It is difficult to pinpoint a moment
when the 2019 Vail Dance Festival reached its pinnacle. In a way, the quality of the season was expressed in its very first notes, played by the highly-expressive Juilliard student jazz band that welcomed everyone on opening night from their side-stage in the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater’s social courtyard.
Those first notes were a delight, a surprise, something new and fantastic that elicited curiosity. They were ideal tones to indicate the excitement and exploration that continued, and expanded, throughout the two-week Festival. They also indicated just how much the Festival had grown in its many offerings beyond the main stage: In the mornings, Festival Forums took deep dives into the hearts and minds of choreographers, musicians, and dancers.
Throughout the day, the central Manor Vail campus and rehearsal space buzzed with a million interactions, with fine-tuning, and re-visioning, paired with an energetic exchange of ideas. In the evening, breathtaking performances put exclamation points on the day’s work while Fringe Events, Master Classes, Dancing in the Streets, parties, and social events fueled a Festival that left lasting impressions on everyone who took part.
If a few notes of upbeat jazz on opening night signaled the promise of everything the Festival could become, then the night of Aug. 3 offered a masterful delivery on that promise. It was a night when the bicoastal collaboration between San Francisco’s Alonzo King, his dancers, the New York City Ballet, and jazz maestro Jason Moran came together onstage for the world premiere of The Personal Element. Moran told The New York Times that he and King wanted, “…to dig deep together, and that’s what this allows.”
It’s a quote that summarizes much about the Vail Dance Festival, where dancers, choreographers, painters, photographers – artists of all kinds – come together each year in a unique location, made possible by the unflagging support of patrons, partners, volunteers, and our community, that allows for the comfort, space, and time required to “dig deep.”
Digging deep requires risk, and 2019 was most definitely a year of risks. No one knew, early in the calendar year, how the daring combinations of musicians, choreographers, and dancers would come together on stage. No one knew if the centralized Manor Vail campus and in-town rehearsal venue would illicit sparks or strengthen bonds. The joy and excitement of the Festival is partly found in such risks, followed by the comraderie that emerges when everyone involved puts their heart and soul into making such lofty visions a reality.
In 2019, thanks to the unification around the Festival core vision from everyone involved, and aided by just a dash of good luck, every risk worked. Together, we created hundreds of beautiful moments, both large and small, that have left a lasting impact more profound than the sum of its parts would suggest.
Vail Dance Festival
By the Numbers
You learn more in these two weeks that you do in an entire year...I don't think I would have ever taken the step [into choreographing] had it not been here, and with Damian, just because I feel so safe with him and at the Festival.
There's something deeply human and deeply personal about making music with dancers. I find that each time I come [to Vail], it's the same thing. It's a place of deep renewal of what I feel I'm about as a musician that I honestly carry with me throughout the rest of the year.
Place is everything. Not all places are built for artistic exploration. Here, it’s clear that the grounds are fertile for people to produce. That makes a big impact in the process of making the work … it really pushes us.