Looking for a quick overview of the art of dance? Tiler Peck, a principal with New York City Ballet, has got you covered. This weekend the Music Center is presenting BalletNOW, a series of three unique programs she curated that feature an international roster of exceptional dancers who have come together to celebrate dance in all of its forms, from classical ballet to hip-hop.
The dancers hail from companies including American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet, Dorrance Dance, and the Paris Opera Ballet, and audience favorites (like the pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet) are being highlighted, in addition to more contemporary works.
Peck, a Bakersfield native, performs in many of the pieces—just note her speed. She is fast. After all, she’s been moving since she was a kid. “I did lots of commercial work when I was younger in L.A.,” she says, “like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for two years at Universal Studios and The Music Man at the Hollywood Bowl.”
We spoke with Peck before opening night.
What was your brainstorming process like in curating this program?
When I was first approached about curating BalletNOW, the first thing I did was ask myself, What does the word ballet mean today? I wanted to create programs that would showcase the versatility that I believe is demanded of dancers today. My main focus was to assemble three different programs that would highlight the “genius” choreographers of the past and the current voices of today while also demonstrating the crossover of dance genres that make the current state of dance so interesting.
How did you rehearse the dancers when they’re based all over the country and even outside of the U.S.?
In all honesty, the first time we will all be together is the week of the performances! I want to make sure that these three evenings showcase partnerships that audience members can only see in L.A. for these three performances. It will definitely be challenging getting into the studio with partners for the first time the week of the performance, but oh how exciting! That’s why we call it live theater! As artists, we are always looking for new challenges and ways to expand and grow, so I wanted to put dancers together who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to dance together. I also wanted to push all of these incredible artists a bit out of their comfort zones and see the magic that happens.
Are some of your personal favorite choreographers or pieces represented here?
Yes, of course! I wanted L.A. audiences to experience some works that I think are vital in ballet history and also [vital in] moving it forward. I wanted to educate the audience with masterpieces by Balanchine, MacMillan, and Robbins while also introducing the new voices of Michelle Dorrance, Bill Irwin, and Justin Peck. I wanted there to be something for everyone, and I truly believe these programs show the range of what ballet is about.
Is that why a lot of athleticism will be on display?
Yes, the Music Center’s BalletNOW is an opportunity to celebrate the art of dance but to do so in a very unique way. I wanted to share dancers, choreographers, and pieces that aren’t typically seen; dancers of such caliber and repertoire with such depth that every person could leave the theater feeling somewhat moved and fulfilled. I have always thought of dancers as some of the finest athletes. The grit and athleticism that it takes to be a dancer today is something I want people to notice and appreciate.