Vail Dance Festival opens on a high note

Dancers from the Limón Dance Company in an excerpt from ‘The Waldstein Sonata’ during the opening night of the Vail Dance Festival 2022.
Christopher Duggan/Courtesy Photo

The Vail Dance Festival opened Friday at the Ford Amphitheater with expressions of lightness and joy.

The 34th season’s opening night offered an intriguing glimpse of what’s to come during the roughly two-week festival, featuring pieces from DanceAspen, Ephrat Asherie Dance, Limón Dance Co. and New York City Ballet Moves.

Ephrat Asherie Dance kicked off the visceral conversation, both literally and metaphorically, as the dancers initially gauged each other in silence, then dialogued through rhythmic clapping, gestures and stomping. Silence became the breath between low bass, percussion and movement, from hip hop to somersaulting and the intertwining of children’s games on the floor, with ballroom holds and twists.

The communicative body language even extended beyond the dancers, to the four musicians on stage and, at one point, the audience, as the dancers waved to the crowd and, receiving an enthusiastic response, shouted “yay! “

As the five performers of the Ephrat Asherie Dance company imbued the audience with their grounded African American and Latina street and social dances, their single from “Odeon” blended a hybrid of choreography.

Set to music by Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth (Nazareth is known for fusing early 20th century romantic music with samba and other Afro-Brazilian rhythms), dancers explored how street and club dances, including including breaking, house, vogue and hip hop, interact when placed in new and varied contexts. In the environment of the dance festival, against the backdrop of fully blooming flowers nestled among the rocks and evergreens, “Odeon” has perfectly found a receptive home in Vail.

Next, Limón Dance Co. infused the amphitheater with its own brand of “pure joy,” as Vail Dance Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel called it through an excerpt from “Waldstein Sonata.”

Although Limón Dance Co. celebrates its 75e season this year, it debuted at the Vail Dance Festival on Friday – and what a memorable debut it was.

Dressed in flowing soft pastels accented with brighter pinks and oranges, Limón Dance Co. delivered a graceful, poised, and highly enjoyable contemporary ballet piece through the snippet.

The “Waldstein Sonata” – the last work of Limón Dance Co. founder José Limón before his death in 1972, completed by one of his protégés – has been a company staple, due to its “organic link with the humanity and nature,” said Woetzel. . “And what better place to connect with humanity and nature than in the mountains?”

The New York City Ballet Moves received a standing ovation just before intermission with their “Other Dances,” performed by one of this year’s artists in residence, Roman Mejia, and the great Tiler Peck.

The gorgeous and romantic piece showcased Mejia’s prowess and Peck’s seemingly effortless ability to float gracefully across the stage.

After the intermission, Caili Quan performed “Press Play,” which she choreographed. As the festival’s other artist-in-residence, she was due to dance more this summer, but her baby girl, who she is currently pregnant with, had other plans – so she will be choreographing more pieces in Vail this time around; she made her festival debut with BalletX in 2014, and since then has become an in-demand choreographer, so it’s only fitting that her baby girl “demands” that her mother’s presence shine more through the choreography this summer.

If “Waldstein Sonata” was “pure joy”, then “Press Play”, performed by four dancers from DanceAspen, was pure pleasure.

Quan originally created the piece for BalletX as a Zoom movie during the pandemic in a desire to portray the “feeling of coming together to dance the night away,” she said. And that’s exactly what DanceAspen did.

The company, formed last year by former Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performers, has shown its resilience, passion and determination after the pandemic prompted the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet to disband its performing company. and to restructure, emphasizing the education of children.

“Press Play” opened with a solo dancer in black, undulating her body alone, and in silence. Suddenly – “just now” (as the funky lyrics rang out) – a second dancer in white joined in with precise and innovative choreography. Four outstanding dancers from AspenDance transported the audience to a festive place, where it’s just plain fun to be alive and groove to the beat.

And it didn’t stop there. Woetzel, in his endless mastery of inviting the audience into backstage and intimate experiences with the performers, easily persuaded the entire crowd not just to stand up, swing and stretch out their arms, but literally dance together. , in unison, in a spirit of celebration and community building. After asking everyone to mirror the Limón Dance Co. – 13 dancers who formed an arc, which eventually formed a kind of circle with the entire audience – and guided them through specific “fall and Recovery” and side by side, the entire Ford Amphitheater moved gracefully as a single entity. It was such a beautiful and moving moment that it was hard to decide what to focus on: moving in unity or watching the exquisite moment unfold. Either way, it resonated with the spirit of the Vail Dance Festival: “this idea that we get to do this together,” Woetzel said.

Afterwards, Robbie Fairchild and Byron Tittle presented a lively and fascinating tap dance performance with ‘Piece d’Occasion’.

The evening ended with four dancers from New York City Ballet Moves delivering an electric “Red Angels” with exquisite form, choreography and lighting.

If opening night is any indication, it looks like it’s going to be another spectacular summer of dance, music, collaboration and inspiration.

Ephrat Asherie Dance’s Manon Ball and musicians perform in an excerpt from ‘Odeon’ during the opening night of Vail Dance Festival 2022.
Christopher Duggan/Courtesy Photo
Dancers from the Limón Dance Co. in an excerpt from “The Waldstein Sonata” during the opening night of the Vail Dance Festival 2022.
Christopher Duggan/Courtesy Photo

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