Sunday, October 26, 2014

Few Days Away - Unexpected Cast Change

Me by BalletCollective's Wild Posting Ads
BalletCollective is just a few days away from our New York season at the NYU Skirball Center! We have been in the studio at New 42nd Street rehearsing this past week, refining the ballets and preparing for the performances. With an unexpected bump in the road, we are in good shape.

Just last Sunday, as our New York City Ballet fall season came to a close, Harrison Coll hurt his foot dancing in the last ballet of the matinee, George Balanchine's Theme and Variations. Sidelined for the next few weeks, on crutches and in a boot, Harrison sadly will not be performing with us this Wednesday and Thursday but will make a full recovery.

After much discussion and weighing our options, Troy came to the conclusion that since we were unable to find a replacement for Harrison (with such little notice and time), and with a number of dancers already committed to other projects or on vacation... he would dance! Although Troy is wearing many hats: director, producer, now dancer, he is the perfect fill-in. Having created the ballets, he has a greater understanding of the steps, and knows exactly how they should be done; they are his steps and creation after all!

Late last Monday night, soon after making the decision that he was to dance in both The Impulse Wants Company and also the premiere of Dear and Blackbirds, I dared Troy to put on the music and run the Dear and Blackbirds pas de deux with me. It was a sight to see! In our living room, at 10pm in my Uniqlo pajamas, he and I were jumbling through the ten minute piece. Not surprisingly, Troy basically knew the whole work. I knew plugging him into the ballets would be no sweat!

In our late night mock rehearsal, I realized that Dear and Blackbirds was going to be a new experience for me. Having a work made on you and another dancer creates a strong bond and connection. You develop your individual "characters" or impressions and mental connections with that other person. After working out the kinks, and having several performing opportunities, dancing excerpts in Fire Island and in Telluride, Harrison and I had built a chemistry that just kept growing  each time we danced the pas de deux. It was intimate, refreshing and always a joy. In a way, I always knew where he was going to be or what his next move was, or even what the emotional arc was trending that day. With Harrison gone, I know this will be a new experience of exploration in dancing with Troy, and we have already begun reinventing the piece for the two of us and having fun doing it! (I only hit him with my elbow once! OOPS!)

These past few days have been hard work but by the end of yesterday, Troy had been slotted in to both ballets and the second of two premieres, All That We See, was put back together. All three ballets are in great shape for tomorrow
when we rehearse with the musicians for the first time!

For ticket information go to We hope to see you there!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Darren Henault

Darren Henault, Photo by Carolyn Jones
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. Darren is a fun, loving father of beautiful twin girls, a ballet lover,  an interior designer, and a dear friend. Darren was one of the first people Troy told about his idea for starting BalletCollective. Here is my interview with him:

Me: What does BalletCollective mean to you?
Pure and simple it means that I get to participate in some small way in supporting a new and exciting talent. I believe in Troy and look forward to seeing where he'll go and take us.

What prompted you to get involved?
I like watching young dancers progress over the course of a few seasons. I've been aware of Troys dancing for the New York City Ballet for a few years now. When he told me his concept for a new dance company I was immediately interested. 

Being on the "inside" you get to attend rehearsals and develop a greater understanding of the work. Meeting the dancers gives one a direct connection and makes the performances more personal, more intimate.  It's like having your favorite players on a sports team. You experience the "highs", and less often the "lows", with more passion. In a slightly parasitic fashion it gives me a creative outlet. 

What do you love about dance?
What's not to love about dance? Honestly when someone tells me they don't like the ballet I think, "Lord, what a dolt!" Clearly they've only seen one or two very similar pieces, or maybe nothing but long story ballets. There's an enormous range in ballet and dance. If you don't like the ballet then ask a dancer to choose four things for you to see in a season.  You'll change your mind.

When you watch a beautiful piece being performed by an excellent dancer you're watching an instrument in motion. You're watching a body move that has been trained for years and years to express itself in ways that no ordinary person could possibly mimic.  I'm not being melodramatic when I say that it's transcendent. The simplest movement can make me weep, as much as the bold tour de force makes me feel like jumping out of my seat.

What are you reading?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas
Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead (yes this one is about dance)

What's your favorite ballet? Why? 

I can't do just one...

Troy Schumacher's Epistasis... I haven't seen it enough times to adequately put into words what I like about it. 

Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain... Because with just two people on stage he expresses all of the ennui, regret and hope that the world has ever known.

Jerome Robbin's Glass Pieces... It's modern and energizing and crisp and dynamic.

Balanchine's Symphony in C... It's what everyone thinks of when they think of ballet. It's classically based, fantastically athletic and the sheer number of people on stage is impressive.

Troy Schumacher's All That We See... I've been lucky enough to see a few rehearsals. I can't wait to see the final piece.

Have you ever danced before?

Never. I wish.

You’re a decorator, which in many ways is similar to choreography. How does interior design compare with dance?
When we first started coming to the ballet we would sit in the orchestra so that we could see the individual dancers. It was Troy actually who suggested we sit in the first row of the first tier. That way we got to see what I call the architecture of the ballet; the full sweep of the movement in it's entirety. What I think the choreographer really wants you to see at first, only focusing on the individual movements or dancers as he reveals them to you. It's what I hope to achieve in my work. I'd rather you get the sense of the entire environment and only notice individual things after you've spent more time in the rooms.