Justin Peck. Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger
It’s long been a tradition for New York City Ballet dancers to occasionally make the twenty or so block trek south and dance with their midtown siblings on Broadway. With visits from performers like Robert and Megan Fairchild, Tiler Peck, and more, the current class of principals and soloists has definitely provided that convention with validity, and fused a connection between the Great White Way and the famed uptown fine arts institution in a way that’s exciting to both theatre and ballet fans. Yet, not since the days of Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story, Gypsy, or Fiddler On The Roof, or George Balanchine’s Babes In Arms, Where’s Charley, or High Button Shoes has broadway seen a prominent NYCB choreographer grace the boards, but in 2018, Justin Peck is doing just that.
Justin Peck, a New York City Ballet Soloist and the company’s resident choreographer— only the second in NYCB’s storied history— has taken the theatre community by storm this year with the movement he created for the classic re-staging of Rodgers And Hammerstein’s Carousel. Peck, a relative midtown newcomer, is reshaping the view of what a high dance establishment practitioner can do with movement in a Broadway musical.
A native of San Diego, California, Peck began his training at the School Of American Ballet— the official training school of New York City Ballet— in 2003. From there, he was asked by New York City Ballet to apprentice in 2006, joined the corps de Ballet in 2007, and was promoted to soloist in 2013.
Justin Peck. Photo Credit: Sabi Varga/Boston Ballet
Throughout his time dancing with the company, Peck has worked directly with or appeared in works by most of the major choreographers in the modern and contemporary ballet echelon: from Millepied, Brandstrup, and Taylor-Corbett, to of course, former Ballet Master-In-Chief Peter Martins, and his former Broadway sages Robbins and Balanchine— Peck has danced them all.
In 2014, when Peck was asked to become City Ballet’s resident choreographer, he had just finished setting six different pieces for the company in only two years: In Creases (2012), Year of the Rabbit (2012), Paz de la Jolla (2013), Take-Offs and Landings (2013), Capricious Maneuvers (2013), and Everywhere We Go (2014).
Since becoming resident, Peck has set at least seven other pieces: Belles-Lettres (2014), Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes (2015), New Blood (2015), The Most Incredible Thing (2016), The Dreamers (2016), The Decalogue (2017), and Pulcinella Variations (2017).
“It’s amazing to have a platform like New York City Ballet to create works and take risks and try different things,” Peck told Dance Network in late 2017 about his creative role within the company. “I usually create between two and three ballets a year, so I’m able to build relationships with the dancers and the various creative departments within the institution, so it’s been a real joy for me.”
In December, when former Ballet Master-In-Chief Peter Martins requested, and was ultimately given, a temporary leave of absence, Peck, along with three of his New York City Ballet contemporaries, Ballet Masters Jonathan Stafford, Craig Hall and Rebecca Krohn were named to an interim leadership team.
Of the many relationships Peck has created at New York City Ballet, at least two have transferred to his work on Broadway. Fellow NYCB company members, principal dancer Amar Ramasar and soloist Brittany Pollack, play the roles of Jigger Craigin and Louise— from the musical’s famous dream ballet—, respectively. Both Pollock and Ramasar have been honored with a Chita Rivera Award nominations for Outstanding Male Dancer In A Broadway Show and Outstanding Female Dancer In A Broadway Show. All three, including Peck himself, are making their Broadway debuts with Carousel.
Amar Ramasar (right) and the men’s ensemble of Carousel. Photo Credit: The New York Times.
See Justin Peck and Robert Fairchild (featuring Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar) in Peck’s The Times Are Racing.
Ballet fans might also notice a few other familiar faces making appearances in Peck’s production the famed classic musical. Miami Ballet’s Andrei Chagas, Adriana Pierce, and Leigh-Ann Esty, Atlanta Ballet’s Laura Feig, David Prottas of Canada’s National Ballet, Parson’s Dance Company’s Ahmad Simmons, and American Ballet Theatre’s Craig Saltine— who also serves as the show’s dance captain— all dance in Peck’s troupe of performers.
Carousel, nominated for a total of 11 TONY® awards, plays Broadway’s Imperial Theatre nightly. For more information about the musical, visit the show’s website CarouselBroadway.com.
All season leading up to the TONY® awards, Dance Network will be profiling the nominated choreographers and providing the latest up-to-date information on the ceremony and celebrations.
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