Happy New Year! Whether or not resolutions are your thing, I always find that a bit of wisdom from the people I admire is a great way to start the year. Here are some favorite nuggets from eight dancers, choreographers and directors who have appeared in our pages over the last year.
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.”
Look up, Nashville: Bay Area vertical dance company BANDALOOP is taking over downtown buildings on Oct. 6. The special event will kick off the company’s performances of Harboring at the city’s new contemporary arts venue, OZ, where dancers will hang from three different spaces as audiences are guided from one room to another. Oct. 10–11. oznashville.com.
Above: BANDALOOP at the New World Center in Miami Beach. Photo by Atossa Soltani, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates.
Giordano Returns to Its Roots
Giordano Dance Chicago has expunged the word “jazz” from its name. But judging from its next premiere, the company could put that word back in. Commercial artist Ray Leeper, who has choreographed for Cher and Snoop Dogg and on “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” is cooking up a piece with touches of Broadway flavor. Oct. 24–25, Harris Theater in Millennium Park. harristheaterchicago.org.
Right: GDC’s Martin Ortiz Tapia and Maeghan McHale. Photo by Gorman Cook Photography, Courtesy GDC.
Eiko’s New Body Art
After four decades as a duo, Eiko & Koma are taking on separate ventures. While Koma delves into visual arts, Eiko is working on a long-term project that places her body in different environments. This month, she performs Eiko: A Body in Station in three-hour stints at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. It may be rush hour for others, but it’s the opposite for Eiko. Select dates, Oct. 3–25. pafa.org.
Left: Eiko; Photo by William Johnston, Courtesy Johnston.
Dance and Degas in DC
Edgar Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is one of the most famous works of impressionist art in the world. But very few know of its seedy back story. The girl who modeled for Degas, Marie van Goethem, was a poor dancer at the bottom of Paris Opéra Ballet’s ranks, whose father died when she was young, leaving her mother to raise three girls on a laundress’ meek income. In Little Dancer, Susan Stroman’s new half-fact, half-fiction coming-of-age musical, Marie is caught stealing from Degas to pay for pointe shoes. The punishment: She must pose for the artist to pay off her debts.
New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, who first worked with Stroman in The Music Man at age 11, will dance (and act and sing) her way through the role of Young Marie. “It’s a lighthearted story, but it’s also dark,” says Peck. “I think everyone, especially dancers, can relate to it. Ballet is such a difficult career. We all have to have a little fight in us to get to where we are.” Catch its premiere at The Kennedy Center, Oct. 25–Nov. 30, and stop by the National Gallery of Art, where the original sculpture will be the centerpiece of a Degas exhibition. Oct. 5–Jan. 11. kennedy-center.org.
Right: Tiler Peck as Young Marie. Photo by Matthew Karas, Courtesy The Kennedy Center.
A Choreographer On the Rise
NEW YORK CITY
New York City Ballet dancer Troy Schumacher has quickly made a name for himself for his fresh perspective on the neoclassical vocabulary. He had his choreographic debut with NYCB in September and this month, his pickup company of NYCB dancers, BalletCollective, will premiere two works. Oct. 29–30. nyuskirball.org.
Left: BalletCollective’s Harrison Coll and Ashley Laracey. Photo by Whitney Browne, Courtesy Dancers Responding to AIDS.
Dracula Takes Over
Bram Stoker’s vampire tale is becoming the Nutcracker of All Hallows’ Eve. Here’s where you can catch it this month.
The Alabama Ballet
By Wes Chapman and Roger Van Fleteren
Oct. 30–Nov. 2
Ballet San Antonio
By Gabriel Zertuche
Ballet Quad Cities
By Deanna Carter
Select dates, Oct. 17–25
By Nancy Page
By Lynne Taylor-Corbett
By Michael Pink
Oct. 31–Nov. 2
Mark Bruce Company
By Mark Bruce
Touring Sept. 26–Dec. 4
Right: Colorado Ballet’s Dracula. Photo by Terry Shapiro, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.