mitchell will create new work for both Philadelphia's BalletX and a group of NYCB dancers including Lauren Lovette, Jared Angle, Chase Finlay and Zachary Catazaro.

Get your tickets on the festival's website, starting March 24.

 

In just five short years, New York City Ballet corps member Troy Schumacher has grown BalletCollective from a small side project into a company ready to take the stage at the Vail International Dance Festival. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with Schumacher as he prepped his troupe for their debut in the mountains on Aug. 2.

What will BalletCollective be performing at Vail? 
A duet I choreographed called Dear and Blackbirds that premiered last October. It's danced by Harrison Coll and Ashley Laracey and is fairly unique because every element was created for these two dancers. Poet Cynthia Zarin wrote a poem that served as inspiration for the structure and tone for both the music and the choreography.

How would you describe the movement language?
When I choreographed the piece, Harrison Coll was just finishing his first year with NYCB as an apprentice, and Ashley is a soloist with NYCB. Her choreography is beautiful, grounded and languid and just very calm and confident. Harrison's is extremely energetic, and he has a wonderfully springy movement quality where everything's kind of fresh. It's about them slowly having their energy dynamics meet somewhere in the middle.

What's it like working with your wife Ashley Laracey on such an intimate project?
All of BalletCollective's works are very dancer specific, and I know Ashley so well. For this duet, there are even certain snippets that I choreographed on the two of us, visualizing Harrison and what he could do. That has extra meaning. And last fall Harrison broke his foot, so I ended up dancing the premiere with Ashley.

How does having your own company help you in your work at NYCB?
I've always been really fascinated with how companies work. I think having to start this from the ground up--I do the majority of BalletCollective's administrative work myself--has made me appreciate what everybody on NYCB's administrative side puts into our seasons. I also think that when you start choreographing, you approach dancing in a different way.
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Above: BalletCollective's Ashley Laracey and Harrison Coll. Photo by Whitney Browne, Courtesy Helene Davis Public Relations.

 

Onstage at New York City Ballet, principal Ashley Bouder is known for her explosive jumps and stage presence. Offstage, she's developing directorial skills with The Ashley Bouder Project, a group of fellow NYCB dancers who will perform works by Adriana Pierce, Andrea Schermoly and Joshua Beamish this week. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we caught up with Bouder via email before her Project's shows at the Joyce Theater's Ballet Festival, Aug. 8-9.

What inspired you to create The Ashley Bouder Project?
I am from a small town, and ballet gave me a career and a life. If I can travel to other small towns and share my love of dance with new audiences, or reach people on their phones and tablets who don't have dance where they live, then I'm doing my part to share ballet. I think my generation is doing great work to further the potential of what ballet can be and the place the arts have in society.

How do you juggle the roles of dancing and directing for this project?
It can be challenging! In addition to working with the collaborators, I am running to costume fittings, coaching the dancers, creating the new works with the choreographers, and then sitting down to dinner with a supporter. All of this on top of an already demanding schedule with New York City Ballet. But I'm lucky to have a great co-producer, Phil Chan. That allows me the time to really work on the artistic quality for each piece.

Much of what you're presenting at the Joyce showcases the work of female choreographers. Why is this important to you?
There is historically a lack of women in positions of power in ballet--except onstage. If the ballet repertory is the creative soul of a dance company, whose stories are we telling? On a more basic level, it's great to collaborate with a female choreographer who knows the female body inside and out, what is possible on pointe, where my weight is, because they have actually lived it.

For even more interviews, tips, audition info and giveaways, sign up for our FREE e-newsletter.
Above: Bouder with Amar Ramasar in Joshua Beamish's Rouge et Noir. Photo by Rebekah Spurlock, Courtesy The Ashley Bouder Project.

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