The Vail Dance Festival commissions 10 world premiere dance works for its 35th season

Catherine Hurlin of American Ballet Theater performs Act III pas de deux from Don Quixote at the 2019 Vail Dance Festival.
Erin Baiano/Photo courtesy

The Vail Dance Festival, a project of the non-profit Vail Valley Foundation, officially announced plans for its 35th season, scheduled to run from July 28 through August 28. 7. Under the artistic direction of Damian Woetzel, the 2023 summer season will bring together world-renowned dancers, musicians, composers and choreographers for 12 performances and multiple events throughout Vail and the surrounding communities. Key highlights of this year’s festival season include:

Artist in Residence: Adji Cissoko

Adji Cissoko of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet has been named Artist-in-Residence of the Season. Described by Dance Magazine as a dancer who “combines classical grace with contemporary charisma,” Cissoko has won critical acclaim worldwide for her artistry and dynamic stage presence.

She has performed at the Vail Dance Festival in previous seasons, first in 2018 during a headlining engagement with LINES and later in 2019 at the world premiere of Alonzo King’s “Personal Element,” a landmark collaboration with dancers from the New York City Ballet and LINES, accompanied by a stirring new piano reduction composed and performed by Jason Moran.

Born and raised in Germany, Cissoko completed her training at the Ballet Academy in Munich and later attended the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theater on a full scholarship before joining the National Ballet of Canada in 2010. She has produced many pivotal roles choreographed by King.

Cissoko has been an aspiring choreographer in recent years and in 2021 she created her first piece entitled AZIZ for BalletX in Philadelphia. She also received NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts Toulmin Fellowship in 2022. This year, Cissoko will make role debuts in Vail as artist-in-residence and will be featured in choreographer Kyle Abraham’s new work for the festival. She will also be choreographing her first new work for the festival, giving master classes and participating in various aspects of the festival’s community program.

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10 premiered dance works and four new music compositions

Each summer, the Vail Dance Festival fosters unique collaborations between artists across dance genres to push the boundaries of the art form and further solidify Vail as a major incubator for new choreography and music in the United States. Having commissioned over 100 new works since Woetzel’s first season as director in 2007, Woetzel will continue to expand its extensive catalog of new works this summer, with 10 cutting-edge dance creators creating new works, in addition to four new musical compositions presented during of the season to be revealed . Choreographers for 2023 include:

MacArthur Fellow and Princess Grace Award winner Kyle Abraham will create a new work in his first piece for the festival, featuring a group of dancers representing ballet companies from coast to coast, including Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, New York City Ballet and Boston Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet and AIM by Kyle Abraham. In her fourth choreographic work for the festival, New York City Ballet director Tiler Peck will create a pas de deux for American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancers Cory Stearns and Devon Teuscher, while York City Ballet choreographer Justin Peck will be starring Leonard Bernstein, the festival’s composer-in-residence, Caroline Shaw, to create a new work. Artist-in-residence Adji Cissoko will create a new work which she will also perform to create a new work co-commissioned with and for BalletX. Memphis Jookin superstar Lil Buck will be collaborating on a new work with acclaimed bass-baritone Davóne Tines. Caili Quan will return to do her second work for the festival. Larry Keigwin returns to Vail, his fourth work for the festival. Modern dance force Melissa Toogood will be doing her first work for the festival.

Brooklyn Rider (violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords and cellist Michael Nicolas) will return as Quartet-In-Residence, and Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winner Leonard Bernstein Composer-In-Residence Caroline Shaw will return to compose new music for the to create festival. Tyshawn Sorey, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, Gabriel Kahane and Shelbie Rassler, who also serves as music director, will also be making new music this year. The festival will also feature performances by bass-baritone opera star Davóne Tines and pianists Cameron Grant and Joel Wenhardt, among other dynamic musicians participating in the festival.

Performance Highlights

The legendary Martha Graham Dance Company will present three iconic works including the reinterpreted Canticle for the Innocent Comedians, inspired by Ben Belitt’s 1938 poem celebrating the diverse elements of nature, Errand into the Maze. , which is loosely derived from the myth of Theseus, a creature that is half moon and half beast, and “CAVE”, a visceral new work created last year by Hofesh Shechter in collaboration with Daniil Simkin and depicting the vibrant energy of a Techno nightclub rave with a rousing contemporary blends choreography that is both immersive and transcendent. (Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre, Vail)

The LA Dance Project, celebrated for its bold interdisciplinary collaborations in dance, music and visual arts, returns to Vail with a contemporary program, Bobbi Jene Smith’s “Quartet for 5” and Or Schraiber, Madeline’s “Elastic Ballet”. Hollander and Everyone Keeps Me by Pam Tanowitz, originally commissioned by the Royal Ballet in honor of Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday. The Festival Quartet-In-Residence Brooklyn Rider will perform on all three tracks along with the LA Dance Project. (Monday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Hailed by The New York Times as one of the top dance performances of 2022, Music From The Sole will make its festival debut. Directed by award-winning Brazilian dancer/choreographer Leonardo Sandoval and bassist/composer Gregory Richardson, tap dancing and live music come together in the acclaimed production I Didn’t Come to Stay, which cheerfully explores Afro-Diasporan roots and connections to the Afro celebrates -Brazilian dance and music. (Wednesday, August 2 at 6 p.m., Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek)

BalletX, the cutting edge contemporary dance powerhouse from Philadelphia, returns with an evening of cutting edge new work. The program for this headlining performance at the Vilar Performing Arts Center includes Caili Quan’s “Love Letter,” an ode to her native Guam, and Justin Peck’s adrenaline-pumping “Become a Mountain,” which depicts the exhilarating arc of mountain climbing, as well as the Vail debut of others new works by some of today’s leading choreographers. (Sunday, August 6 at 6 p.m., Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek)

Colorado’s dynamic new contemporary ballet company, DanceAspen, returns to the festival to present a new commissioned work by Matthew Neenan in the performance of NOW: Premieres (Monday, August 7 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre, Vail). premiere. In addition, the company will participate in the annual free performance Dancing in the Park, taking place in Avon on Thursday, August 3rd.

Festival Dancers

Festival performers for 2023 include newly promoted principal dancers from New York City Ballet Mira Nadon and Roman Mejia, and American Ballet Theater Catherine Hurlin. Boston Ballet star Jeffrey Cirio, American Ballet Theater star Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside are returning after a several-year absence. They will join an outstanding cast including Olivia Bell, India Bradley, Lil Buck, Chun Wai Chan, Patricia Delgado, Philip Duclos, Robbie Fairchild, Christopher Grant, Lauren Lovette, Sara Mearns, Miriam Miller, Dario Natarelli, Tiler Peck, Unity Phelan, Caili Quan, Calvin Royal III, Cory Stearns, KJ Takahashi, Devon Teuscher, Melissa Toogood, Ukrainian ballroom duo Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina, festival newcomers Mayfield Myers (Philadelphia Ballet) and Stephanie Terasaki (AIM by Kyle Abraham ) and others who want to become announced. Programming throughout the festival will feature these artists and many more in role debuts, cross-company partnerships and new work “only in Vail”, fulfilling the festival’s mission of providing innovative opportunities for artists at all stages of their careers.

Spencer Lenain (@spencerdancerrr on TikTok with 1.4 million followers), who will graduate from CalArts in Spring 2023, will be this year’s Scholar-In-Residence. Lenain will attend daily classes and community events, observe rehearsals and be part of the cast of Larry Keigwin’s new work for the festival.

Returning signature programs

A dazzling opening night of spectacular performances from artists and companies represented at the Vail Dance Festival will include Martha Graham Dance Company, LA Dance Project, Brazilian tap company Leonardo Sandoval and BalletX, all performing on the same night alongside festival stars, while they kick off the new season. (Friday, July 28, 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

The new book entitled “Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century” by Jennifer Homans was hailed by critics and dance fans as a remarkable biography of the legendary choreographer and founder of the New York City Ballet. Homans joins famed Balanchine ballerina Heather Watts, festival director Damian Woetzel and an all-star cast of dancers for a special UpClose behind-the-scenes evening of rehearsals and performances of classical Balanchine repertoire. (Sunday, July 30 at 6 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Celebrating affordable pricing and access for all, dancing for $20.23 (Tuesday, August 1, 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail) and free Dancing in the Park (Thursday, August 3, 5:00 p.m. 30pm, Nottingham Park Pavilion, Avon) will both feature an all-star cast of festival dancers and special surprises for dance fans of all ages.

International Evenings of Dance is legendary for its glittering celebration of artistic collaboration and innovation, featuring unique “Only in Vail” partnerships and role debuts from a selection of today’s dance stars from around the world. This year’s roster includes dancers from the Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet, and independent artists including Ukrainian ballroom duo Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina, Broadway and ballet star Robbie Fairchild, and many others. The dancers in these signature performances are joined by exceptional musicians, including quartet-in-residence Brooklyn Rider, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer-in-residence Caroline Shaw, and bass-baritone Davóne Tines. The schedule includes International Evening I on Friday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m. and a different program of International Evening II on Saturday, August 5 at 5 p.m. and International Evening III on August 5 at 8 p.m (Gerald R Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Details of other festival events including the popular Conversations on Dance podcast series, master classes, free performances of Dancing in the Streets, the Tiny Dancer Tea Party and educational events will be announced in June.

Tickets for the performance go on sale March 28 at or by calling the box office at 970-845-TIXS (8497). The cash desk hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Please note that the 2023 Vail Dance Festival schedule and line-up are subject to changes and additions


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