Established in 1989, the annual Vail International Dance Festival features both performance and educational elements, firmly establishing the Vail Valley as one of the top summer dance destinations in the world. The Dance Festival was a product of the extremely successful performances by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow during the summer of 1989, when the Vail Valley Foundation accepted the responsibility of hosting Madame Sophia Golovkina and her students for three sold-out shows at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater after they were cancelled in Houston. The tour marked the first time in 40 years that the Bolshoi Academy had toured in the United States.
Following the performances and the warm welcome provided by the Vail Valley, Golovkina decided that Vail should become the home of the exclusive North American satellite school of the prestigious Bolshoi Academy. Former President and Mrs. Ford, longtime residents of the Vail Valley, recognized the potential for creating a cultural exchange through dance that would evolve to become the Vail International Dance Festival, known throughout the world for the stature of the artists and unique performances produced and presented each year.
In 1992, the performance element was expanded to a three-week residency for the Bolshoi Academy of Moscow culminating in four performances at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The program began to receive national attention and as the event grew, programming developed to include a variety of educational programs and broader stylistic performance elements, and the name Vail International Dance Festival was adopted.
The summer of 1993 was marked by the premiere of the International Evenings of Dance, featuring principal couples representing major international dance companies in gala performances. That same year also saw the introduction of the International Dance Teachers’ Conference and in 1995, the creation of the Vail International Workshop for younger dance students.
In 1998, a unique choreographic dimension was added and the Festival began to commission and world-premiere new works. Developed as a collaborative effort with strong regional American dance companies, each year a newly commissioned work was premiered and, in return, gifted back to the participating dance company to perform in their repertory. Unfortunately, due to escalating costs, the student summer school component was discontinued.
In the fall of 2006, the Foundation took a major step toward moving the Festival forward by hiring Artistic Director Damian Woetzel. Woetzel, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, has taken the Festival to new heights with the addition of NOW: Premieres, the UpClose series, a roster of international dance stars and the Celebrate the Beat educational dance programs for Vail Valley students.