Damian Woetzel

Damian Woetzel, former ballet star, is an arts leader and activist, and a producer and director of dance and music performances. Among his recent projects was directing the first performance of the White House Dance Series in September of 2010, which took place in the East Room of the White House and was hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

In June of 2011, Woetzel became the Director of Arts Programs of the Aspen Institute. In this capacity, he works to develop ideas and policies to assure vibrancy and dynamism in all artistic realms, and to enrich civic culture in ways only the arts can do.

Since 2006, Woetzel has been the artistic director of the summer Vail International Dance Festival, where he presents dance performances and commissions. He has instituted a number of initiatives as director, including bringing to the Vail Valley the educational arts program Celebrate the Beat which targets local underserved children in the public schools.
In 2009 and 2010, Woetzel produced and directed the World Science Festival Gala Performances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. For the 2010 event he created an arts salute to science honoring the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, featuring performances by Yo-Yo Ma, John Lithgow, and Kelli O’Hara among others.

In the fall of 2009, Woetzel helped create and began directing the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works (NEW) Program, which supports choreographers and dance companies during the current financial crisis by giving grants to enable the production of new works. Woetzel also in 2009 launched as curator and director the new Studio 5 performance series at New York’s City Center, which features in-depth examinations of today’s most compelling dance artists and companies highlighted by in-studio performances and demonstrations.

Woetzel works with Yo-Yo Ma on his Silk Road Connect program in the New York City Public Schools, in June of 2010 directing the culminating year end event which took place at New York’s Museum of Natural History, and featured the participation of the Silk Road Ensemble and 450 6th grade students. In June of 2011, Woetzel again directed the culminating event of this valuable program, this time bringing together a star-studded cast with the 6th graders in a free performance opening the SummerStage season in Central Park.

In addition to his other activities, Woetzel was in the fall of 2010 a visiting Lecturer at Harvard Law School, co-teaching a course on Performing Arts and the Law.

Woetzel was a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet from 1989 until his retirement from the stage in 2008, where he had works created for him by Jerome Robbins, Eliot Feld, Twyla Tharp, Susan Stroman, and Christopher Wheeldon, among others. During his career, Woetzel frequently performed internationally as a guest star and was a visiting artist with numerous companies including the Kirov Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Woetzel has choreographed a number of ballets for NYCB among other companies. He is the recipient of a Choo San Goh award for new choreography, and he was the artistic director of the New York State Summer School for the Arts School of Ballet from 1994-2007. Woetzel serves on the Artists Committee of the Kennedy Center Honors and as a judge for the Astaire Awards; he has also served as a juror for the Princess Grace Awards. Woetzel was the 2008 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence of the Aspen Institute, and he is a frequent speaker on the arts and arts policy. Woetzel holds a Master in Public Administration Degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and he served on the recent Harvard Task Force on the Arts. In November of 2009, President Obama appointed Woetzel to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Woetzel has been married to Heather Watts since 1999.