If you've already gotten your hands on DS's October issue (and if you haven't, click here!), you've seen our "Choreographer's Collage" with Justin Peck. The 25-year-old is pretty busy these days: Not only is he one of the ballet world's most talked about up-and-coming choreographers, he's also a corps dancer with New York City Ballet.
As Peck's collage reveals, his ballets are inspired by anything from the George Balanchine classics he's danced to restaurant meals. Sounds fascinating, right? Which is why I kind of can't wait to see his new work for NYCB, Year of the Rabbit, when it premieres this Friday. The piece is set to music by indie star Sufjan Stevens, who worked with Peck and conductor Michael Atkinson to translate what was originally a lot of beepy electronica into a score for a string orchestra. (Check out the three of them talking about the process in this recording of their Guggenheim "Works & Process" presentation—it's pretty nifty!)
Can't make it to NYC for the premiere? Well, here's a little taste of Year of the Rabbit: a promo video featuring NYCB dancers Janie Taylor and Craig Hall doing some beautiful things on the beach. Enjoy!
New York City Ballet's spring gala was last night, and oh man, you guys: I looooove NYCB gala nights. Love, love, love 'em.
First of all, they're a chance for everyone to get dressed up—both the celebrities who come out to support the company, and the company dancers themselves. My favorite example of the former was Kristen Bell (who also showed off her impressive singing voice—you know it best from Frozen!—during the performance):
Yowza! (Photo Monica Schipper/Getty Images)
As for the latter, Ashley Bouder's fabulous glamazon-by-way-of-Disney-villainess ensemble kind of made my life:
Amazing, right? Here she is with the dress's designer, B. Michael. (Photo Monica Schipper/Getty Images)
But for me, the real point(e) of these celebrations, naturally, is the dancing. NYCB is unlike a lot of other ballet companies when it comes to galas. Rather than filling the program with a bunch of tried-and-true classical pas de deux, City Ballet usually presents at least one completely new ballet. And that makes the proceedings especially exciting—particularly when the premiere is by Justin Peck, whose choreography has been delighting the ballet world for the past couple of years.
Peck dreamed big—really big—for Everywhere We Go, his sixth ballet for NYCB. He collaborated with indie music darling Sufjan Stevens on a completely new nine-movement, 40-minute score. He got architect Karl Jensen to construct a shape-shifting geometric backdrop. He asked former NYCB principal Janie Taylor (who retired earlier this year—we miss you already, Janie!) to create the bathing-beauty costumes. And he put together a cast of 25—count 'em—25 dancers. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, you're overwhelmed by the ballet's sheer muchness.
Karl Jensen's set, the dancers in rehearsal, and Janie Taylor's costume designs (all via Instagram)
I think a lot of that muchness is just Peck responding to Stevens' score. As orchestrated by Michael P. Atkinson, it's huge, full, and rhythmically aggressive. There's something Philip Glass-ian about its relentless insistence (which makes sense—Stevens mentioned in interviews that he saw Glass's opera Einstein on the Beach sometime during the composing process). I mean, the note-per-minute count must be insane. And Peck, an instinctively musical choreographer, has movement responses to everything Stevens throws at him. This trailer for Everywhere We Go highlights one of the quieter moments in the ballet, yet it's still chock-full of music and dancing:
Like a lot of dance fans, I'm continually overwhelmed by Peck's use of groups. In Everywhere, his geometric mind takes full advantage of every one of those 25 dancers. Jensen's backdrop goes through kaleidoscope-like mutations over the course of the ballet; similarly, Peck's team shifts through endlessly innovative patterns, patterns that start out looking like chaos before suddenly—click!—falling into place.
I also love the way Peck plays with the ballet hierarchy. Everywhere includes seven fantastic principals, and yet they melt in and out of the teeming corps, their movements echoed and further developed by the dozens of dancers around them.
What's my overall verdict? I guess I'm not sure. I want to see the ballet again, so that I can let it seep into me instead of just washing over me in wave after wave of fabulousness. I think I wish it had a few more peaceful moments, more still points, to balance out its churning swirl. I walked out of the theater last night feeling a little overstimulated—buzzy, like I'd had one too many cups of coffee.
The "bow and arrow" moment in rehearsal (via Instagram)
But it's the rare choreographer who can make audience members buzz at all. And there are images from Everywhere We Go that give me little chills of pleasure every time I think of them. My favorite is a lift that appears throughout the ballet, a motif that seems to encapsulate Everywhere's overall feeling: The man lifts the woman away from him as she arches up and outward, her legs stretched behind her. She looks like a bow stretched by an arrow, full of anticipatory tension, ready to shoot off into the sky.
Instead, today we're talking about ballet dancer fashion. How is it that, while there's nothing inherently glamorous about leotards and tights, somehow professional ballet dancers always manage to look sooooo cool? Seriously, it's an art form.
The Huffington Post recently went behind the scenes at New York City Ballet to get a peek at the unique looks of three dancers: corps member Gretchen Smith and principals Tiler Peck and Janie Taylor. Most of the piece is devoted to in-studio fashion—color-blocked legwarmers! custom-designed leotards!—but we also get a peek at the dancers' "people clothes," as Peck cutely calls them.
Take a look at the photos below. And if you're fascinated by ballerina fashion, check out the new Studio to Street column in our sister magazine, Pointe. Each month they photograph a different stylish ballet dancer—inside the studio and out. So far the fashionista list includes NYCB's Sara Mearns, The Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's Ebony Williams.
(All photos HPMG/Raydene Salinas)
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Instagram is basically a dance-lover's paradise. Dancers are all about visuals, so a photo-sharing app is our idea of a playground. And that means a lot of big dance names (and organizations) are alllll over Instagram, giving us little peeks at their glamorous, artsy worlds.
Looking for inspiration? Well, first, give us a follow (@dancespiritmagazine)! And then check out our list of 10 other dance-tagrammers who won't disappoint.
@thejaquelknight (JaQuel Knight)
@RoyalOperaHouse (London's Royal Opera House)
A smorgasbord of beautiful images from The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera. (These are the Caterpillar's shoes from Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland!)
@travisova (Travis Wall)
A star in his own right, he also works with pretty much every amazing dancer you can think of—and his feed is full of them.
@miamicityballet (Miami City Ballet)
They let their dancers do the Instagramming, which makes for an interesting, ever-changing feed.
@thrurosecoloredlenses (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jamar Roberts)
Unexpected perspectives on all things dance (and non-dance).
@allisonholker (Allison Holker)
A mix of pretty dance shots and the cutest family photos you've ever seen (because hello, her family is tWitch and her adorable munchkin of a daughter).
@gallimdance (Gallim Dance)
No brunch photos here. The innovative company's feed is all beautiful dancing, all the time.
The funniest bunhead 'grammer out there. Real World Ballerina speaks the truth!
@cloudskmz (Daniel "Cloud" Campos)
Our favorite commercial goofball's quirky sense of humor translates well to Instagram.
@janieclaire (New York City Ballet principal Janie Taylor)
Janie Taylor lives in a bizarre, wonderful world. We want to go to there.
(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 a busy, happy weekend it was at New York City Ballet! Yesterday I told you about Rebecca Krohn and Ana Sophia Scheller, who were both made principals on Saturday afternoon. Today I found out that principal Sebastien Marcovici proposed to fellow principal Janie Taylor on Friday night, after the pair performed in Balanchine's oh-so-romantic Liebeslieder Walzer together. Congratulations to the lovebirds! (How fun will the dance floor be at that wedding??)