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.”
What's more daunting than getting into your dream college dance program? Figuring out how you'll cover the costs of tuition, room and board, incidental expenses and more. Here's the good news: The right scholarship(s) can bring your dream school well within reach.
Look Around, Look Around
Scholarship applications are due between the fall of senior year and graduation time, so familiarize yourself with funding opportunities during the spring of junior year. And there are a lot of opportunities out there, says Kate Walker, chair of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. "A lot of school guidance counselors now have software that automatically matches you with scholarships," she says.
Seek out scholarships on your own, too. According to Walker, "a lot of corporations are required to have some community engagement, including offering scholarships, so research corporations in your community." Your parents' employers might offer assistance too, says Doug Long, an academic and college counselor at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, MI. "They might have scholarships you can apply for just because your parent works there."
Other sources of grant money you won't have to pay back (as you would a loan)? The YoungArts Foundation; competitions/conventions, like New York City Dance Alliance; and the university or dance department you're applying to. Even some scholarships aimed at athletes are open to dancers!
A winning scholarship application involves a fair amount of paperwork, especially if the organization requires you to show financial need. In addition, certain scholarships ask for the College Board's CSS/Financial Aid Profile, which gives the awarding organization a more complete picture of your family finances.
Other ingredients of a successful scholarship application include recommendation letters, a dance and/or academic resumé and an essay or statement of purpose. Treat these components just like college applications: Have multiple trusted adults proofread your materials, and ask for recommendation letters or transcripts long before deadlines.
A note for non-dance scholarships: Including objective measures of achievement can only help you. "List national recognitions, like YoungArts or other competitions," says Long. "That shows the scholarship committees that people at high levels have acknowledged you as an artist of quality." And don't forget who your audience is. "Especially in writing samples, make sure you paint a vivid picture for your reader," Walker says. "Don't assume they know about all the things—like barre every day—that we as dancers take for granted."
No award amount is too small to be worth your time and effort. As Walker says, "Don't pooh-pooh a couple hundred dollars in award money, because any scholarship is funding that you didn't have yesterday."
A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "All Aboard the Scholar-ship."
Every ballet dancer knows the time, sweat, and occasional tears the art form demands. But many non-dancers are clueless about just how much work a ballet dancer puts into perfecting his or her dancing. So when the mainstream crowd recognizes our crazy work ethic, we'll accept the round of applause any way it comes—even if it comes via four men in tutus. Yep, we're talking about "The Try Guys Try Ballet" video.
Remember that fabulous old-school clip of dancers tapping in pointe shoes that Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo brought to our attention back in March? As we mentioned then, toe-tap dancing was actually super popular back in the 1920s and 30s—which means there are more videos where that one came from. And because #ToeTapTuesday has a nice ring to it, we thought we'd take this opportunity to introduce you to Dick and Edith Barstow, a toe-tapping brother and sister duo from that era who are nothing short of incredible:
Guess who's back? Back again? The Academy's back! Tell a friend.
After one day at The Academy, the All Stars have successfully taken the Top 100 down to 62. But their work is just getting started: Now they need to keep narrowing the field to a Top 10, ultimately deciding who each will partner with during the live shows.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns is some SERIOUS #goals. Her strength and power onstage borders on superhuman. But what's extra magical about Mearns is that she really puts in the fitness and cross-training work outside of the rehearsal studio. And she's overcome her fair share of injuries. Which is why she was the perfect source for Vogue's latest ballet fitness story.