Vail Dance Festival Showcases Female Choreographers

“The ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman.” This notable quote by George Balanchine, prolific 20th century choreographer and co-founder of New York City Ballet, is at the core of Vail Dance Festival’s 2017 NOW Premieres: Celebrating Women Choreographers today. 

Showcasing four female choreographers, each lauded in their respective fields, NOW Premieres will feature Vail-commissioned world premieres by New York City Ballet principal Lauren Lovette; neoclassical and contemporary ballet choreographer Claudia Schreier; artist-in-residence and MacArthur “Genius” grant-recipient Michelle Dorrance; and acclaimed modern dance choreographer Pam Tanowitz. 

‘Honesty’ and ‘Heart’

Lovette, the novice of the evening, choreographed her first major work, “For Clara,” less than a year ago at New York City Ballet’s Fall 2016 Gala. For NOW Premieres: Celebrating Women Choreographers, she will bring her skill to the Vail stage in a piece, which is a collaboration with poet Andrea Gibson, who will be accompanying with improvisational poetry.

“People can expect honesty and expect heart,” Lovette said. “Much will be left to how Gibson will feel in the moment of the performance and how that reflects on the world made around them.” 

Far from novel, Schreier, an esteemed choreographic voice and 2008 Harvard University graduate, has choreographed on dancers of New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem, amongst countless other companies and organizations.

Based in Music

Schreier bases her choreography in the music, heavily influenced by the NOW Premiere’s musical accompaniment Leonard Bernstein’s “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano.” Drawing parallels between the two works, Schreier finds both to be “first, structured like a Hindemith composition; then, romantic and nocturnal; and finally, energetic.” This will be Schreier’s 26th commissioned work. 

Leaving Comfort Zones

A stark departure from the aforementioned choreographers, artist-in-residence Dorrance, a connoisseur of her craft and founder of acclaimed tap company Dorrance Dance, will be challenging the Vail Dance Festival’s roster of predominantly non-tap dancers. 

“The core of the piece I’m creating here seeks after Damian (Woetzel’s) ethos,” Dorrance said. “It takes many dancers out of their comfort zones in order to manifest a unique and pointed energy from the community of very diverse artists I am so lucky to work with.”

From Thoughts To Stage

Departing, too, from the common balletic works of Vail Dance Festival, Tanowitz, a Bessie Award Winner and founder of modern dance company Pam Tanowitz Dance, describes her NOW Premiere as a “rough draft or second draft” of the ideal dance in her head, surrounding herself and her choreography with “risk and failure.”

Staying true to artistic director Damian Woetzel’s roots, the urgency Balanchine instilled in his dancers and in his work is also at the core of NOW Premieres. 

“The environment that Damian creates in Vail is one of joy and of endless possibility,” Dorrance said. “A spirit that our current political climate is entirely devoid of.”

NOW Premieres: Celebrating Women Choreographers is today at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail. Tickets start at $50.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Aug. 7 print edition of the Vail Daily.

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