Fifty-two members of Pacific Northwest Ballet arrived in Colorado this evening for three performances with the 2010 Vail International Dance Festival. This is our third visit to Vail in four years; we brought 38 dancers, 9 ballets, 3 musicians and lots of warm clothing. The weather can be sublime in these mountains, but as I look at the five day forecast I see the highest temperature reaching only 73 with lows in the low 50s. Though heat lamps buzz above the stage and give that keeping-the-fires-warm glow, cold is cold. I remember an especially chilly late night rehearsal for In the Middle, somewhat elevated our first year. The dancers demonstrated true professionalism in the night chill. For an outdoor venue, lighting rehearsals are either late at night or early in the morning. This trip our crew will start one at 4:00 am to beat the dawn light.

Alaska flight #672 took off on time without issue. The flight crew quickly learned that we were with the ballet. Obviously charmed, one attendant spoke on the intercom welcoming our group and urging everyone on board to purchase a ticket to see us when in Seattle. She gave a little support-the-arts speech before wishing Ezra Thomson a happy 21st birthday. There must have been a little group envy going on because a few minutes later it was announced that the crew was also pleased to host Scents of America on the flight.

Meanwhile, my daughter Sarah was busy charming dancers and other passengers with her new hat which tops her head with that of an elephant’s. Long elephant legs dangle from the hat to provide mittens. The whole look was somewhere between Nanook of the North and The Jungle Book. Let me tell you, she was turning heads and scoring compliments. She pretended to be a little annoyed with James Moore who kept trying to snap a photo. These paparazzi are the worst when your traveling!

We landed on time. Getting fifty plus people across a few states seemed to have gone very smoothly until we realized that one dancer, who shall remain nameless left his bag on the plane. The dancer, we’ll just call him ‘Mopey’, ran back to the flight and successfully retrieved the vital bag without causing too much delay. I think Moperazzi is the same guy who left his performance shoes in his hotel room last time we were here.

In any case, tomorrow will bring a quiet day starting with my organically sensitive, low stress, user-friendly Company class and a few rehearsals held in the Vail Mountain School’s gym. It’s officially a day off for the dancers, but many will choose to adjust to the 8,000+ feet of altitude with technique class. I’ll be bringing Ezra a beer.

It’s good to be back in Vail. Artistic Director of the Festival, Damian Woetzel, has built quite a following for his fresh and innovative programming. PNB was one of the first companies he brought to the valley under his leadership. The festival is now regarded as one of the country’s top summer hot spots for dance. Check out their website.

Audiences in Vail are great. I can’t forget the roar we heard after performing Twyla Thap’s Nine Sinatra Songs four years ago. Seeing peers from the dance community is part of the fun. The Paul Taylor Dance Company and Larry Keigwin Dance will be here along with Savion Glover and guest stars from NYCB, Royal Ballet, Boston Ballet, and American Ballet Theater. The New York Philharmonic performs tomorrow night. We are in for an exciting time here. More to come soon.   — Peter Boal

Featured photo: PNB dancers warming up onstage at The Vail International Dance Festival, photo © Lindsay Thomas.