"I am constantly intrigued by individuals and what makes people unique," says Schumacher. "Even when they're dancing together, you see seven very different people doing something." Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe.

The Collaborator: Inside Rehearsals for Troy Schumacher's Latest Work for New York City Ballet

This story originally appeared in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Pointe.

Troy Schumacher has been very busy.

The final days of September saw the New York City Ballet corps member rehearsing for a full slate of performances while simultaneously preparing the premiere of Common Ground, his second ballet for the company.

Schumacher's first work for NYCB, Clearing Dawn, was notable for its athleticism, high energy and refreshing youthfulness. Similarly, Common Ground is profoundly physical, with dancers exploding through the air in bursts of sissonnes and bounding over imaginary puddles with successive grands jetés. But in contrast, "the mood is a little darker, a little more mysterious," says NYCB soloist Ashley Laracey, who is also married to Schumacher.


Throughout rehearsal, the dancers focus in on each other. "Troy's ballets are about the community feel and what we create onstage, not so much towards the audience," says Laracey. Though Schumacher is influenced by Balanchine's athleticism, he also relates his approach to Jerome Robbins: "I value a lot of what Robbins did; he kind of started with having non-presentational works."

While this is only Schumacher's second work for NYCB, he's had plenty of practice. In 2010, he founded his own company, BalletCollective, which incorporates dancers, musicians, writers and artists into a collaborative creation process. The group rehearses during NYCB's layoffs, with Schumacher fitting in administrative duties in his spare time. "It's been a really great basis for me to understand everything that it takes to make ballet really possible, because I've had to do it all," he says.

Whether he's working with BalletCollective or NYCB, for Schumacher it all comes back to collaboration. (For instance, the score for Common Ground was composed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone of the indie band San Fermin.) "By collaborating with people—when it works—you're seeing your art in a new light and they're seeing theirs in a new light," says Schumacher. "I'm responsible for the choreography, but I'm also responsible for enhancing my collaborators' art and vice versa."

Photographed by Kyle Froman for Pointe.

Kyle Froman

"I try my best to empower the dancers," says Schumacher, shown here with Ashley Laracey and Amar Ramasar. "I feel like the more personality I can get in their movement, the better it reads from the audience."

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi Everyone,

These are challenging times. The social distancing measures brought about by COVID-19 has likely meant that your regular ballet training has been interrupted, while your performances, competitions—even auditions—have been cancelled. You may be feeling anxious about what the future holds, not only for you but for the dance industry. And that's perfectly understandable.

As you adjust to taking virtual ballet class from your living rooms, we here at Pointe are adjusting to working remotely from our living rooms. We've had to get a little creative, especially as we put our Summer Issue together, but like you we're taking full advantage of modern technology. Sure, it's a little inconvenient sometimes, but we're finding our groove.

And we know that you will, too. We've been utterly inspired by how the dance community has rallied together, from ballet stars giving online classes to companies streaming their performances to the flood of artist resources popping up. We've loved watching you dance from your kitchens. And we want to help keep this spirit alive. That's why Pointe and all of our Dance Media sister publications are working nonstop to produce and cross-post stories to help you navigate this crisis. We're all in this together.

We also want to hear from you! Send us a message on social media, or email me directly at abrandt@dancemedia.com. Tell us how you're doing, send us your ideas and show us your dance moves. Let the collective love we share for our beloved art form spark the light at the end of the tunnel—we will come out the other side soon enough.

Best wishes,

Amy