Artistic Director, Damian Woetzel


Damian Woetzel has taken on multiple roles in arts leadership since retiring from a 20-year career as Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet. Since 2007, Woetzel has been Director of the Vail International Dance Festival, which under his direction, has been widely-acclaimed for its innovation and growth as a nationally-recognized summer showcase for dance. In 2011, Woetzel was named the Director of Arts Programs for the Aspen Institute, where he creates programs aiming to further the value of the arts in society, focusing on education, economics, and cultural diplomacy. Woetzel is further active as a director and producer outside these roles.

Other recent projects include: Lil Buck @ Le Poisson Rouge, an award-winning show featuring Lil Buck, Yo-Yo Ma and an array of stellar musicians; an arts salute to Stephen Hawking at Lincoln Center; and the first performance of the White House Dance Series, which took place in the East Room of the White House and was hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Woetzel works with Yo-Yo Ma on his Silk Road Connect program in the New York City Public Schools, and on “Arts Strike” events which they have pioneered as a format for artists to engage in public service. In 2012, Woetzel co-produced the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to honoree Natalia Makarova, and for the 2014 Honors, he co-produced the salute to honoree Patricia McBride. In 2009, Woetzel became the founding director of the Jerome Robbins Foundation's New Essential Works (NEW) Program, which over a five-year period initiated grants to enable the production of 35 new dance works. In November 2015, Woetzel launched a multi-disciplinary new series entitled DEMO at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center.

Woetzel was a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet from 1989 until his retirement from the stage in 2008. At NYCB, he danced virtually the entire leading male dancer repertory, and had works created for him by Jerome Robbins, Eliot Feld, Twyla Tharp, Susan Stroman, and Christopher Wheeldon among others. Woetzel also frequently performed as a guest star with companies including the Kirov Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and starred in numerous television broadcasts and as the Cavalier in the Time Warner movie version of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Woetzel has also choreographed a number of ballets for NYCB and other companies.

Among his awards, in July 2012 Woetzel was honored with the inaugural Gene Kelly Legacy Award - an honor jointly created by the Dizzy Feet Foundation and the Estate of Gene Kelly in honor of the 100th anniversary of Kelly's birth. Woetzel serves on the artists committee of the Kennedy Center Honors, the Knight Foundation's National Arts Advisory Committee, and was a member of the Harvard University Task Force on the Arts. Woetzel holds an MPA degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. In the fall of 2010, he was a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School where he co-taught a course on performing arts and the law. In November 2009, President Obama appointed Woetzel to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities where he has worked on creating the Turnaround Arts Program, which now brings arts education to some of the nation’s most challenged school districts. In April 2015, Woetzel received the Harvard Arts Medal.

The 2016 Festival marked Damian Woetzel's 10th anniversary as Artistic Director. Watch the tribute video here: 

Damian In The News: A collection of new articles featuring the Vail International Dance Festival's Artistic Director

2016 Press

In Profile: Damian Woetzel's Defining Decade
— Departures

Damian Woetzel's New Grooves
— 5280

Vail Dance Blooming & Booming Under Damian
— Dance Magazine

Developing Artists in the Rockies: Damian Woetzel Celebrates 10 Years with Vail...
— DanceTeacher Magazine

2015 Press

Spike Lee, Sonia Sotomayor Are Among Speakers at Kennedy Center Arts Summit
The Washington Post

One-of-a-Kind Performer: Harvard Honors Damian Woetzel, 'A Master of Life and Art'
 Harvard Gazette

Jason Moran and Other Guest Artists to Curate Kennedy Center Season
The New York Times 

Dancer Damian Woetzel Named Arts Medalist
Harvard Magazine 

2014 Press

Dancer Damian Woetzel on How To Make Art a Relevant, Productive Part of Any Place
— Westword Magazine 

2013 Press

WP Magazine, the Education Issue: After years of crouching, arts ed is raising its hand again
The Washington Post

Hip-Hop Meets Ballet in One Man’s Body, Lil Buck at Le Poisson Rouge
— The New York Times

Damian Woetzel at the Vail International Dance Festival
— The New York Times

2012 Press

Under New Principal, Savoy Elementary Shows What Art Can Teach
The Washington Post

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Conducts Special Workshop Performance at DC Elementary School
Fox 5 Washington DC

Students Welcome Yo-Yo Ma, Damian Woetzel
Boston Herald

City Releases Culture, School Arts Plans
Chicago Tribune

The Baryshnikovs of Jookin
— The New York Times

2011 Press

Longer CPS day? Ma Joins Fray in 'Arts Strike'
Chicago Tribune

After the Last Dance: New York City Ballet's Main Man for Nearly Two Decades, Damian Woetzel is Trying on Other Roles
Vanity Fair

Yo-Yo Ma Performs for Inner City Arts Kids on Los Angeles's Skid Row: Downtown Los Angeles got a double-dose earlier this week of world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma...
— Southern California Public Radio

Jerome Robbins Foundation's New Essential Works Program: Make It Relevant, but Make It
— The New York Times

2010 Press

World Science Festival: Salute of the Stars, Cosmic and Otherwise
— The New York Times

World Science Festival to Start With a Big Bang
— The New York Times

White House Dance Series Hosted by Michelle Obama: Michelle Obama hosts first White House dance event
— Associated Press

At the White House, dancers get room to move in East Room events
The Washington Post

A Harvard Professor and a Dance Star Team Up For an Unusual Event
— Wall Street Journal

Works & Process: The Art of Teaching: Participation And Perception
The New York Times

2009 Press

Vail International Dance Festival in Departures Magazine

Damian Woetzel on Greatness in Art
— The Telegraph

Music & Science, Reunited in a Swarm of Ants
—The New York Times

'Witness'ing the Interplay Between Arts and Rights
—The Harvard Crimson

2008 Press

Bowing Out But Still Fancy Free
The New York Times

Vet Dancer Says Adieu
New York Post

Damian Woetzel Leaps Into Future
Bloomberg News

Woetzel Retires New York City Ballet; Turns Focus to Vail Festival
— Real Vail

Damian Woetzel's Last Dance
Vanity Fair Magazine