On August 3, five dancers from New York City Ballet (NYCB) and two from the Martha Graham Dance Company began a strict quarantine and testing protocol before joining together as a quarantine pod with BalletCollective’s artistic team in the Hudson Valley to create, develop and perform a brand new ballet for socially distanced, drive-in and tailgate audiences to launch BalletCollective’s 2020 season in Pine Plains, NY, from September 10-12 (September 13 rain date), at a private preserve with artistic residencies at Wassaic Project and Dutchess Day School.
The limited three performance engagement will feature the first public performances of a new ballet from Artistic Director Troy Schumacher, with a newly commissioned musical score by his longtime collaborator Ellis Ludwig-Leone (San Fermin) based on commissioned poems by Carey McHugh. For the first time ever, the dancers for BalletCollective will be taken from both the ranks of the NYCB and the Martha Graham Dance Company, a rare collaboration between artists from two of the most respected dance organizations in the world, dancing in pointe shoes and sneakers. Dancers include Devin Alberda, Anthony Huxley, Ashley Laracey, Lorenzo Pagano, Erica Pereira, Davide Riccardo and Leslie Andrea Williams.
Already in the conceptual process of making a piece about memory and loss focused on a “before and after”, the collaborators were struck by the historic and real “before and after” that the worldwide pandemic and its consequences have presented. The work was composed at the height of the pandemic and will be choreographed as we begin to reimagine what the future of concert dance might look like. The ballet examines Schumacher and BalletCollective dancers’ experiences of returning to the studio and the stage.
With most arts organizations shuttered through the duration of 2020 due to COVID-19, BalletCollective is among the few dance companies able to continue to create substantial new works of dance and music to share with the public. While adhering to strict safety protocols, including a mandatory two-week self-quarantine for all artists involved, and a four-week creation period without interaction with the outside world, the company will continue to create art in the face of a worldwide pandemic.
Audience members will be able to view the premiere from either the safety of their vehicle as a drive-in event, or while placed in pre-allocated socially distant lawn seating for limited numbers. For those who cannot attend, BalletCollective has also commissioned an immersive film of the ballet and each performance will be livestreamed on the company’s YouTube page.
Following in the long tradition of BalletCollective’s commitment to immersive collaboration between its artists, the choreographer, composer, poet and dancers will work in tandem to create a new work centered on the artists’ relationship to memory. Before the pandemic closed museums, the creative team visited the American Museum of Natural History and then met with Scott A. Small M.D., the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, for a discussion on the mechanics of memory and the memory of their visit to the museum. These experiences coupled with the early days of the pandemic resulted in two poems that formed the inspiration for the music and dance.
“The moment the pandemic made our previous artistic lives impossible, we began to plan how to safely overcome the barriers presented and find a way to create new work of and in this moment,” says Schumacher. “We are all so excited to get back into rehearsing again, whether in a studio, a gymnasium or a field in the Millbrook area. The logistical challenges are immense, but the work is worth it to provide artists the opportunity to work again and audiences the opportunity to see live dance at the highest quality.”
Performance dates are September 10 (6:15pm) and September 12 (2:30pm and 6:15pm). Approximate running time is 30 minutes. All performances are free. Donations are encouraged through BalletCollective’s website. Reservations are required, as space is very limited. Reservations can be made at www.balletcollective.com/2020. A livestream of each performance will air on balletcollective.com/live.