Troy Schumacher, soloist with New York City Ballet (NYCB), artistic director of BalletCollective, father of twin girls, and 1/4 of the creative team for the new production, The Night Falls, is a busy guy. The Night Falls, coming up this February 9-12, is part-dance, part-opera and part-musical theater based on a story by novelist Karen Russell. With the tagline of, “A New Myth for a Fractured Era,” the audience witnesses what happens when Americans all over the country become plagued with a song that won’t leave their head.
We caught up with Schumacher to learn about the creation process, how the pandemic affected the production, how being a dad influences his work and what’s next for him as he bounces between creative endeavors.
In The Night Falls, Schumacher and his collaborators (Russell, along with Ellis Ludwig-Leone as composer/co-lyricist, and Jason Ardizzone-West on set design) set out to create something they didn’t see happening in the dance and performing arts community. Their goal is to connect dance with musical theater and opera to tell a modern story, in a new way, about people struggling with things we face as communities and a country today.
While the show pushes boundaries of form, it maintains a sense of accessibility in being very human and direct in the storytelling. For the team, one of the biggest challenges was casting the show in a way that allowed that humanity to shine.
Schumacher shares, “All the main characters are double cast with singer and dancers. It’s been important to find two people who can differently embody each character in a way that comes together to create one character. It’s been a really intricate puzzle.”
With each challenge comes a rewarding element, and for Schumacher, the rewards came in the form of seeing each aspect come together in the studio. He and the team started conceptually planning this show in 2017, did several workshops to develop it and then, like so many other projects, paused as a result of the pandemic. He delights in the watching it finally come to life. “It’s so surreal when you work on something for so many years, and you’re finally in the studio again. Okay, we’re doing this!”
Schumacher started BalletCollective in 2010, as a way to encourage true collaboration between choreographers and composers, using what he calls a “source artist” as a common center to anchor the two disciplines. “The process prevents someone from coming into the collaboration with a really strong sense of what they want,” he says. “You have to start from scratch and move forward together. You have no idea where the piece is going, which can be scary and also exciting. You break out of doing what you would always do.”
Schumacher and his wife, fellow NYCB dancer Ashley Laracey, found another way to break out of doing what they always did when they had twin girls right before the pandemic. “It forces you into the present, and it changes your thought process,” Schumacher reveals. “It’s like collaborating in real life. It’s enhanced my patience and changed my empathy.”
The culmination of so many collaborations comes together in The Night Falls, something Schumacher considers one of the things he’s most excited about as he looks forward as a director and choreographer to “discover the future.”
The Night Falls is being presented by Montclair State University as part of Peak Performances, February 9-12, in Montclair, NJ. For tickets and more information, visit www.peakperfs.org/event/the-night-falls/2023-02-09.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.