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.
Ballet stars are diving into creative projects on the side.
Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar before an Ashley Bouder Project performance. Photo by Dan Freeman, Courtesty Freeman.
Although he was hard at work this spring creating a new piece for Boston Ballet and performing with the company, principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio somehow made time for even more dance. This summer, his new choreographic side project, Cirio Collective, will premiere in Massachusetts. With help from his sister and fellow principal Lia Cirio, he has been working on videos for the new website, talking to costume designers and searching for music.
Cirio is among a pack of entrepreneurial ballet dancers looking to branch out at the peak of their careers. Troy Schumacher’s BalletCollective, Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO, Daniel Ulbricht’s Stars of American Ballet and Ashley Bouder’s Ashley Bouder Project are other budding examples. And though dancers forming pickup companies isn’t exactly a new notion, past iterations have mostly been summer layoff projects that combined well-known repertoire and big international stages. These talents represent a new breed of do-it-all artists who prize small-scale projects and artistic collaboration. And the DIY culture of the digital age makes it easier than ever for star dancers to give voice to their artistic visions and connect with curious fans.
Bouder, who doesn’t choreograph but directs Ashley Boulder Project, felt an urgency to experiment before it was too late. “I am over 30 and I don’t know when my technical ability will drop out,” she says. “There are a lot of things I want to do before that happens.” A large part of her vision is connecting with audiences in areas where dance is underserved, like the rural Midwest, with discussions and workshops. Currently, she’s fundraising for a dance film, and is focused on showcasing female choreographers, most recently Andrea Schermoly and Adriana Pierce.
For Cirio, forming his own troupe has allowed him to experiment with his choreography in a small, intimate setting. Though he’s thankful for his opportunities to make dances for Boston Ballet, he had a desire to create without the pressures of the big stage. “It’s not about trying to please a director or the artistic staff,” says Cirio, who hopes to expand the troupe’s vision to include other choreographers and non-dance artists. “It is just about us getting in the studio and sharing our ideas.”
NEW YORK CITY SummerStage is back, offering free outdoor performances in all five boroughs. This month, the Francesca Harper Project performs Harper’s Modo Fusion: Art Prototype, a foray into the world of beauty pageants that fuses dance with music and film in the East River Park, Aug. 16. In a series of theatrical vignettes, the work explores the exploitation of women and the way beauty pageants have evolved over time. The previous week, Aug. 9 & 10, Harlem Dance Caravan brings Illstyle & Peace Productions (a hip-hop based company), Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and Forces of Nature Dance Theatre to Marcus Garvey Park. www.cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage.
Dominique Rosales of Francesca Harper Project. Photo by Lois Greenfield, Courtesy Summerstage.
Russian Stars Come London Calling
LONDON The Bolshoi, that purveyor of bravura, takes over the Royal Opera House for three weeks through Aug. 17. Its most buzzed-about ballerinas, namely Zakharova, Obraztsova, and “25 to Watch” Smirnova, appear in works like Balanchine’s Jewels, La Bayadère, and Swan Lake. It is hoped that director Sergei Filin will be able to join them (see “Dance Matters,” June). Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev make a one-night-only, megawatt guest-star turn in Ratmansky’s Flames of Paris, which has been sold out for months—a housewarming party of sorts for Osipova, who joins The Royal Ballet as a principal dancer for the upcoming season. www.roh.org.uk.
Osipova in Flames of Paris. Photo by Elena Fetisova, Courtesy Bolshoi.
Dreams from My Father
MOUNT TREMPER, NY “This dance honors my past, present, and future family.” The enigmatic Souleymane Badolo shows his Buudou, BADOO, BADOLO, part ecstatic ritual, part seance, at the Mount Tremper Arts Festival on Aug. 3. (Buudou means “family” in Badolo’s mother tongue Gourounsi.) The natural wonder of Mount Tremper’s Catskill Mountains locale only adds to the work’s eeriness. www.mounttremperarts.org.
Badolo in Buudou, BADOO, BADOLO. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Danspace.
Sounds of Summer
NATIONWIDE Tap festivals for all ages and levels abound in August. Get down with star faculty and performers at workshops across North America:
Rhythm World at Chicago’s American Rhythm Center with Lane Alexander, Derick K. Grant, and Chicago Human Rhythm Project, through Aug. 4. www.chicagotap.org.
L.A. Tap Fest with Jason Samuels Smith and Chloe Arnold, Aug. 5–10. www.latapfest.com.
Bay Area Tap Festival with Channing Cook Holmes and John Kloss. Aug. 13–18. www.stepology.com.
Motor City Tap Fest with Gregg Russell, Claudia Rahardjanoto, and Sarah Reich, Aug. 15–17. www.motorcitytapfest.com.
Tap United at the Collins Center for the Performing Arts in Andover, MA, with Aaron Tolson, Tap Attack, and Sean Fielder, Aug. 16. www.tapunited1.com.
Jersey Tap Fest with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Jason Janas, Aug. 22–25. www.jerseytapfest.com.
Santa Fe Tap Festival with Mark Mendonca and the D’Jeune D’Jeune African Drum and Dance Ensemble. Aug. 29–30. www.stepology.com.
Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival with Dianne Walker, Jumaane Taylor, and Michelle Dorrance, Aug. 30–Sept. 1. www.vantapdance.com.
Charles Renato of Brazil jumps into Rhythm World in Chicago. Photo by Adilson Machado, Courtesy CHRP.
A Rash of Small Ballet Troupes
NEW YORK CITY The Joyce is trying something new this summer. Gathering six small ballet companies from around the country, it is presenting a two-week sampler from Aug. 6–17. New Yorkers don’t often get to see BalletX from Philly, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater from Houston, Company C Contemporary Ballet from the Bay Area, or Whim W’Him from Seattle—though each group has a following in its hometown. Add to this intriguing roster two from NYC—Jessica Lang Dance and BalletCollective (a project of New York City Ballet’s Troy Schumacher)—and you have a mini festival that may lure you away from the beach. www.joyce.org.
Domenico Luciano of Dominic Walsh Dance Theater in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. Photo by Frank Atura, Courtesy DWDT.
Ladies, Start Your Engines
SAN FRANCISCO Eight dance groups—all with women at the helm—perform at San Francisco’s Summer Performance Festival, SPF6. The artists were recent participants in The Garage residency, under the auspices of SAFEhouse, a local incubator for emerging artists with a strong LGBTQ bent. Different movement styles and topics are tackled, from Aura Fischbeck Dance’s Have we all melted yet?, which explores assimilation, to BodiGram’s D.R.U.N.K.S, a satirical look at drinking culture (complete with drinking games). At the ODC Theater Aug. 14–18. www.spf6.org.
The Milissa Payne Project’s Up in the Air. Photo by Lynn Fried, Courtesy SPF6.
Chicago’s Finest, For Free
CHICAGO Where can you see Hubbard Street, Giordano, the Joffrey Ballet, Ensemble Español, Natya Dance Theatre, and Chicago Human Rhythm Project for free? Five times over? Chicago Dancing Festival, of course. These Windy City companies are joined by dancers from Ailey, Brian Brooks Moving Company, Philadanco, Juilliard, and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company (Lubovitch is a CDF co-founder). Performances take place at the Harris Theater, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Auditorium Theatre, with an outdoor finale at the vast Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park. Aug. 20–24. www.chicagodancingfestival.com.
Krithika Rajagopalan of Natya Dance Theatre. Photo by Eileen Ryan, Courtesy CDF.
VAIL The Vail International Dance Festival this summer, which celebrates its 25th year with a wealth of programs and events, has something for everyone. The anniversary benefit performance presents styles from tango to ballet, with Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (see cover story), Gabriel Missé, Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, and Herman Cornejo, among others. The festival continues to show its range in two evenings of international dance, a ballroom spectacular, and performances by dancers from popular TV shows. And Damian Woetzel, the festival’s mastermind, hosts an evening of premieres, including works by Paul Taylor, Larry Keigwin, and Fang-Yi Sheu. July 28–Aug. 10. www.vaildance.org.
Kit McDaniel and Brandon Cournay of Keigwin + Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy VIDF.
WASHINGTON, DC “The Ballets Russes changed the way people viewed dance.” So wrote Deborah Jowitt about the legendary company on the occasion of its centenary (see “Russes Revolution,” Feb. 2009). The burst of fauvist color, themes of eroticism, and blockbuster collaborations woke audiences up to the allure of ballet. Now on display at the National Gallery of Art’s Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music in Washington, DC, are costumes, set designs, rare film footage, and drawings (by the likes of Bakst, Matisse, Picasso, and Chanel) from that ground-breaking period. Of special note is Natalia Goncharova’s cubist backdrop for Fokine’s glorious Firebird. Through Sept. 2. www.nga.gov.
Léon Bakst’s costume design for an Odalisque from Schéhérazade, 1911. Photo from Collection of the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin, Courtesy NGA.
A Different Kind of Peace Process
NEW YORK CITY Transplanted Israeli choreographer Zvi Gotheiner takes an ancient Arab line dance for the basis of his dynamic work DABKE, which comes to Lincoln Center Out of Doors Aug. 3. With images of both protest and prayer, the dance unites Israeli and Arab traditions. ZviDance shares the evening with El Gusto, a group of both Jewish and Muslim musicians. (Maybe dancers and musicians can accomplish what Hillary Clinton could not.) Other offerings in the series—which is free—include Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion on Aug. 1, and Dance Heginbotham on Aug. 8. www.lcoutofdoors.org.
Gotheiner’s DABKE. Photo by Jacqueline Chambord, Courtesy Lincoln Center.
Contributors: Suzannah Friscia, Wendy Perron, Kina Poon