Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Salle

Photo by Devin Alberda
The New Salle piece is great. I know I may sound biased, but by the same token, I have been involved, in some capacity, in all of Troy’s works and I think Dear and Blackbirds and the New Salle are two great ballets. Each is a huge step forward in his choreographic growth and maturity. 
The New Salle features five dancers, Taylor, David, Lauren, Meagan, and Claire. The music is composed by Ellis (with Troy’s influence) with the collaboration of David Salle who created artwork (a series of 8 pieces) that helps drive the music and then Troy’s choreography. Each movement is unique in all aspects. The music is distinct through all eight movements. One of the things that I find so special about this piece is that each movement is completely different from the next, musically and choreographically. It is varied and complex, yet simple and clean. The piece is complete dance. I mean pure dance! No drama or froufrou - it is dance at its best. The dancers each have moments all their own, whether it be a solo for one or a pas de deux, it is jam-packed with pure talent and joy. I love watching the piece. It makes me want to get up and dance. 

New Salle Photo by Troy Schumacher
Though in the high altitude, the piece was an extreme push for the dancers. As it is pure dance, they hardly stop moving. Oxygen was heavily used throughout the rehearsals! (Thank you Palm for providing the tanks!) Not sure what we would have done without them. Like Impulse and Dear and Blackbirds, we worked our way through each section daily, giving corrections, cleaning and making choreographic changes. 

Towards the end of the rehearsal week, Troy finished the 18 minute ballet! It was a day of celebration! He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to finish the piece before the workshop performance but being in Telluride was definitely inspiring and helped him to create!

Stay tuned for my experience being Troy’s Choreographic Assistant and our adventures in Nature!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Telluride Rehearsal Fun

Fire Island Dance Festival
Photo by Whitney Browne

The next few days were hard work. No more easy days! We started every day with ballet class taught either by Troy, Lauren or David. Each class was very different but our "teachers" welcomed some fun. Along with their varied styles of teaching was eclectic or pop music, depending on their mood, a nice change from formal classroom routines. Though the studio space was limited, the room was fully equipped and had an amazing sprung floor (the floor was made by using tennis balls placed in the corners joining the wood planks to create spring). It was such a pleasant surprise to find that the floor was great. (Often times, when performing at smaller theaters or other venues, the flooring can be a problem - causing injures, and pain to your joints.) The class environment was intense. We worked hard, pushing ourselves to break through the altitude difficulties and move toward better stamina. It was a process but BalletCollective is used to process!

After class, we moved to the stage for rehearsals! 

Troy usually began rehearsing Dear and Blackbirds with Harrison and me first because we needed only 15-30 minutes to run the piece (this allowed the other five dancers to take a quick break before moving on to the other two ballets). At the Fire Island Dance Festival we performed an excerpt of the pas de deux; in Telluride, we were to show the complete nine minute plus pas. At this intense degree of altitude, Harrison and I felt out of shape. Just a week prior out by the ocean, we were performing seven minutes without any problems. Yet, at 8500 feet above sea level, we couldn’t even get through the first movement --only 2.5 minutes! We started out slow, stopping when we felt like we were going to “die”, making sure we did not overdo it the first couple of days. We wanted to gain momentum but not peak too soon (a dancer tries to time the readiness of the piece and the performance just right so you are at your highest level the day of the performance). We worked our way through all four movements daily.

New Salle Piece
Photo by Troy Schumacher

After that 15-30 minutes I was pooped! But I still had another ballet to rehearse: The Impulse Wants Company. Putting together The Impulse Wants Company was refreshing but also tedious. It is always nice coming back to a ballet you are familiar with. Your body has wonderful muscle memory and, in a way, magically just knows what to do or how to move depending on the ballet. Especially when a ballet was created on and for you, the steps never seem to leave you. Six of the seven dancers were originals to the piece so we only had to work Claire into the piece. Troy, not having a choreographer’s assistant to help with the staging, had to basically relearn Claire’s part to be able to coach and assist in her slotting in. Thankfully Claire had done her homework and taught herself most of the ballet on her own before arriving in Telluride. (It is very common for dancers to be asked to learn a ballet from performance and rehearsal footage. It saves lots of time!) Most dancers check out videos of new ballets they are to learn anyway, just to begin familiarizing yourself with the context and style of the ballet, so teaching yourself is just one step further. 

Claire fit in nicely, beginning to make the role her own right from the start. We made it through Impulse, but it was definitely rough. Luckily we had six more days 'til it was to be performed!

After a quick lunch break, Troy and I started to work on the last piece, title to be determined, with the other five dancers not involved in Dear and Blackbirds. Currently it is noted as New Salle piece as the collaborators are Troy, Ellis and David Salle, an artist often exhibited at MOMA. I mentioned “Troy and I” because I am his ballet mistress or as he likes to call it, the “Assistant to the Choreographer”. I have filled this position before, click here to read about my experience during Cut Capers, and had a wonderful time working side by side with Troy and the other dancers, just in this new capacity. The New Salle piece was a work in progress. Troy had choreographed about 12 minutes while we were in New York City, but had hopes of finishing the piece before our workshop performance in Telluride. Daily we would go through each section, of which there are eight, work, clean and then he would continue to create. 

By the end of the day, sometimes 5pm but mostly 6pm, we were all exhausted. A quick stop at the local market, Clark’s, to grab any needed ingredients for the evening's meal and we were off to the Mesa for dinner and bed! 

More on the New Salle piece!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 1...

Hike to Waterfall
Photo by Meagan Mann
Troy and I woke to the smell of fresh coffee brewing and bacon in the oven! BalletCollective was up and preparing for our first day in Telluride. 
After breakfast, on the porch with a beautiful view, we gathered our dance bags, water bottles and, of course, the oxygen tanks (to help with the altitude) and packed everything  into our two rental cars. Troy drove and I worked the Sirius radio (40s on 4 or 80s on 8 were my favorites)! Before long, heading down the windy cliffs and endless fields towards Telluride, we arrived at The Palm Theater, our summer residency facility! 

The Palm Theater is a lovely theater, attached to the Telluride academic school and filled with a music room, basketball courts, dressing rooms, rehearsal studios and a performance stage and theater. Brandon gave us the grand tour (he was up and at ‘em early as he had to get the stage ready for us - have lights hung, the floor cleaned, oxygen tanks filled, and marley taped) and within minutes we were settled into our dressing room and then headed to the rehearsal studio for our first ballet class at high altitude. We all grabbed a spot at the barres and began stretching, doing our individual warmups. 

Lauren under the Fall
Photo by Ashley Laracey
Troy started class around 10:30am. (Sometimes it’s nice to stick to your normal routine, so morning class suited all of us.) Barre was tough, and center was even harder. We found ourselves out of breath after the easiest things (even walking up or down a flight of stairs). The altitude was more difficult than we had expected. I had a constant headache from the moment we landed in Montrose that lasted for 48 hours (and on and off all throughout the week) and others felt light headed or just plain exhausted. After class, and a few hits of oxygen, we walked through the three ballets in the small studio (all scheduled to be performed on August 2nd), taking it easy. 

Day 1 was a light dancing day as our goal was to acclimate to the conditions. But that did not mean go back to the house and rest…Tour Guide Harrison had plans for us! We set off for a small .25 mile hike to a water fall near the theater. Some of the dancers braved the freezing cold water and stood under the water fall! We then took a gondola ride to the next mountain, and relaxed at the Mountain Peaks Spa soaking in the Jacuzzi, swimming pool and having fun on the water slide! Harrison is a pro going down that slide!

Dinner and S’mores followed! Star gazing occurred too! More soon…

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Traveling to Telluride

Early last week, BalletCollective (all seven dancers, plus Brandon - lighting designer, and, of course, Troy) boarded a plane en route to Denver, Colorado followed by a quick transfer to Montrose, where we were to be shuttled an hour and a half to our home sweet home for the week, on Wilson Mesa outside of Telluride, for our first summer residency!

BalletCollective has always wanted to have a summer residency so when we were asked to come to Colorado, it was perfect. The thought of having the opportunity to be in a breath taking place such as Telluride, surrounded by nature, endless outdoorsy activities at our reach (to take advantage of after or in-between our rehearsals), and for Troy to get to create, and the company to rehearse and perform - was a dream come true.

Room with a View
Photo By Ashley Laracey
"Welcome to Colorado", the Captain announced. We quickly jumped off the plane and were immediately out of breath as the altitude in Montrose is just over 5000 feet. After grabbing some water  at the concession located near baggage claim (supposedly to avoid altitude sickness one should drink tons of water) and collecting all our checked bags (yay they all made it!), we piled into the waiting 10 passenger van and began our journey to the Mesa. Upon arriving at Wilson Mesa, elevation over 8000 feet (located just 30 minutes outside the town of Telluride), we were all blown away by the beauty of the massive landscapes unique to Colorado. Waterfalls, large reddish rock, deer grazing in the fields, and the occasional brown bear or elk were our entertainment for the week. We were living in a National Geographic magazine or, even more, a NGC episode in high definition! It was truly unbelievable.

The house up on Wilson Mesa was generously donated for the week to BalletCollective. Just so happens it is home to one of our dancers, Harrison Coll, and his parents. It is their family home that they frequent often and for many weeks at a time most summers, winter and spring breaks. Harrison was in his childhood vacation home and definitely ready to be our tour guide for the week! He made our stay memorable and full of adventure! We are very thankful to him and his parents for their generosity. More on our adventures to come...

After receiving the grand tour of the "cabin" house, and everyone finding their new rooms, we began preparing our first meal on tour as a BalletCollective family. (The Coll's so kindly stocked the fridge with enough food for all nine of us for a few days, so we didn't have to make another trip into town for groceries after our 12 hour travel day.) Troy and some of the dancers cooked and a few us, including me, were the "Dish Queens". We had steaks, sweet potatoes, salad, and zucchini! It was delicious. We toasted with non-alcoholic beverages, as it is advisable to refrain from consuming alcohol (or other dehydrating liquids) your first few nights as it makes getting over the altitude sickness and adjustment to it harder. After a quick clean up we headed to the fire pit for S'mores and banter!

Soon the stars we shinning, shooting stars were shooting. We settled in for the night after everyone had witnessed a lucky shooting star! The adventures are just beginning...