• Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo: Brian Maloney.
  • Isabella Boylston and Zachary Catarzaro, 2015. Photo: Erin Baiano.
  • Lil Buck, Ron Myles, Damian Woetzel in rehearsal. Photo: Patrick Fraser.

Vail International Dance Festival 2016

Q&A w/ Damian Woetzel, Director

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
July 30-August 30, 2016

Q: In ten years of running the festival, what have you learned?

A: I’ve Learned to plan both more and less. Plan more so that dancers can try new things and have the time to work on them to make it a truly fulfilling experience, but also plan less so that the unexpected has room to happen- when a dancer emerges at the last minute, or an opportunity to do something wonderful, I love being able to take advantage of those situations.

Q: Any special memories, dancers, performances, moments?

A: So many memories! But I will call out my final performance at the festival in 2008, dancing Twila Tharp Sinatra Suite with my last partner Tiler Peck, and, the first time our dance and music education program Celebrate the Beat participated in one of our gala performances surprising the audience right at the top of the show with dozens of young kids demonstrating what arts education is all about: teamwork, performance, passionate enthusiasm, learning and hard work.

Q: Where is the Festival heading?

A: After 10 years the course is clear on more collaboration, more new work, more celebration of the history of dance informing both the audience and the dancers themselves, and more interactivity with the audience making them ever more a part of what we are doing instead of simply spectators.

Q: What is the role of the artist and company-in-residence and how did you choose Isabella Boylston and BalletX?

A: The artist and company in residence play a crucial role by taking part in the festival in a growing number of ways. More than just performance, these artists participate in education, public engagement, the creation of new works, mentorship of other artists, and that’s a list in process!

Q: Commissioning new works has been an important part of your legacy in Vail. How do you see these new works fitting into the wider choreographic landscape? Are they gala works or do the pieces have lives beyond Vail?

A: New works over the last 10 years have served a variety of purposes, everything from getting artists a chance to work in different styles than they normally do, to creating opportunities for people to work together outside of their normal sphere, to the creation of new works that do in fact go on to have lives well beyond the festival itself. From the beginning, with Christopher Wheeldon in particular in those early years, works premiered in Vail have gone on to be performed in New York City other venues around the world.

Q: Who are you especially excited about presenting this summer?

A: So many things, but I would call out the young choreographer Claudia Schreier, whose first experience at the festival was as an intern in 2007, and who is now premiering a new work on the Now: Premieres program. I’m also really excited to have dance theater of Harlem performing at the festival for the first time, as well as the tap dance phenomenon Michelle Dorrance.

Q: What happens in the “Evening with the Director?”

A: We started the upclose series as a special rehearsal style performance in my first year as director, 2007. The idea behind it was to share the work with an audience in a unique way, showing them how we actually put things together, really letting them into the process in a substantive way, and then sealing the deal so to speak with fully produced performances as well. For this year, I wanted to celebrate the artists in residence from the past years who so represent the adventurous spirit of this festival. So we will share with the audience the new works in pieces that they are preparing to perform later on in the festival, will talk with them about their challenges and the work itself, and then will show some sections and fully produced for form.

Q: Do you see the various dance disciplines represented at the festival influencing each other?

A: Absolutely! Modern dance feeds the ballet which feeds the Street dance which feeds the ballroom which feeds the ballet and so on and so forth…

Q: Why do so many top dancers come to work together in Vail?

A: Not for me to really answer for them, but I can say that they all come ready to do something creative beyond simply performing, they arrive with a spirit that is inspiring and makes this festival what it is.

Mr. Simpson has a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California and worked as an advertising writer in Los Angeles before moving to New York to pursue a different passion: dance. He danced professionally in New York and Boston before founding a community-based modern dance company, Small City Dance Project, in Newburyport, MA. His fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. He was a teaching fellow at Smith College, where he received his MFA in choreography. While living in the Bay Area for 15 years, he wrote about dance for the San Francisco Chronicle and other periodicals. In 2005, he was a NEA Fellow at the Dance Critics Institute, American Dance Festival. For culturevulture.net, he reviews dance, theatre and film. He moved to Santa Fe in October, 2008. He writes for "Pasatiempo," the Arts magazine of the "Santa Fe New Mexican."