New work has always been an important element of the Vail Dance Festival: Since becoming artistic director in 2007, Damian Woetzel has commissioned over 100 pieces. This year, 10 choreographers and four composers will create new works for an eclectic assortment of performers. They include the American Ballet Theater principals Calvin Royal III, Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside; the jookin star Lil Buck; the New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia; the contemporary dancer Melissa Toogood; and the former City Ballet principals Lauren Lovette and Robert Fairchild.
The festival, which runs July 28 to Aug. 7, has also specialized in creating a melting pot of dancers and musicians. This year’s premieres include a work by Kyle Abraham for dancers from five companies, a pas de deux created by Tiler Peck for the Ballet Theater stars Cory Stearns and Devon Teuscher, a collaboration between Justin Peck and the composer Caroline Shaw; and pieces by Lil Buck (with the bass-baritone Davóne Tines), Matthew Neenan, Jamar Roberts, Caili Quan, Toogood and Larry Keigwin.
Adji Cissoko, a dancer with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet who began to choreograph in 2021, is the festival’s artist in residence. She will create a new piece in addition to performing and teaching master classes.
The festival is designed to encourage “creative next steps for dancers, musicians, choreographers and composers,” Woetzel said in an email. “You may take on a new role, or partner, you may make a new work or be a part of one, or both.”
Woetzel said he was also passionate about commissioning new music, which this year comes from Tyshawn Sorey, Gabriel Kahane, and Shelbie Rassler in addition to Shaw, the festival’s composer in residence.
Visiting ensembles include the tap dance and live music troupe Music from the Sole, the Martha Graham Dance Company, BalletX, Dance Aspen and the L.A. Dance Project, bringing pieces by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, Madeline Hollander, and Pam Tanowitz’s “Everyone Keeps Me,” first made for the Royal Ballet in 2019.
Woetzel will offer an “UpClose” evening that features rehearsal excerpts from works by George Balanchine, and a discussion about the choreographer among Jennifer Homans, author of the biography “Mr. B.,” Woetzel and the former City Ballet principal Heather Watts.
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