BWW Review: Troy Schumacher's BalletCollective
Entering New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on November 5, 2015, dancers from Troy Schumachers's group, BalletCollective, were already warming up on stage. You could feel the excitement in the air. All one had to do was scream "go" and the dancers, high on performance octane, would have made a dash for it.
It's this kind of contagious feeling that I love about a live performance. We don't get a chance to second guess what these dancers are doing before they come on stage-we're alerted. A calculated move on the part of the choreographer, Troy Schumacher, to whip us into a frenzy?
This was hard to decide. What is very easy to know is that that Troy Schumacher, BalletCollective's choreographer and currently a soloist at the New York City Ballet, is an exceptional talent. Perceptive, wise, with an eye for the shape and contours of the body, he is like a whiplash. If the evening's two premieres did not fulfill every promise of an already burgeoning choreographic career, they are great portents of what may follow.
The youthful company sometimes reminded me of a Jerome Robbins boot camp where youthful dancers test their dancing prowess. The vitality that poured from the stage could have been right out of "Interplay," "Fanfare," or the long lost "Pied Piper. " In fact, at times I began to think of the Lorenz Hart lyrics from "Babes in Arms":
"On city streets and farms They'll hear a rising war cry, 'Youth will arrive, let them know you're alive,' Make it your cry."
The troupe was very lucky: it had a live orchestra, the Hotel Elefant, performing commissioned scores by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and Mark Dancigers. It's wonderful to hear a live orchestra, as frankly I'm tired of static buzzing interference from the microphones. The drive and zeal of the orchestra propelled the dancers to push to the limits of their already formidable techniques. Mr. Schumacher must consider himself a very fortunate man.
Two world premieres were on the bill that night, "The Last Time This Ended" and" Invisible Divide." "The Last Time This Ended" was a powerful statement of two men finding each other, but it was not sexual, rather intimate and loving. These two dancers shared a passion, but one that was never overstated, just inferred. Peformed lyrically by Taylor Stanley and David Prottas, I found that the dance easily encompassed the time span given to it by the choreographer, neither overlong nor trying to stress a point. I was sorry when it was over.
The other world premiere, "Invisible Divide," while not as successfully structured, presented a singular male, Harrison Coll, constantly pitted against the rest of the ensemble--isolated, withdrawn, as the company danced around him. If the dance seemed to repeat itself over and over, it was regrettable, because I wanted to welcome the choreography with open arms. Here, insightful editing would have been useful.
"Dear and Blackbirds," a sweet pas de deux danced by Ashley Laracey and Harrison Coll, and "All That We See", a ballet for five company members, rounded out the evening. Together, they all point to a bright future, hopefully in the repertoire of major American and European companies.
But-right now Mr. Schumacher has not quite found his voice. I wanted to see the utterly unique and expressive tone and humanity of "The Last Time This Ended" repeatedly, but what I saw was generic, hardy movement. While the performers were like burning flames, the steps they were given posed no challenges, taking them all over the stage, but, in the end, not signifying much. Sometimes I thought I was seeing the same ballet, but under a different name.
Mr. Schumacher is on his career path to----what? I don't know. All I can say is that I want to see more, and soon.
Photograph: Matthew Murphy