Vail Dance Festival announces 2024 season

Dance Theatre of Harlem, Limón Dance Company, Colorado Ballet, DanceAspen, and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance join individual artists from national and international companies for a season including 7 world premieres and 13 performances.

Vail, Colo., Feb. 21, 2024 — The Vail Dance Festival, a project of the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation, officially announced plans for its 36th season scheduled to take place from July 26 – Aug. 5, 2024. Under the artistic direction of Damian Woetzel, the 2024 summer season will bring together renowned and emerging dancers, musicians, composers, and choreographers for 13 performances and numerous events throughout Vail and the surrounding communities.

The season will include Opening Night featuring Festival stars joining Colorado Ballet and the National Repertory Orchestra to perform George Balanchine’s Serenade; Dance Theatre of Harlem in a headlining performance; Myths by Legends, a unique program of myth-based masterworks which includes José Limón’s Orfeo, Martha Graham’s Clytemnestra (excerpt) with Artist-in-Residence Sara Mearns in a debut, Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun with American Ballet Theatre’s Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in debuts, and George Balanchine’s Apollo with New York City Ballet’s Roman Mejia debuting in the title role; UpClose with Damian Woetzel, highlighting great “swerves” in the history of dance;  Michelle Dorrance creating and headlining an evening celebrating the journey of tap dance as an art form; Watching Dance with Heather Watts exploring dance repertory; the signature International Evenings of Dance gala-style performances; Colorado Dances, a program dedicated to Rocky Mountain dance companies; and NOW: Premieres featuring seven world premiere dances by a selection of today’s most extraordinary choreographers. This year’s Artists-In-Residence will be New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns and choreographer Jamar Roberts, Composer-in-Residence will be Caroline Shaw, and Scholar-in-Residence will be Kayla Mak.

“Honoring tradition and spurring innovation is at the heart of what we do each summer in the Rockies” said Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel. “I can’t wait to see Sara and Jamar and all of this year’s band of artists stand on the shoulders of history as they reach for what’s next.”

Artists-In-Residence: Sara Mearns & Jamar Roberts

New York City Ballet (NYCB) principal dancer Sara Mearns will perform in a range of repertory, teach master classes, and participate in various aspects of the Festival’s community engagement. Her appearances on the stage will include debuts in George Balanchine’s Elegie, and in an excerpt from Martha Graham’s Clytemnestra, and she will dance in fellow Artist-in-Residence Jamar Roberts new work.

As Artist-In-Residence, choreographer Jamar Roberts will create a new work to debut on the NOW: Premieres program on August 5, 2024, teach master classes, and participate in various aspects of the Festival’s community engagement.

World Premiere Dances

Each summer, the Vail Dance Festival fosters unique collaborations between artists of various dance genres to push the boundaries of the artform, serving as an incubator for new choreography and music. New works and piéce d’occasion collaborations are debuted throughout the Festival, with a dedicated evening of new dances the Festival’s closing night, NOW: Premieres. Choreographers for 2024 will include:

Kyle Abraham, founder A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham

Michelle Dorrance, founder and artistic director Dorrance Dance

Lauren Lovette, Resident Choreographer for Paul Taylor Dance Company and former principal of New York City Ballet

Tiler Peck, NYCB principal dancer and Vail Dance Festival launched choreographer

Justin Peck, director, New York City Ballet Resident choreographerJamar Roberts, Artist-In-Residence, former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Resident choreographer

Pam Tanowitz, founder Pam Tanowitz Dance

Larry Keigwin will bring his Rhapsody project to the Festival, a site specific community work that will harness the unique spirit and talents of its diverse cast of local Vail Valley residents as performers sharing space with Festival artists to create a moving celebration of humanity, art-making and shared space.

2024 Performance Highlights

Opening Night kicks off the season with a program featuring artists and companies making appearances throughout the Festival including Dance Theatre of Harlem, Limón Dance Company, Artist-In-Residence Sara Mearns, Michelle Dorrance, and ballroom duo Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina. In the second half of the evening, guest stars from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre will join Colorado Ballet in a special performance of George Balanchine’s landmark ballet Serenade, with Tschaikovsky’s score performed live by the National Repertory Orchestra conducted by Michael Stern. (Friday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Since its founding in 1969, the globally acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) has been celebrated for its powerful vision of multi-ethnic diversity for ballet in the 21st century with a repertory that celebrates both classicism and contemporary innovation. The company returns to the Festival in a headlining performance at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater with a special program featuring George Balanchine’s thrilling Allego Brillante and DTH Artistic Director Robert Garland’s recent work Nyman String Quartet #2 which was hailed by the Associated Press as “highly athletic and infectiously joyous.” (Saturday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Dance as an art form evolves through innovations and changes of direction both sudden and gradual. UpClose with Damian Woetzel features dramatic “swerves” in the history of dance as shown through the works that have led dance forward. Hosted by Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel, the program features Festival stars in rehearsal and performance modes as they take on groundbreaking choreography from across centuries, in dance styles from ballet and modern dance to tap and ballroom. (Sunday, July 28 at 6 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

In Myths by Legends stories come to life with today’s extraordinary dancers performing works themed to myths ancient and contemporary, as choreographed by legends of the dance world George Balanchine, Martha Graham, José Limón, and Jerome Robbins. The program will include Limón Dance Company in their founder’s classic Orfeo, Artist-In-Residence and New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns in the “Cassandra” solo from Martha Graham’s masterwork Clytemnestra, Jerome Robbins’ moving ballet studio encounter Afternoon of a Faun with debut performances by American Ballet Theatre’s Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell, and New York City Ballet’s Roman Mejia making his debut in George Balanchine’s Apollo as the young Greek god. (Monday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Celebrating affordable pricing and access for all, Dance for $20.24 (Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m., Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail) and the free Dancing in the Park (Thursday, August 1 at 5:30 p.m., Nottingham Park Pavilion, Avon) both feature a cast of Festival stars and companies.

In Watching Dance with Heather Watts, legendary “Balanchine Ballerina” Heather Watts shares an interactive exploration of dance repertory and history through live demonstrations with Festival Artists. (Wednesday July 31 at 11 a.m., Vail Mountain School, Vail)

A made for Vail tap dance experience, Dorrance Dances: An Evening with Michelle Dorrance and Friends follows the unique journey of this vital American art form in a program created, hosted and headlined by “MacArthur genius“ Michelle Dorrance and a gathering of brilliant tap dancers of today. (Wednesday, July 31 at 6:00 p.m., Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek)

International Evenings of Dance are legendary for their glittery celebration of artistic collaboration with unique “only in Vail” partnerships and role debuts by a selection of today’s dance stars from around the world. The schedule will include three different International Evenings programs:  International Evening of Dance I on Friday, August 2 at 7:30 p.m., International Evening of Dance II on Saturday, August 3 at 5 p.m., and International Evening of Dance III on August 3 at 8 p.m. (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail)

Colorado Dances celebrates the dynamic state of dance in Colorado, in a unique program featuring three Rocky Mountain powerhouse dance companies: Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Colorado Ballet, and DanceAspen. (Sunday, August 4 at 6:00 p.m., Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek)

NOW: PREMIERES is the Festival’s annual showcase of commissioned new dances, featuring an astonishing cast of dancers and musicians. 2024 choreographers will include Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Lauren Lovette, Justin Peck, Tiler Peck, Pam Tanowitz and Artist-In-Residence Jamar Roberts.

Festival Dancers

Joining Artist-in-Residence and New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns, individual Festival dancers for 2024 will include New York City Ballet’s Chun Wai Chan, Jovani Furlan, Mira Nadon, Roman Mejia, Tiler Peck, Unity Phelan, Gilbert Bolden III, Harrison Coll, KJ Takahashi, Olivia Bell, and India Bradley, American Ballet Theatre’s Aran Bell, Isabella Boylston, Catherine Hurlin, Calvin Royal III, and James Whiteside, former New York City Ballet dancers Robbie Fairchild and Lauren Lovette, Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Adji Cissoko, tap dancers Michelle Dorrance and Dario Natarelli, modern dance muse Melissa Toogood, former Miami City Ballet principal Patricia Delgado, Royal Danish Ballet’s Philip Duclos, National Ballet of Canada’s Ben Rudisin, BalletX’s Savannah Green and Jerard Palazo, Philadelphia Ballet’s Mayfield Myers, ballroom duo Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina, and independent dancers Lil Buck, Daisy Kate Jacobson, Stephanie Terasaki and Spencer Lenain, with others to be announced. Kayla Mak, a current third year BFA dance student at The Juilliard School, will be this year’s Scholar-In-Residence.

Music and Musicians

Live music and the commissioning of new music are essential parts of the Vail Dance Festival’s artistic mission. This year, the Festival welcomes the National Repertory Orchestra under the baton of Michael Stern for the first time. 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 winning Leonard Bernstein Composer-In-Residence Caroline Shaw will return to create new music compositions. The 2024 season will also feature performances by bass-baritone Davóne Tines, pianists Jacek Mysinski, Michael Scales, Joel Wenhardt, and Tony Yun, and kora player Youba Cissokho, among a roster of multi-genre musicians. Shelbie Rassler will serve as Music Director.

Community Programs

YouthPower365’s Celebrate the Beat Pop Hop Camp is a free dance and music education program for local children. Registration opens March 1.

Details on additional Festival events including the popular Conversations on Dance podcast series, Master Classes, free Dancing in the Streets performances, the Tiny Dancer Tea Party, and other educational events will be announced in June.

About 2024 Artists-in Residence Sara Mearns and Jamar Roberts

Sara Mearns was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and began her dance training at three with Ann Brodie at the local Calvert-Brodie School of Dance. Ms. Mearns entered the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of NYCB, in the fall of 2001. In the fall of 2003 she became an apprentice with NYCB and joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet the following year, moving up the ranks and becoming principal in 2008. She has originated roles with many of today’s leading choreographers including Justin Peck, Kyle Abraham, Alexei Ratmansky, Pam Tanowitz, Bobbi Jene Smith, Christopher Wheeldon and starred in Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. Described by The New York Times as an artist who “dances on a thrillingly huge scale, combining the drama of risk and abandon with the drama of glamor and emotion,” Mearns has become known for her tenacity to explore other styles of dancing beyond her formal ballet training and role with NYCB. She has been featured as a guest performer for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Cunningham Centennial Celebration, Jodi Melnick Dance, Bill T Jones/Lee Ming Wei, and Wang Ramirez and she performed Dances of Isadora Duncan at Lincoln Center. At The Joyce in 2022, Sara curated and performed a full evening with five world premiere pieces, titled “Piece of Work.” She was awarded the Bessie Award for outstanding performer in 2018, and in 2019 she received the Dance Magazine Award and an Honorary Doctorate from University of South Carolina.

Jamar Roberts returns to Vail this season as an Artist-In-Residence, after choreographing his first work for the Vail Dance Festival in 2021, and creating two additional new works for the 2023 Festival. Roberts is a prolific and highly in-demand choreographer who has made works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, the Martha Graham Company, BalletX, The Juilliard School, Ailey 2, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance, and he also serves as a Creative Associate for The Juilliard School from 2023-2024. Roberts, a graduate of the New World School of the Arts and the Ailey School has danced for AAADT, Ailey II, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, won the 2016 “Bessie” award for outstanding performer, and has performed as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London and made multiple television performance appearances. In 2020, the March on Washington Film Festival invited Roberts to create a dance on film tribute to the Honorable John Lewis. Other highlights include Works and Process at the Guggenheim, where he created the acclaimed short work on the film Cooped and A Chronicle of a Pivot at a Point in Time, which premiered on film in 2021 and was restaged for a live performance world premiere in 2022. Roberts was a director’s fellow at NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts in the 2020-21 season and he has also made a short film for the LA Opera entitled The First Bluebird in the Morning. His first narrative ballet, Resurrection, premiered at San Francisco Ballet in January 2023.

About Leonard Bernstein Composer-in-Residence Caroline Shaw:

Caroline Shaw is the Vail Dance Festival’s Composer-in-Residence. Since inaugurating the role in 2018, Shaw has returned each summer to compose new music for the Festival. Shaw is a musician who moves among roles, genres, and mediums, trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed. She works often in collaboration with others, as producer, composer, violinist, and vocalist. Caroline has written over 100 works in the last decade, for Anne Sofie von Otter, Davóne Tines, Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, LA Phil, Philharmonia Baroque, Seattle Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Aizuri Quartet, The Crossing, Dover Quartet, Calidore Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, Miro Quartet, I Giardini, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Ariadne Greif, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Britt Festival, and the Vail Dance Festival. In her Vail role, she has collaborated on new works with Pam Tanowitz, Justin Peck, Caili Quan, Lil Buck, Tiler Peck, and Michelle Dorrance, and has performed as a vocalist, violinist, and pianist in her own works as well as in pieces by a range of composers.

About Scholar-in-Residence Kayla Mak

Kayla Mak grew up in Rye Brook, NY and is of Japanese, Chinese, and Cuban descent. Before coming to Juilliard she studied at Westchester Dance Academy and Ballet Academy East and has performed at the Kaatsbaan Cultural Park Summer Festival 2022, Switzerland’s Origen Festival Cultural, and in season 3 of The World of Dance. As this year’s Festival Scholar, Mak will take part in daily classes and community events, observe rehearsals, and dance in select performances.


Performance tickets will go on sale to the public on March 8, 11a.m. (MST) at or through the Box Office by phone at 970.845.TIXS (8497). The Box Office hours are 11a.m. through 5p.m. daily.

*Please note that the 2024 Vail Dance Festival schedule and casting are subject to changes and additions.

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