Damian Woetzel is director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, which under his leadership aims to further the value of the arts in society, focusing on education, social justice, economics, and diplomacy. He has created events and programs furthering this work in venues varying from the National Performing Arts Center in Beijing, to the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, the home of Shakespeare in the Park. In addition to his role at the Institute, Woetzel is a producer and director of dance and music performances, including the artistic directorship of the Vail International Dance Festival, where he presents dance performances and commissions. Among his other recent projects have been Lil Buck @ Le Poisson Rouge, an award-winning show featuring Lil Buck, Yo-Yo Ma and an array of stellar musicians; an arts salute to Stephen Hawking at Lincoln Center; and the first performance of the White House Dance Series, which took place in the East Room of the White House and was hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Woetzel works with Yo-Yo Ma on his Silk Road Connect program in the New York City Public Schools, and on ArtStrikes, which they have pioneered as a format for artists to engage in public service. In 2012, Woetzel co-produced the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to honoree Natalia Makarova, and for the 2014 Honors he co-produced the salute to honoree Patricia McBride. In 2009, Woetzel became the founding director of the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works (NEW) Program, which over a five-year period initiated grants to enable the production of 35 new dance works. He is the creator of the DEMO series at the John F. Kennedy Center for the performing arts.
Woetzel was a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet from 1989 until his retirement from the stage in 2008. At NYCB, he danced virtually the entire leading male dancer repertory, and had works created for him by, among others, Jerome Robbins, Eliot Feld, Twyla Tharp, Susan Stroman, and Christopher Wheeldon. Woetzel also frequently performed as a guest star with companies including the Kirov Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and starred in numerous television broadcasts and as the Cavalier in the Time Warner movie version of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Woetzel has also choreographed a number of ballets for NYCB and other companies.
Among his awards, in July 2012 Woetzel was honored with the inaugural Gene Kelly Legacy Award—an honor jointly created by the Dizzy Feet Foundation and the Estate of Gene Kelly in honor of the 100th anniversary of Kelly’s birth. Woetzel serves on the artists committee of the Kennedy Center Honors, the Knight Foundation’s National Arts Advisory Committee, and was a member of the Harvard University Task Force on the Arts. He holds an MPA degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In the fall of 2010 he was a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he co-taught a course on performing arts and the law. In November 2009, President Obama appointed Woetzel to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, where he has worked on creating the Turnaround Arts Program, which now brings arts education to some of the nation’s most challenged school districts. In April of 2015, Woetzel received the Harvard Arts Medal.