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.”

Choreography
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

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Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

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There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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