In 2020, the Vail Dance Festival took on its greatest challenge in its 30-plus-year history, creating an eight-day, all-digital Festival. The online event brought the dance world together in new ways, and opened the Festival to new audiences, all because of YOUR support. 

Vail Dance Festival
By the Numbers

evenings of digital programming
World Premieres
1.13 billion
media impressions
$2.5 million
media value
Digital Festival views across the USA and in 22 countries*
hours viewed on Facebook and YouTube*
plan on attending in-person in 2021
distributed to 64 recipients of Vail Dance Festival's Artist Relief Fund

*Numbers reflect time period of July 31-Aug. 21

Digital access

Creative collaboratons

Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia in a moment from 2018: "Lincoln Square," choreography by Tiler Peck at NOW: Premieres, Vail Dance Festival, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Who can forget the moment

in 2017 when young Roman Mejia, still a student at the time, burst onto the Ford Amphitheater stage in his debut in George Balanchine’s Tarantella, winning a standing ovation from the audience in what is now his familiar fashion? Or when Caroline Shaw and Justin Peck collaborated to create the World Premiere of RISE WAIT CLIMB THROUGH in 2018, which Shaw followed with another world premiere, this time with Lil Buck in their astounding 38109? Or when legendary choreographer Alonzo King joined with jazz luminary Jason Moran for a landmark collaboration lauded as a “dialogue of music and movement” in The New York Times? And how about when Artistic Director Damian Woetzel made a cameo appearance on the Vail Dance Festival stage in a new work by Michelle Dorrance after a 10-year hiatus?

Moments like these were only some of countless remembrances that became a bittersweet cascade as the Vail Dance Festival team combed the archives, and made new creations, as part of Vail Dance Festival: The Digital Edition.

In spring of 2020, only weeks after the originally-planned season had been announced nationwide, it became clear that an in-person event, in 2020, would not be possible. New plans were made, creative alternative concepts swirled like spring snow, but by April, early sketches of a Digital Festival were taking shape. The event would highlight past performances, feature artist interviews, and even include new works created during quarantine.

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I have heard about the Vail Dance Festival and hoped one day to be able to attend. This opportunity to ‘see’ the Festival has added a new item to my bucket list –to see the Festival in person when circumstances permit. I almost felt like I was there with Damian [Woetzel's] introductions and the interviews with artists. Your selection of past performances was inspired! What a treat to see Tiler Peck and Bill Irwin perform together. Michelle Dorrance is a personal favorite, and I loved the closing night show. All the artists were outstanding.

Anne B
Festival Viewer

I also appreciate knowing how unique the Vail Dance Festival is –not just a showcase of unique talent, but also a place that nurtures artists by providing opportunities to explore their creativity along with the support to afford that luxury. What a wonderful and remarkable Festival! Thank you.

Thomas R
Festival Viewer

Virtual Festival highly commendable given the fluidity of an ever-changing situation. Good to see returning artists and good engagement during artist interviews. Grateful to supporters who helped make this possible. Keeping arts alive is imperative.

Festival Viewer

Breaking down

International Evenings

Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III in George Balanchine's Apollo, as part of "Vail Dance Virtual Gala: An International Evenings of Dance Retrospective." The digital event was enjoyed from 22 countries and the United States. Photo by Christopher Duggan. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

New ideas bring new opportunity. Like a dancer taking on a challenging new role, the Festival team took the seemingly impossible situation of 2020 and turned around an 8-evening experience that took on its own power and identity to become a marvelous artistic event in its own right.

Vail Dance Festival: The Digital Edition, also set high watermarks in outreach, bringing new audiences to the Festival and to the dance world as a whole. High-profile coverage in outlets like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, the L.A. Times, and MSN Travel created perhaps the loudest buzz in the Festival’s history. This led to record-breaking traditional and social media interactions, including 1.13 billion media impressions and hundreds of thousands of eyes on the Festival’s Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels.*

For the first time ever, audiences across the globe were given full access, free of charge, to the Festival from the comfort of their homes. While the majority of viewers tuned in from the United States (with the heaviest representation from Colorado, New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts), many also watched from international locations, from Argentina to Hong Kong, Ireland to Mexico, and 18 other nations. Sixty-four percent of website visitors were new users, one of many signals that the Digital Festival created significant gains in new audiences.

The Festival’s online success was partly due to many years of capturing the Festival’s onstage works in digital form. These engaging video archives helped keep the Festival front of mind as it prepares to return to an in-person format in 2021.

The success is highlighted by the reality that 2020 was the most difficult year in the Festival’s history. Across the nation, dance theaters and companies had closed their doors. Dancers, choreographers, musicians, production staff, and everyone in the performing arts world not only struggled with the all-too-real difficulties of quarantines and lockdowns, but also the day-to-day reality of life without reliable income. Artists careers were stifled, and they faced the challenge of staying in touch with their artform without the use of a studio.

There, too, the Vail Dance Festival and its community of generous donors found a way to help. The Vail Dance Festival Artist Relief Fund raised an exceptional $192,000, delivered to 64 recipients in $3,000 grants, stepping up in response to the needs of our Festival family of artists and professionals.

It was one of many examples of how well the Dance Festival community can come together to support one another. Because of YOU, the Festival was able to take care of the Festival family of artists and production staff, and create a digital event that not only gave the world a reason to convene, and celebrate dance, at a time when they needed it most, but also set the Festival on strong footing to continue creating watershed moments and indelible memories in 2021 and beyond.

View more of the Digital Festival below.