If you go

What: Vail International Dance Festival

When: July 28 through Aug. 10

Where: Various locations in Vail

Tickets: Price varies per event

Info: vaildance.org

You could say Isabella Boylston fell in love with ballet in Boulder, but it's more than love, she says; it's a compulsion. As strong as breathing.

She remembers dance lessons at the Ballet Arts Studio, now the Boulder Ballet, in a tiny studio above the formerTom's Tavern on Pearl Street. A pianist accompanied their classes.

"I loved that, the feeling of dancing around and moving to music," Boylston says.

She was only 7, but she felt it then.

Now 26, Boylston has followed her need to dance all the way to the top. She is a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York City, one of the world's top classical ballet companies.

She is returning to Colorado to perform in the prestigious Vail International Dance Festival, which runs today through Aug. 10.

The 25th annual festival features a collection of some of the top dancers in the world, spanning many styles and traditions. Boylston says she's long dreamed of dancing in the festival, which the New York Times has called the "United Nations" for dance.

Add it to a long list of her dancing dreams come true. She just returned from performing in Italy. Her favorite accomplishment was landing "Swan Lake" with the American Ballet Theatre.

"I like the challenge of ballet," Boylston says. "To push yourself and try to improve and develop as an artist."

At age 11, Boylston was accepted into an all-Russian ballet training summer course in Washington, D.C. By her first year at Fairview High School, Boylston was taking the bus to the Colorado Ballet in Denver immediately after school and returning late at night.

Isabella Boylston,  of Boulder, will perform at the prestigious Vail International Dance Festival July 28 through Aug. 10.
Isabella Boylston, of Boulder, will perform at the prestigious Vail International Dance Festival July 28 through Aug. 10. (Courtesy photo)

"It became unmanageable with my high school," she says. So she enrolled in a ballet boarding school in Florida, where dance could be her full-time focus.

Even then, she says, she was "very naive about the possibility of making it my profession. It was just something I felt compelled to do. I literally felt like I couldn't live without dancing."

Most professional dancers know this feeling from a young age, Boylston says.

"It's a crazy drive inside you. I think it's innate," she says.

Other highlights of the Vail Dance Festival include performers from "Dancing With The Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," plus modern dance master Paul Taylor and Russian ballet star Sergei Polunin.