The 2018 Vail Dance Festival concluded earlier this month, but Conversations on Dance is still reeling from all of the exciting performances and events. Here dancer Andrea Yorita of BalletX shares how five years performing at the Festival have shaped her as an artist.
As I take my first steps onto the stage, there is a fluttering excitement that starts to bubble up into my chest. The slight breeze and the cold scent of crisp air touch my skin, and I hear the rustling of leaves along back edge of the outdoor stage. Then suddenly, the bubble releases and a rush of adrenaline washes over me leaving a vibration in the air that freezes time as I begin to move. This emotional rush is something I feel often when I perform, but Vail, Colorado in the summer amplifies these feelings. It could be the surrounding lush green nature, the other incredible artists that perform in the festival, or the lack of oxygen to my brain; whatever the reason, performing at the Vail Dance Festival always feels unique.
Under the direction of Damian Woetzel, the Vail Dance Festival brings together the world’s dance superstars from all genres to perform in this magical venue, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. The festival has given opportunities to dancers that they wouldn’t get elsewhere: to perform in roles they have never done before, dance with new partners, and collaborate with artists, choreographers and other dance forms they had yet to experience. I first performed at the festival in 2014 with BalletX, and since then the company has returned each summer. Seeing dancers who are a staple at the festival every year makes me realize that this quirky little BalletX family I belong to is part of another special dance family in Vail.
At 8,000 feet above sea level, Vail is the most physically demanding place I have ever performed–the altitude is no joke. My first year in Vail, I had no idea what it was going to be like and was unexpectedly affected by the altitude. One rehearsal after running Matthew Neenan’s Increasing, which was premiering that year on the Now: Premieres program, I remember standing in the Vail Mountain School gym and suddenly feeling very sick as the whole room moved. I ended the day connected to an oxygen tank. Since that first rehearsal I have learned how to handle myself in the high altitude. It is extremely dry in Vail so staying hydrated definitely helps, and I make sure to build my stamina before leaving on tour. Dancing with limited oxygen has become a personal challenge, like beating the Bowser level in Super Mario Bros. It is exciting to get through a hard ballet and think, “Yes! I did it!”
Through the years at the festival, I have been able to challenge myself physically and have found new and different depths to my artistry. Performing on an outdoor stage as big as the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater has been a freeing experience. This venue has the ability to feel larger than life, like dancing out in the vast mountains and sky, yet at the same time it generates an intimacy with the audience. This unusual duality allows me to play with finding moments to dance big and send energy into the universe as well as more subtle moments of personal interactions with the other dancers and/or audience members.
The experience has altered my view of the repertoire that BalletX has brought to the festival over the past five summers. It has made me think: How can I show how special I feel when I get to dance with those I love? How do I share my story with people in the front seats as well as people sitting on the lawn in the back? Finding the ability to project my energy but keep it genuine is something I think about a lot now, and this way of approaching my dancing gives it more depth and texture.
A lot of my emotional and artistic realizations also come from being able to watch all of the other dancers perform. Not just the graceful ballerinas, but the modern dancers, tap dancers, traditional Indian dancers, flamenco dancers, and Memphis Jookers. The range of dancing that my fellow artists bring to the festival every year is something I learn from and look forward to seeing.
Meeting all of these dancers that come to the Vail Dance Festival reminds me how special it is to work in the arts. Especially with the strife and conflict seen in the world today, the arts are so important. I am glad that there are dance festivals where people can come to see a wide range of dance and for that evening immerse themselves into a world that is different than their everyday life. People from all different backgrounds and journeys sit next to each other and quietly feel. While the performances may elicit different feelings for each person, the communal experience is, I think, unifying in itself. The dance world is so small, yet it encompasses the culture and beauty of so many different people. The Vail Dance Festival brings these communities together and fills the theater with love night after night.