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Dancer Tiler Peck shows how ballet is so much more than 'Swan Lake' and 'The Nutcracker'

by Michelle Lanz | The Frame

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Ballerina Tiler Peck. Courtesy New York City Dance Project

For the longest time, the cultural reputation of ballet has been that it’s for an older, white, upper-class audience that could afford to buy pricey tickets.

And creatively, it’s been seen as occupying a very narrow space where Swan Lake and the Nutcracker are, for many people, the beginning and end of the creative spectrum.

But with the proliferation of competition shows on television like “So You Think You Can Dance” and Jennifer Lopez’s show, “World of Dance,” there’s a younger audience that could now be eager to see dance—classical ballet included—performed live.

At least that’s the hope of Tiler Peck. She’s a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and also the curator of BalletNOW, a weekend of performances that feature dancers from the top ballet companies in the world, as well as prominent hip-hop and tap dancers. It will all take place at The Music Center July 28-30.

I met with Peck during a rehearsal yesterday at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles to talk about the meaning of this show, how she put together the eclectic program and how she got started as a dancer. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXDrOhIl58y/?taken-by=isabellaboylston&hl=en

You can hear their conversation by clicking the play button on this page.  

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On team dynamics:

I feel like I am so lucky with the people I brought and everybody works so hard... Last night was our first night together and somebody said  I don't think I've ever been on a gig where I've liked every single dancer. To have twenty-four dancers who all get along and who are all excited to be here dancing at The Music Center with each other is something really hard to come by.

On having to wear multiple hats for the production:

I have to worry about dancing well but I also have to oversee the whole thing because I feel the need to make sure every ballet is danced with a lot of respect. There's some ballets I can't watch, like 'Allegro'we're getting ready to rehearse and I have to do the principle part so I can't necessarily watch... So I think I'll just have somebody video it and I'll look at it tonight and do notes again tomorrow.

On curating a broad spectrum of choreography for the show:

The first thing I did when I was asked to do this was look at The Music Center's title that they gave it, which was BalletNow. And say "What does that mean to me?" For me, it meant showing the range of what ballet is. I don't think it's pigeonholed anymore to Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. I do think you have to have the new voices of the day like Justin Peck, Christoper Wheeldon, Michelle Dorrance. I think that along with the genius choreographers like Balanchine and Robbins of the past; that is what ballet is all about... What I wanted to do was educate the audience by putting in 'Allegro' and 'Fancy Free.' Things I think are those masterpieces that make ballet what it is but then also have something for the younger generation who is going to love to see this Michelle Dorrance piece with someone from So You Think You Can Dance?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6LiYDWYbJY

On Los Angeles as a dance city:

I think it's always been hard to get everyone to hone in on dance because it's always been such a Hollywood-based state. But I think that dance is getting on the forefront now, with the television shows that are on and how ballet is changing. And how I did that 'Medicine Man' video... Ballet is really becoming a bit more mainstream and I think LA has caught onto that. It's important to keep pushing and making it an important thing because live arts are very, very important. 

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