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November 7, 2016
Review: Troy Schumacher’s BalletCollective Presents “What Comes Next”
BalletCollective. Photo credit: Whitney Browne
BalletCollective. Photo credit: Whitney Browne

BalletCollective, Troy Schumacher’s contemporary ballet company, opened its fall season last week at the NYU Skirball Center for the performing arts.

Schumacher’s work continues to pull its inspiration from all branches of the art world. True to its roots as a collaborative effort, BalletCollective’s 2016 season, titled What Comes Next, brings together dance, music, and architecture in a holistic demonstration of the artistic process.

The first work of the evening, a sixth collaboration between choreographer Troy Schumacher and resident composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, drew on sketches and renderings of architect James Ramsey’s forthcoming Lowline project. The Lowline is slated to be an underground park and cultural center, opening in lower Manhattan in 2020. Schumacher’s choreographic prowess has always been remarkable. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Until the Walls Cave in is the choreography’s ability to embody every aspect of Ramsey’s plans. Duets and trios of technically extraordinary dancers move around and through each other, creating columns, walls, and pillars of negative space onstage, and bringing to life the plants, lighting, and structures of the park-to-be. Set to an original score of deep cello solos and rich bass tones by Ludwig-Leone, Until the Walls Cave in is a true artistic accomplishment in all its facets.

Anthony Huxley and Rachel Hutsell. Photo credit: Whitney Browne
Anthony Huxley and Rachel Hutsell. Photo credit: Whitney Browne

The evening’s second piece, The Answer, was based on a work by architect Carlos Arnaiz. Arnaiz’s piece is a study in physics; an interpretation of one of former NBA player Allen Iverson’s famous plays. The work’s movement and angles are beautifully transferrable to the stage, and composer Judd Greenstein’s staccato score imbued Schumacher’s already buoyant choreography, danced by Rachel Hutsell and Anthony Huxley, with even more levity.

In comparison to the other works presented, The Answer does fall a bit short. The choreography is an ambitious and wonderfully technical duet, but the performance itself left something to be desired. Though not a long piece, the energy faded partway through. Unfortunately, what could have been a grand, sweeping denouement deflated after Hutsell slipped onstage, and the dancers were unable to revive the vivaciousness with which they’d begun the work.

The night closed on a presentation of the 2015 work The Invisible Divide. After an incredible and highly memorable premiere of the photography-based piece in the 2015 season, its revival was just as impactful. Harrison Coll, reprising his lead role in the piece, was as captivating as ever, set against the haunting and heart-wrenching score by Ludwig-Leone. From the exacting, detailed choreography of the corps to Coll’s wildly outsized solo--in which you’d be hard-pressed to hear his feet touch the stage--Schumacher’s choreography is at a pinnacle with The Invisible Divide.

What Comes Next had its ups and downs, but the high points were incredible, as audiences have come to expect from BalletCollective.

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