Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cram Time

Being the insider, I am privy to BalletCollective's inside scoop. And at this point, I know that come Monday we are going to be in full swing, plowing forward, in an effort to put on the best show possible come August 14th and 15th. BalletCollective's performances are not just another gig, but an important opportunity for BalletCollective to leave its stamp on the ballet world!

Just about five weeks ago, BalletCollective wrapped its first rehearsal period of our 2013 season. In preparation for our August debut at the Joyce, this week is cram time.

Since our rehearsal period, this week has been my first opportunity to focus on both learning/relearning and executing my steps to both ballets: Epistasis and The Impulse Wants Company. In an effort to come in prepared on our first day of rehearsals (knowing we only have 8 days of rehearsal), I have spent the last week doing my homework: watching videos of the choreography and at times rehearsing in my living room to make sure the steps are not only in my brain but also in my body/muscle memory. (This is very reminiscent of last year's rehearsals in our living room just after Hurricane Sandy! To read that story click here.) Today I put my brain to the test.  

Photo: Troy Schumacher

After taking ballet class at Steps on Broadway I headed straight to the studio to get down to work. A few other BalletCollective dancers, who happen to be in town, joined the rehearsal. We went section by section, watching and re-watching (on the iPad), dancing and dancing some more, until we remembered and could execute the steps properly. Doing my homework before I entered the studio helped greatly. Although I have a lot more to improve upon, I am off to a running start!

Tomorrow is day two!

While I'm doing my homework, you do yours too! For ticket information click here. I look forward to seeing you all at the Joyce for BalletCollective's debut August 14th and 15th!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Meet the Artist Monday: Cynthia Zarin

Photo: Sara Barrett
Poet, journalist and children's book author Cynthia Zarin is poet-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Her most recent books are "An Enlarged Heart: A Personal History" (2013) and "The Ada Poems" (2010). Her honors and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ingram Merrill Award, the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Literature, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. A long time contributor to the New Yorker, The New York Times, and other publications, she currently teaches at Yale and the City University of New York.

Here is my Q & A with Cynthia:

Me: What does BalletCollective mean to you?
Cynthia: An opportunity to work in a new way with enormously accomplished artists in different disciplines.  And a chance to explore my life-long interest in the ballet, also in unexpected ways.

What do you enjoy about working with Troy and Ellis?

As a writer, I work almost exclusively on my own.  It’s been interesting and vivifying to think through a piece of writing—a narrative poem—with two other people.  The poem is a true collaboration: we developed the ideas together, and I interpreted and tried to represent what we were talking about on the page.  
Has writing for BalletCollective changed the way you write, or think?

At some point in this process, which occurred over many months, I realized that I was writing a poem that had to occur on many levels, literally, at once: there would be dancers moving physically in space, and creating that space by their movements and gestures.   It illustrated a preoccupation of mine: how do action and memory, description and narrative, take place in time and space?  How as artists do we demonstrate how the past, future, and present are all happening simultaneously?
Before BalletCollective, had you ever been to the ballet? If so, has BalletCollective helped/changed the way you look at ballet?

I began going to New York City Ballet  when I was four years old—the first ballet I saw was Firebird, with Maria Tallchief!  And I have gone consistently since then.  I studied ballet, and I’ve gone to the ballet fairly consistently all my life; since beginning work with Troy, I’ve tried to see as much dance as possible over the last few months.  I think I’m paying closer attention to small gestures, looking at what ‘speaks’ on stage.   

What is it like being the only female in the collaboration?

I hadn’t even thought about that!  So, I’m not sure.   I’m immensely honored to be part of the collaboration, but I’m not sure that gender has been part of my thinking, particularly.  I think the three of us define ourselves more through genre: writing, dance, music.   

What's your favorite way to pass time?   

Well, hopefully, we don’t pass time but inhabit it!   I work every morning.  I like to cook for friends and for my children.  I go to the ballet!  And try planting new things in the garden here in New York, which is generally unsuccessful…
What are you reading?

I’m rereading The Ambassadors, by Henry James.   And, for some reason unknown to me, The African Queen, by C.F. Forrester.  My reading is somewhat indiscriminate. 
If you could die and come back as an animal, what would you be?

Could I not die and be an animal?  Pegasus? 
Your greatest influence?

I don’t know I could name just one. The books I read as a child, certainly, in which I lived from when I learned to read until I was about seventeen or eighteen, when life began happening, as it does to everyone; my grandmother and my great aunts, who were strong characters with a great sense of style, a few people that I love.

Cynthia's latest book, An Enlarged Heart (pictured above), has won rave reviews. One of the essays from An Enlarged Heart, titled "Going In" served as one of the inspirations for BalletCollective's newest ballet. I can't wait to read this wonderful book. It's at the top of my summer reading list! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Collective on Camera: Take One

A few weeks ago, during BalletCollective's first rehearsal period, our fashion liaison Michelle Reneau, who works for Aritzia, came to us with the idea to create a film showcasing BalletCollective dancing in Aritzia clothing for an upcoming feature in their online publication. Aritzia is an innovative woman's fashion retailer which focuses on "beautifully designed clothes that are on-trend, high quality, and of good value." Today Troy and I met with their Director, Jay Buim, and Director of Photography, Kyle Repka, to story board for our upcoming film together. 

Down at Gibney Dance we began by getting a sense of the location. An outdoor abandoned area will be where the action takes place. Next was the discussion of what time the talent and production team should arrive the location. This is tricky as the dancers need to warm up and rehearse before we show up on set, the director needs to view a rough sketch of the movements, and we all need to be on location by the afternoon. We are crossing our fingers we avoid midtown traffic!

Next was the collaboration process as Troy and Jay began discussing the music and the film's arc. Troy showed Jay his ideas which he had planned out on Pages "storyboard" application. See the images below. 

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Photo: Ashley Laracey

After they agreed on the arc, we began piecing together Troy's choreography from his latest ballet titled The Impulse Wants Company. The movements, like puzzle pieces, have been pieced together to mimic the arc of the music, yet simultaneously syncing the steps  together to the music to create an interesting dance film. 

Now we just have to get everyone in the space (dancers, Troy, and production team), add hair and make-up, costuming by Aritzia, cranes, the steady cam, the lighting, and (last but not least) the craft table! And in two weeks... Lights, Camera, Action!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fitch's Corner: The (Carolina) Shag (is Totally Cool)

Saturday morning the alarm went off at 7:30 am. Troy and I were up and at it bright an early for a Saturday. We packed our overnight bag and hustled to make the 9:48 am Metro North train to Dover Plains. Why? We were to dance at the "Blue Jean Ball" for the Fitch's Corner Horse Trials!

Fitch's Corner is an annual horse trials competition located in Millbrook, New York. Fitch's Corner explains, "The elegant setting, challenging courses and wide array of associated activities attract both amateur and Olympic competitors." The country weekend features events for the equestrian and the social person. Activities include: the many trials, shopping at over 50 high-end vendors for equestrian gear and the latest fashions (such as JMcLaughlin), the Blue Jean Ball, the Spectator Luncheon, and a collectable car show. 

All aboard! It was 9:48 am and we were off! Although the train was crowded, Troy and I managed to find two seats together. We both put on our Dr. Dre Beats, listened to music and relaxed. Before long we were at our connecting train at Southeast. On we went. As soon as the train pulled away the conductor made an announcement that the air conditioning was broken. Needless to say it was a long 30 minutes without cooling air! 

Now 12:00 pm, we were greeted at the Dover Plains stop by our friends from Millbrook. Troy and I piled into the car and off we went to Fitch's Corner to check out our dance floor. The space was much smaller than we had thought and the surface was a bit uneven in spots (with grass and weeds popping through). Luckily our dance was in Keds sneakers and not pointe shoes!

After a quick glance around we headed back to Turkey Hill, our friends' country home. They made a delicious gourmet lunch which included a farmer's market onion tart, fresh zucchini salad and a kale salad. Nice and light since Troy and I had to perform later. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by their gorgeous pool and playing with their two lovely five year old daughters. Not the typical pre-performance prep!

At 5 pm Troy and I ran through our dance (in bathing suits, pool side), which he had choreographed, titled "The Shag (is Totally Cool)". The girls watched our rehearsal since they would not be attending the Blue Jean Ball. 

An hour later we were showered and in our JMcLaughlin outfits headed back to Fitch's Corner. During cocktail hour Troy and I mingled with the guests, refraining from having a drink as our dance had some technical steps. At 7 pm we went into the horse stalls to stretch and warmup. 

7:30 pm and we were introduced to the 650 person audience. DJFlow hit play and away we danced! 

The Shag (is totally cool) Blue Jean Ball 2013 from BalletCollective on Vimeo.

As soon as we finished we each celebrated with a vodka lemonade drink! Troy and I have a wonderful time performing "The Shag (is Totally Cool)". The audience seemed to enjoy the dance as well. 

Then we danced for fun into the night!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Claire Mann

Photo: Daphne Youree
Being part of a new ballet company from the ground up, it quickly becomes apparent how much goes into making new work possible. It's more than choreographing, composing, dancing, and writing; it's a combination of all that work plus behind the scenes activities to help raise the continuing support to make it happen. BalletCollective has a wonderful group of supporters, and I thought it would be interesting to get to know one of our board members. Claire Mann is a wife, a mother of three beautiful girls, a ballet aficionado, and an art history teacher. Claire has been with BalletCollective from the start. Below is my interview with her: 

What does BalletCollective mean to you? What clearly stands out about BalletCollective is the collaborative process. What makes it so much more than that, though, is how very, very talented each one of those contributors to the process is, from the librettist, to the composer and musicians, to the costume and lighting designers, to the choreographer and the dancers. Everyone is at the top of his or her game, and that collective talent makes for a very exciting and beautiful end result. 

What prompted you to get involved? Well, first of all, I was honored to be asked to be involved.  As you probably know, I have been an ardent and devoted fan of NYC Ballet for years, so it was a real treat for me to get to know Troy — and now you — as more than just dancers I had admired as an audience member.  At the time I met Troy, he was just beginning to explore ideas about what his own company could be. Troy has such genuine enthusiasm for the arts, but at the same time a real practical intelligence about how to make things happen, so when he asked me to be involved, it just seemed obvious to me I should be supportive in whatever way I could be. It has been a joy for me to watch the evolution of BalletCollective and to get to know the artists involved.

What do you love about dance? I think it is just a very visceral thing for me.  I remember back in the early 1990s I was living in London and just starting to go to the ballet regularly, when I saw a performance so exhilarating I almost couldn’t bear for it to end, and I think I am looking for that same wonderful feeling every time I go to the ballet  – or to any other sort of dance performance, for that matter. That ballet, by the way, was William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” with Darcy Bussell and Sylvie Guillem dancing that evening – and, for the record, I do get that same feeling whenever I see BalletCollective perform.

What's your favorite ballet? Why? I like so many that there is no way to pick a favorite, but there are certain ballets that I am always excited to see on the program, such as “Glass Pieces” or “Serenade.”  And, of course, I love the dance Troy choreographed and that the two of you performed at Chris’s and my 50th birthday party. 

What are you reading?  I am very grateful to have received so many good books from so many great friends over the last few months.  Two that I am reading now are Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford and Dear Life by Alice Munro.  

How did you become aware of Cynthia Zarin's  poetry? I actually met Cynthia about 10 years ago when our daughters were taking ballet at the same dance studio.  Shortly after that, I happened to read in The New Yorker a beautiful and very memorable piece she wrote, and I have been a fan ever since.  For me, it is such a happy coincidence that she has become part of BalletCollective.

Have you ever danced before? I have danced before, when I was young, but not in a particularly serious way.  I did love it, though, and that is probably the real reason I love dance so much. 

Troy told me that you teach. Can you tell us about your teaching?  Well, I don’t do as much teaching these days as I used to, and I miss it, but I do teach art history to a pretty adorable group of third-graders at a school in the Bronx.  I teach as part of a program called “Learning to Look,” which culminates in a trip at the end of the year to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The program is wonderful, as are the students.  We have a great time.

Above is the dance Claire commissioned Troy to choreograph as a surprise for her husband, Chris, for their joint 50th birthday party. The dance is titled "Spanish PipeDream"! I hope you enjoy! Troy and I had a great time with this project!

Troy and everyone at BalletCollective are grateful for Claire's support and encouragement throughout the years. Since this interview, Claire and Chris, just this weekend had us over to their country home to get to know each other. Troy and I had a wonderful time chatting over drinks with them in their authentic English pub and are excited for our relationship to grow.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Meet the Artist Monday: Harrison Coll

Photo: Troy Schumacher
Harrison Coll is the youngest of all of BalletCollective's dancers. After only a year on stage as an apprentice with NYCB, he is recognized for dancing with musicality and freshness.

Here is my Q and A with Harrison:

Me: What does BalletCollective mean to you?

Harrison: BalletCollective is special to me because it represents the first opportunity I've had as a professional dancer to explore dance without feeling restricted to a pure Balanchine technical vocabulary. It's also a blessing to work with such experienced dancers in the company, all of whom I have so much respect for and look up to.

What do you enjoy about working with Troy?

Troy Schumacher is one of the most musical choreographers I've worked with. His understanding of the composition that has been written for his pieces enables us, the dancers, to make sense of the choreography and how it grows with the music. The clarity of Troy's choreographic ideas are further aided by his ability, as my co workers would agree, to describe an image, setting, emotion, or scenario that inspires our movement.

After a hard day of dancing, what is your favorite meal?

Living at home with my parents certainly has its perks, especially when I get to come home to a hot plate of home cooked ravioli Bolognese!

Your most memorable onstage moment?

This year I was fortunate enough to dance in one of Mr. B's classical masterpieces, Theme and Variations. I consider it to be the first time I really felt like a professional ballet dancer on stage. For those who don't know the ballet, the boys only dance in the final movement but once you get on stage you are shot out of a cannon into a 5 minute non-stop relentless polonaise. After mustering out the last double tour and ending the ballet in a pose on my knee a few counts later, I scrambled to find my partner Jenelle in the darkness before our bows. We were standing in the very back on stage left, I still hadn't caught my breath, and the soles of my feet were cramping. Suddenly the curtain went up, I looked at my partner and presented her forward and as we returned to our spot after we bowed she said to me "Welcome to the company". I will always remember that.

What's your favorite way to pass time?

I'm a pretty active and crazy kid so I'm usually busy dancing, going to the gym, and bicycling everywhere in the city. But I always love hanging out with my girlfriend ordering Chinese and watching Netflix.

What are you reading?

I made an effort to read the Life of Pi before the movie came out, but I started too late so now I'm looking for new recommendations...

What's the most recent song/album you've downloaded?

"Treasure" - Bruno Mars. Such a hot track.

If you could die and come back as an animal, what would you be?

I'd want to be a chimpanzee because they seem so playful, and swinging all over the place looks like a lot of fun. I guess bugs would have to be an acquired taste.

Your greatest influence?

That would be a three way tie between my family, friends, and teachers.

Anything else you'd like people to know about you...

Music is my passion on the side. I dabble in piano but my expertise lies with the guitar.  I also just bought a mandolin and a travel size guitar so I can jam with friends on the go. I think filling one's life with more than one form of art is important because it balances one's soul with a more diverse range of beauty. Furthermore, I find that jamming out with friends and bonding is always a good way to ground oneself within a community especially because as a dancer your profession can often be centered on self-development.

Just last week, while on tour with City Ballet in Saratoga, Harrison received his Corps de Ballet contract! Congrats Harrison! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How-to: Creating BalletCollective Shirts

A while ago, Troy and I were on our way to work when we were handed a Michael's coupon flyer, promoting the local crafts supermarket. In the flyer was an advertisement for a Yudu silk screen machine. In that moment Troy thought: "We need to make BalletCollective t-shirts!" With the BalletCollective logo silk screened on, the shirts would help spread the word about BalletCollective AND be cute! 

Photo: Troy Schumacher

Silk Screening sounds overwhelming but once you get started it's easy!

Let's begin!

Step 1: Make Your Artwork

Design your t-shirt artwork on the computer and print it out in black and white on a Yudu transparency. For our t-shirts, Troy used the BalletCollective logo, but also took a picture of me rehearsing "Warehouse under the Hudson" and made it into a silhouette.

Photo: Troy Schumacher

Step 2: Preparing Emulsion - the most difficult part.

The emulsion is a light sensitive adhesive chemical that sticks to the screen when wet to create a temporary stencil. So, first you wet the mesh screen on both sides. Then turn the flat side of the screen face up. Place the emulsion sheet down onto the screen with the shiny side up. Once it is positioned do not move it. Use the provided squeegee to smooth out all the bubbles. At this point you must wait for the screen to be completely dry―if it is not, you will ruin the emulsion (Trust me!) The Yudu has a fan inside for this purpose. This is the most difficult part, but once it's done, the rest is a piece of cake!

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Step 3: Burning Screen

Put the transparency (with artwork) on the Yudu light table. Once the screen is dry, peel off the shiny backing of the emulsion and place that side down on the transparency. Close the lid and add a few heavy books to create a tight seal. Push the button in the middle (with the sun on it) which will expose the emulsion for 8 minutes. Take the screen out and rinse the design with water. Use your finger to rub the design free. There you have it, your emulsion silk screen!

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Step 4: Screen Printing

Place the t-shirt (or whatever you want to print) on the plastic shirt hanger. For BalletCollective shirts we want the logo on the back of the shirt, so we put the shirt so the back is facing up. Make sure the shirt is straight on the hanger before placing it on the machine. Smooth out the wrinkles and kinks in the shirt. Then put the emulsion screen on as the top lid of the Yudu machine. 

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Step 5: Painting

Choose your color of paint. Then squeeze a thick line of paint across the design on the screen. (Do not put paint in the part that is the design, paint should go right above the design.) Close the screen lid. Hold the lid tightly down with one hand, and with the other take the squeegee (place it above the paint on the screen) and drag it (and the paint) down across the design. 

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Lift the lid and there is your design!

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Photo: Ashley Laracey

Step 6: Setting Your Shirt

Carefully take the shirt off the hanger and set it aside to dry (laying it flat). Then iron both sides of the shirt, for 3 minutes each, with a layer of parchment paper or a towel in between the artwork and iron. You're done!

Photo: Troy Schumacher

Making BalletCollective T-shirts is easy and fun! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Meet the Artist Monday: Taylor Stanley

Photo: Troy Schumacher
Taylor Stanley first danced with BallectCollective in 2011 for our NYC debut. With his powerful force imbuing every moment, Taylor's distinct quality makes its mark and inspires. 

Here is my Q & A with Taylor:

Me: What does BalletCollective mean to you?

Taylor: BalletCollective has always allowed a strong sense of unity and closeness to form. Not only do the dancers create a stronger bond, but the musicians, the writers, the lighting and costume designers, everyone contributes in the most unique way! BalletCollective opens my eyes and gives me access into other artists' worlds from whom I receive the most inspiration.

What do you enjoy about working with Troy?

Troy definitely challenges me to step out of my comfort zone beyond the dancing and the movement. There is a personality, a very specific disposition that every character is given, and is required to uphold. I think what's most thrilling for me is the journey towards becoming that character in all of its entirety. 

After a hard day of dancing, what is your favorite meal?

I will never refuse Thai food, or a big burger with fries!

Your most memorable onstage moment?

My most memorable moment onstage would have to be in George Balanchine's Square Dance. There was a real sense of community onstage between the dancers that I loved being a part of. I felt the most joy dancing this ballet.

What's your favorite way to pass time?

I love coming home to my dog, Theo, and taking him on long walks through the park. Sadly, also, I love to clean. 

What are you reading?

As much of a procrastinator as I am about books, I most recently have been reading Malcolm Gladwell's What The Dog Saw. From time to time, I'll revisit a Harry Potter book.  

What's the most recent song/album you've downloaded?

I am in love with this new British artist, Laura Mvula. Her album is called "Sing to the Moon". Check her out!!!!!

If you could die and come back as an animal, what would you be?

The birds of paradise really fascinate me. They are extremely beautiful, and mysterious! So maybe one of those?

Your greatest influence?

My dance studio growing up I think has made a huge impact on my life. My teachers taught from their hearts, and paid close attention to our passion for dance, as well as our bonds with other friends and teachers. They became like a second family to me, and the studio a second home. I could not thank them enough for encouraging me to follow my dreams.  

Anything else you'd like people to know about you...

I have a new found love for San Francisco, California :)

Photo: Erin Baiano

Taylor and I have danced (and gotten promoted to soloist) together at City Ballet but never as closely as we have in BalletCollective. Through BalletCollective we have built an amazing relationship and partnership. I adore Taylor. I especially love the chemistry and intensity we have when performing together. Taylor is the first partner that I feel completely connected to when onstage. We are in sync and always living in the moment. Those moments I will never forget!     

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ballet v6.0

BalletCollective's debut at the Joyce Theater is part of a festival called Ballet v6.0. Ballet V6.0 is a first time for the Joyce. "The Joyce has designed this ballet festival to recognize the many dancers and choreographers who are creating work outside the traditional large company milieu and are forming their own small companies. Featured are companies from across the US, whose work represents a range of ballet styles, from neo classical to contemporary." Ballet v6.0 is an opportunity for new companies like BalletCollective to make their mark on today's ballet world. 

Haglund's Heel, a dance blog I frequent often, is an honest, well written, and entertaining blog. Haglund's Heel aims to "offer the best ballet play by play coverage, color commentary , and expert analysis". The posts, mostly reviews of dance performances around New York City, offer unmasked opinion, humor, wit and love. At the end of each review Haglund, whose identity is a secret, awards a key star/artist with a different high heeled shoe. Most shoes are extreme and fancy in their design and relate to the ballet or dancer he is citing. The shoe is always the first part I read. I love seeing his pairing of the outstanding dancer with the high heel. Not only is it entertaining but it gives the reader a chance to quickly understand the standout (for better or for worse). I hope BalletCollective or myself is awarded a shoe one day!

But just yesterday, Haglund's Heel gave a shout out to Ballet v6.0 and BalletCollective. In a post titled "Green out of the Blue", Haglund discussed the Joyce's upcoming festival. In his interesting opening to the post, Haglund explained his recent receipt of a check in the mail for a few extra reimbursement bucks from Aetna. After his catchy opening, he continues to explain that he put this money to good use by purchasing tickets to Ballet v6.0. Haglund mentions two companies presenting works there: BalletCollective and Jessica Lang Dance. (Thank you Haglund's Heel for the shout out!) Although Haglund does not say specifically which of the six companies he will see, as the insider, I hope he attends BalletCollective's run.  

Haglund's post, "Green out of the Blue", is a great way to spread the word about the Joyce's Ballet v6.0! Ballet Collective is very appreciative for the mention and continued support! Look forward to seeing you Haglund at  BalletCollective's Joyce debut!

The shoe pictured above, Giuseppe Zanotti Foiled Zip High Top, is the shoe I award Haglund! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Collaborative Collaborates

Now that BalletCollective's first rehearsal period has concluded, the next step in the collaboration process is to have a meeting with all the collaborators to watch and discuss the ballet, The Impulse Wants Company. The idea is for each collaborator —Cynthia (poet), Ellis (composer), Brandon (lighten designer), Troy (choreographer) — to exchange feedback, thoughts, and criticism with each other, working toward the common goal of tweaking and improving the piece to become a finished product for its August world premiere.

In preparation for this meeting, tentatively scheduled for this week, I have been wondering what has happened with the Collaboration page I altered on Wikipedia a month ago. Today I visited the Wikipedia "collaboration" page and found that my "Ballet" addition has remained in its original form, unedited. It is encouraging that ballet has been accepted and recognized as an art form where collaboration takes place.

Photo: Erin Baiano

Stay tuned for a full recap of the collaborators meeting!

Monday, July 8, 2013

CR Fashion Book Film

After shooting our editorial for CR Fashion Book, which you can read about here, Carine Roitfeld and Troy discussed how beautifully the shots turned out, but more so, how stunning it would be to capture our movement on film in beautiful clothes. Carine decided that they would produce a film for and profile BalletCollective.

The film is a behind the scenes look into ballet and Troy's choreography. It was filmed in a style that captures a dancer's day from start to finish, but in a fantastical way, showcasing Troy's work.

Filming took place in an old dance studio. The four dancers begin in ordinary practice clothes, ballet hair and makeup, with stretching and a ballet barre warmup. The women break in their pointe shoes as the men limber up. After a short rehearsal, the dancers were glammed up and dressed in couture attire. Troy, working closely with Director Paul Maffi, came up with signature steps of BalletCollective's works for the dancers to perform. Paul filmed it all.

Many wardrobe and makeup changes later, the shots were captured. The shoot was a wrap!

The film is a creative collaboration between dancers, artists, fashion stylists, choreographer, and photographer: a great representation of BalletCollective's mission. Working closely with Paul and CR's team was another great experience!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

BalletCollective's Website Launch

Leslie and Troy meet to discuss the finishing touches.
Just last week BalletCollective's official website was launched! 

The website launch was a long time coming. It all started back in 2011 when Troy's company, named Satellite Ballet at the time, was performing at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. After the performance, wonderful ballet aficionado and dear friend of mine, Leslie Curtis, talked at length with Troy about how she liked his work, their shared love for music and dance. Leslie went home that night to look up Troy's company and discovered that the Satellite Ballet's website was dysfunctional. Her thoughts exactly, "it was a terrible site, impossible to navigate and he badly needed a new one." She and her husband, Richard Curtis, both ballet fans from the Balanchine era and generous and loyal patrons of many young choreographers, offered to help him with a new website. 

By March 2013, with two annual New York seasons under Troy's belt and a new company name, he began talks with Leslie and Richard about the creation of the official BalletCollective website. The first step was to assemble the content. Next was to write and edit the textual material and the planning of what the site would provide. Then, the creative work... Troy and Leslie met with the creative and technical team, Anthony Damasco, the technical director of Richard's e-book company and Tony Peralta, Anthony's creative partner in building websites.

Looking back, Leslie recounts the happenings of the new website: "After a couple of months, the design for the site emerged in May, home page first to be approved, then a layout for all the pages which we worked on to edit and tweak, all this coming from Tony and finally when we gave it our approval, Anthony loaded all the content and we had a working site in June that went live after we got all the bugs out." 

Check it out! 

BalletCollective's site is clean, clear and beautiful. The use of images creates a captivating experience. The user friendly layout helps to locate people immediately where they'd like to visit. The site includes an "About" section along with "Press", "Works", "Support", "The Collective", "Dancers", "Performances" (where tickets to our Joyce performances can be purchased), "Media", "Contact", "Newsletter", and a link to my blog. The website is a one stop shop for all you need and want to know about BalletCollective.

Troy and I are so grateful to Leslie and Richard (and their team) for making this possible. We are so happy with the finished project and are excited for the future of BalletCollective!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ashley Laracey on the Beach

Even on vacation, the urge to dance finds us all. 

In March, Troy and I were on vacation in St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands. After a day at our villa's pool, en route to dinner one night, we stopped to watch the sunset at our favorite beach, Cinnamon Bay. After we took a stroll down to the other side of the beach and back, I began to dance my solo from Troy's ballet Epistasis

Troy captured my movements on film.

Ashley Laracey on the Beach - Cinnamon Bay St. John, USVI from BalletCollective on Vimeo.

The film is fresh, young, and inviting. My clothing has a beach feel, yet without being too cliche. The sun's natural lighting creates an atmospheric world for the film. The beach is a dynamic setting for dance with the sand's texture, the ocean's sight and soundtrack, and the mountainous background. This film is original and captures Troy's choreography from many view points. The up-close shots help to showcase the subtle movements he has created. 

Dancing in the sand was such an amazing feeling. My senses were heightened. The sand texture moving underneath my toes felt like no other dance surface, yet somehow perfect for my steps. The wind in my hair felt freeing and the water, refreshing. The lighting of the melting sun created an incredible back drop and silhouette as I moved across the almost vacant beach. Throughout dancing I was completely in my own world. Soaking up the beauty around me. It was an incredible experience. 

Inside the Making of the Video:

In my own world while dancing, I had no idea that many of the remaining beach goers who lingered until sunset were watching my impromptu performance. The site of my dance happened to be quite central on the beach, allowing people to watch from a distance without us knowing. This particular spot was chosen, spontaneously, when I had the urge to dance with an empty beach surrounding me. After the filming ended, many observers stopped by to express how much they loved watching me dance. It was something they had never seen before, ballet on the sand. 

Was there music? No, just me dancing to the ocean's sound! It was surreal. 

Was this planned? No, it was an entirely spontaneous happening. I saw an empty patch of beach and danced! Once Troy got his camera out and saw the beautiful scenic view and lighting he had me do the solo from different angles. The video is a compilation of multiple takes. 

And the choreographed water splashing? That was Troy's idea. To be honest, I wasn't too keen on this as we were headed to dinner after the sunset and I didn't want to get wet. But he convinced me, and it was so much fun! Dinner following was delicious and by then, I was dry.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet the Artist Monday: Kaitlyn Gilliland

Photo: Troy Schumacher

Kaitlyn Gilliland joins BalletCollective this season as she makes a comeback to dancing. A star in her own right, Kaitlyn brings a mysterious and beautiful quality to everything she dances. 

Here is my Q & A with Kaitlyn:

Me: What does BalletCollective mean to you?

Kaitlyn: Collaboration—with other dancers and with other disciplines. It really feels like a team. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at work. 

What do you enjoy about working with Troy?

Troy works with a very specific vision: he uses vivid imagery to describe everything from the ballet’s setting to its simplest gestures. He also knows his dancers well—not just the steps we do well—so there’s a certain quirkiness to some of his movement that’s inspired by our individual personalities. 

After a hard day of dancing, what is your favorite meal?

One enjoyed in good company. 
Your most memorable onstage moment?

Premiering Eliot Feld’s solo “of Inwit” at The Joyce this month. He made the dance on me, and it’s the darkest, most bizarre piece I’ve ever performed. It exposed an eerie truth—about my dancing, or my personality, or maybe even both—and it required a certain commitment and unselfconsciousness that made me very uncomfortable. 

What's your favorite way to pass time?

Out exploring the city or in with a good book, depending on the day. 

What are you reading?

Paris France by Gertrude Stein. 

What's the most recent song/album you've downloaded?

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis--“The Heist.” 

If you could die and come back as an animal, what would you be?

A cat. My cat, Charlie, has a natural grace and aloofness I admire but can’t quite muster.

Your greatest influence?

Right now, Wendy Whelan. She’s making some really bold and beautiful moves beyond the world of ballet and inspiring others to follow. 

Photo: Troy Schumacher

Kaitlyn and I danced together at City Ballet for many years. Just this past Winter Season, along with being the assistant Ballet Mistress for the children of NYCB, she filled in for a dancer in the "Hunt" of Peter Martins' Sleeping Beauty. While we were doing our makeup, Kaitlyn expressed her interest in dancing again. Knowing Troy's desire to work with her, I went out on a limb and asked her if she'd like to be a member of BalletCollective. It has been great fun to be in the studio again with Kaitlyn. She will make her BalletCollective debut this August at the Joyce Theater!