In a year full of memorable moments both on and off stage, it seemed only fitting that BalletX would close out our 2018-19 season performing terrific repertory on tour for two stellar audiences, in Cleveland, Ohio and what is beginning to feel like our summer home, Vail, Colorado. After a successful two-week run of The Little Prince at the Wilma in Philadelphia, it was refreshing to stretch our travel legs a bit and hit the road. So, after gathering for a morning class on Friday, July 26th, the company made its way to the airport and jetted off to Cleveland. We were especially pleased to be joined by our Development Manager, James Ihde, who is in fact an Ohio native.
Upon arriving in Cleveland we dropped our bags at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, conveniently located only a few blocks away from the theater, and went out in search of a delicious meal. Luckily for us, it was a beautiful night, and our group found a great outdoor spot serving up BBQ classics in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Our hunger abated and our eyelids drooping, we made our way back to our rooms to get some rest before the next day’s long tech rehearsal and performance.
What I haven’t mentioned is that, by some stroke of luck, my 28th birthday happened to fall on the day of our performance in Cleveland. Having grown up in Pittsburgh, this was the closest BalletX has been to my hometown in over 5 years. My parents and a cheering section of almost 30 friends and family made the 2-hour trip from the Steel City to see us perform. To say I was overcome with gratitude would be an understatement. It was an absolute highlight of my career thus far to walk into the lobby post-show and be greeted by 30 familiar, smiling faces, some of which had never seen me dance professionally before. Even my 12-year-old cousin Theodore made it through the whole show, which I took as a major compliment on behalf of the company, and got the chance to ham it up for some photos with the BX ladies afterwards. I was especially lucky to dance two duets with my girlfriend, Andrea Yorita, in both Nicolo Fonte’s, Steep Drop Euphoric, and Matthew Neenan’s, The Last Glass. I could not have asked for a better program to perform for my family. They were thrilled to see Andie and I perform together. After getting gently shooed from the lobby, I celebrated my birthday with both my Pittsburgh and BalletX clans, a gift for which I’ll be forever grateful.
With Cleveland in the books, we got what rest we could that night, and in the morning made our way to the airport for the long trip to the Vail Dance Festival. Those who were lucky caught a few Z’s on the 3-hour flight to Denver, and the subsequent 2-hour van ride through the mountains, until finally, we arrived. We took up residence in the beautiful Manor Vail Lodge, the base of operations for the whole festival. All the rooms are lovely and offer beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. It’s also a convenient 5-minute walk from the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, where we would be performing The Little Prince in two days’ time.
One of the plethora of things that make being a part of the dance festival so special is being able to meet and interact with the incredible festival artists who travel from all over the country to perform. On Monday morning, we met with the rest of the dancers to take class together taught by the talented New York City Ballet principal, Tiler Peck, who BalletX had the pleasure of collaborating with in creating Matthew Neenan’s Increasing for the 2014 festival. It’s inspiring to watch these exemplary dancers get ready for their heavy rehearsal days, and an honor to know that we’ve worked hard for the opportunity to train and perform alongside them. After class, the company made its way to the theater to meet with choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and conduct a spacing of the ballet, which was transformed by the unique qualities of the amphitheater stage. Due to the parameters of performing outdoors, we waited until the sun was lower in the sky to check the lighting and do a full run through of the show. Satisfied with the result, we made our way back to the lodge to eat dinner and rest before the big day.
On Tuesday morning, performance day, we gathered again for class and then ran through the show once more to make any last minute adjustments. After breaking for dinner, it was finally time to take the stage. In Vail, weather can often be unpredictable, and unfortunately it doesn’t take the festival into account. About ten minutes before curtain, the skies opened, but that didn’t deter our loyal audience. Parkas and umbrellas appeared on the lawn, and our patrons sat attentive, responding in kind to scene after scene. By evening’s end, the weather had calmed down but the audience was up, taking to their feet in a rousing standing ovation. Year after year we are amazed at the warmth we receive from the Vail dance-goers, and this year was no exception. Post-show, the festival hosted an after party at the lodge, and we had the chance to mingle with fellow dancers and staff, celebrating a fruitful end to our season. Every summer, after our final performance in Vail, we hold our breath and cross our fingers to be invited back the following year. It is truly one of the most magical places to share our art, and the welcome we receive is second only to our beloved Philadelphia audience.
So, with that we closed our 2018-19 season and look forward to creating more transcendent moments next year. The juggernaut that is BalletX is often a wild and exciting ride, and this season was no exception. We have the utmost gratitude to those who’ve accompanied us along the way and we hope to make many more friends and fans in the future. It’s only up from here.
-Zachary Kapeluck, BalletX Dancer