Troy Schumacher is on a roll. The 31-year-old was recently promoted to soloist after almost 12 years with New York City Ballet, but that's nothing compared to what he has going on this month. Over the course of a few weeks he will premiere two ballets of his own creation: his third work for NYCB (Sept. 28) and another for the ensemble he founded back in 2010, BalletCollective (Oct. 25), using colleagues from NYCB, including his wife, Ashley Laracey. We spoke with him just as he was gearing up for this choreographic marathon.
What is it like working on commissions while planning for your own company's season?
I'm loving being so busy, working on multiple projects, all extremely different from each other. It's like when you're dancing a lot of ballets at once, and you're warm, both physically and mentally. You can get back into rehearsals and performances much more easily.
How about your new work for BalletCollective—what will your approach be this time around?
I've been finding, with everything that's going on in the country and in the world, that I've been enjoying peaceful moments, like looking out on a field or looking at a piece of art. So I wanted to create something that was a little more meditative than usual. I commissioned this great singer and composer Julianna Barwick, whose music is almost mantra-like. The whole thing takes place inside an immersive projection installation by Sergio Mora-Diaz. You can't really see the dancers' faces, just their silhouettes; it's interesting how your impression changes when the body becomes more abstracted. We're basing our ideas on the science fiction writer Ken Liu, who wrote this amazing collection called The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. The whole season is organized around the idea of translation.
With BalletCollective, you've developed a creative process that involves in-depth collaborations with young, cutting-edge composers, visual artists and writers. What excites you about this approach?
Every time I come out of one of these projects, we learn something that we wouldn't have learned just working on our own. You give feedback to other art forms and other forms give feedback to you.
For the first time, BalletCollective is commissioning a work from another choreographer, Gabrielle Lamb. How did that come about?
It's always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to share this process with more people. It's such a valuable learning tool to work closely with a bunch of artists and composers. You're really creating something together. And I felt that Gabrielle was the ideal candidate, because she thinks a lot about her work, and she's never had the chance to commission a score before. It really excites me that the organization is at a point that we're able to start doing that.