Glen Close, in Justin Peck's dance short, "Night Shift". Photo credit: New York Times Magazine
New York City Ballet resident choreographer and winner of the 2018 Tony® Award for Best Choreography, Justin Peck has created a new series of remarkable dance short films for The New York Times Magazine— all available to watch for free.
The dance films feature, according to the mag, “the year’s best actors” playing everyday characters, “in familiar situations: packed into a subway car, stuck in a doctor's office, caught in a downpour. But once they start moving, the actors turn our common experiences into welcome moments of enchantment.”
Actors featured in the series include Julia Roberts, Academy Award nominee Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Glen Close, Regina Hall, Yoo Ah-In, Ethan Hawke, Elsie Fisher, Yalitza Aparicio, Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, and Rachel Weisz.
With music by Caroline Shaw, the scenes are shot with the keen artistic eye of Peck, who provides simple yet poignant movement for the actors, regardless of their dance ability or training. Peck, whose abilities as a creator seem to stretch far and wide, provides his subjects with a world in which to create, while seemingly guiding their movements into something personal, stirring, and accessible.
The scene for Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts, who recently garnered acclaim for her work in Ben Is Back, is set in a packed subway car. Roberts’ character, stuck between two paper-reading straphangers, seems to drift off into a New York City kick-line dreamscape, enjoying a moment of happy solitude away from the rat race in a tuxedo and patent leather shoes, only to snap back out of it all.
Toni Collette, whose work in the horror film Hereditary has been highly praised, has a short piece set in a creepy attic; chock full of spider webs, dolls, and old junk. The piece, titled The Heebie-Jeebies, features Collette’s character dancing in a full out panic after seeing a rocking chair begin moving on its own.
Elsie Fisher in "Chance Of Rain". Photo credit: New York Times Magazine
Other vignettes include Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield portraying an old skyscraper ironworker performing a death-defying walk to get his lunchbox in Lunch Break, Academy Award winner Glen Close’s killer pas de deux with a mop in Night Shift, Regina Hall’s pillow and sheet choreography in Rise And Shine, Elsie Fisher’s cheerful romp through a downpour in Chance Of Rain, Yalitza Aparicio’s plaintive yet heartwarming dance with a flower in The Daisy, and Ethan Hawke’s uncertain turned ravishingly combustible relationship with glasses, food, and flatware in Table Manners.
Emma Stone (left) and Olivia Coleman (right) in Peck's "Coffee To Go". Photo credit: New York Times Magazine
One highlight, sure to be a hit among dance fans is the Emma Stone, Olivia Coleman, and Rachel Weisz piece, Coffee To Go. In the short dance, Stone and Coleman perform a delightfully volatile tango together over a coffee order that barista Rachel Weisz has prepared. While the two clash over the java, Weisz’s character, ultimately takes a gleeful pleasure in their quarrel and drinks the to-go cup herself.
Justin Peck won the 2018 Tony® Award for Best Choreography for his work on the Broadway revival of Carousel. He is a soloist and the resident choreographer of New York City Ballet and is set to choreograph the film remake of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg.
The shorts can all be watched online at The New York Times Magazine’s website.
Michael Mahany serves as the New York City Correspondent for Dance Network. He is also a professional actor, musician, dancer, and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or click here to find out more.