Gretchen Smith in rehearsals for The Most Incredible Thing (Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet)

Making "The Most Incredible Thing": New York City Ballet's Gretchen Smith Talks About Justin Peck's First Narrative Ballet

New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck is never not busy: This year alone, he's created works for San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and NYCB. But Peck's latest ballet for his home company, The Most Incredible Thing, is his biggest production yet. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, it features 50 dancers; a score by Bryce Dessner, of the band The National; and costumes and sets by popular artist Marcel Dzama. Dance Spirit caught up with NYCB corps de ballet member Gretchen Smith, a Most Incredible Thing cast member, to get the scoop on Peck's new work. —Olivia Manno


Dance Spirit: What have rehearsals been like?

Gretchen Smith: I'm constantly in awe of Justin and his brain. He rarely hits a wall with the choreo; he's always got more ideas. He's also open to mistakes, and will use our mess-ups if he likes them. It makes for an encouraging atmosphere.

DS: You've worked with Peck on many of his ballets. What are some of your favorite "Peck-isms" in The Most Incredible Thing?

GS: There are so many! His ballets are always high-energy and expansive, and his footwork is incredibly quick—it requires mad coordination. There are a lot of beautiful nods to Balanchine, like wide échappés and nuanced movements of the wrists.

DS: Speaking of Balanchine, we know from Peck's Instagram account that The Most Incredible Thing includes some riffing on Balanchine's Apollo.

GS: I can't reveal a lot, but mythology is definitely a huge part of the ballet's structure. I'm one of the piece's nine "muses," and Justin made it very clear that our divertissement was an ode to Apollo and its muses.

DS: Peck is known for his contemporary ballets, but The Most Incredible Thing is based on a fairy tale that's nearly 150 years old. Does it represent a "modern" story ballet?

GS: Well, things that might be more spelled-out in a traditional story ballet are less so in this work. For our roles as the "muses," for example, Justin just wants us to represent nine powerful women. And the dancing feels modern in that it requires a lot of athleticism.

Latest Posts


Monique Smith (Tom Marvel, courtesy Smith)

5 Black Women on the Obstacles of Dancing While Black

Civil rights leader Malcom X famously said that "the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman." Decades later, those words still resonate. And the dance world isn't immune to subjecting Black women to unfair treatment. After all, it wasn't until this year—and after mounting pressure from online petitions—that many major dancewear brands pledged to make tights and pointe shoes in hues that match the complexions of Black women.

But other, more insidious issues continue to obstruct progress for Black women in the dance world. Dance Spirit spoke with five Black women about the obstacles they've faced as professional dancers.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
TikTok star Niana Guerrero films a TikTok (courtesy Guerrero)

A Day in the Life of a TikTok Star

Niana Guerrero is only 14, but she already boasts 12.6 million TikTok followers—the kind of internet fanbase most people twice her age can only dream of. Of course, keeping up with her millions (and millions, and millions) of fans isn't easy. We spent a day with Niana to see what it really takes to be a TikTok star. —As told to Cadence Neenan

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
TikTok vs. Reels: The ultimate showdown. (Getty Images/TikTok/Instagram)

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: Which is the Best for Dancers?

Instagram's latest video feature—Reels—has been rolled out to users over the past month and is now finally available to all. Similar to TikTok, the app's new feature allows you to create short videos to showcase your skills, whatever they may be. And for us, of course, that means dancing. Despite that, the two apps feel very different to many within our community. So which is the best for dancers to use?

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search