Choreographer’s Collage: Justin Peck

(by Paul Kolnik)

Justin Peck’s ballets are at once contemporary and playful, with intricate partnering and kaleidoscopic formations. Though the New York City Ballet corps member began choreographing just three years ago, he’s already made works for the Nantucket Atheneum Dance Festival and the Columbia Ballet Collaborative at Columbia University (where he takes academic classes). Last year, Peck was the New York Choreographic Institute’s first active choreographer-in-residence. NYCB performed his first work for the company, In Creases, in July, and will premiere an expansion of his 2010 work, Tales of a Chinese Zodiac, this month. What inspires Peck? Read on to find out!

“To me, 50 percent of the choreographic battle is finding the right music. The musical score acts as my blueprint. I look through it as I listen to the music, trying to accentuate subtle details with choreographic interpretation. It’s like solving a puzzle. I’ve been working with Sufjan Stevens to orchestrate my new work for NYCB. I feel a strong connection to Stevens. He pays respect to composers of the past, but still maintains his own voice.”

NYCB dancers rehearse George Balanchine’s Symphony in C

“I’ve learned a lot about the structure of ballet by watching the patterns and flow of George Balanchine’s choreography, especially in pieces with big casts. His Symphony in Three Movements is one of my favorite ballets. I’ll often watch rehearsals from the fourth ring of the theater to take in the architecture from above.”   

“During my residency with the NYCI, I
collaborated with composer Conrad Winslow. We’re both foodies, so we decided to try to capture the dining experience with our piece. We went to restaurants together, wrote down adjectives that came to mind and took pictures of the food. It’s a little absurd, but it was interesting and fun.” 

Emilie Gerrity (forefront) rehearses Peck’s In Creases for the New York Choreographic Institute

“Sara Adams and Emilie Gerrity are younger dancers in the company who have recently inspired me. They’re just starting to emerge as artists, and it’s great to give them the opportunity to be featured. It’s mutually beneficial, I think.”

“Janie Taylor is open to experimenting with choreographic ideas and meets me halfway. We have a great chemistry in the studio.”

“When I got stuck while creating Tales of a Chinese Zodiac, I’d sometimes delve into researching a particular zodiac sign. Then, I’d just take a word and run with it. For example, while researching ‘Year of the Ox,’ I read a passage that included the word ‘linear.’ I then applied that word to the choreographic structure.” 

(by Paul Kolnik)

“I bicycle a lot while listening to music. It’s a good time to let my mind wander and respond to the music.”

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