Interview: Choreographer Kirk Peterson and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by ARB at State Theatre NJ on 5/10

By: May. 03, 2019
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Interview: Choreographer Kirk Peterson and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by ARB at State Theatre NJ on 5/10

American Repertory Ballet (ARB) presents its highly anticipated world premiere, Beauty and the Beast, choreographed by the company's Resident Choreographer, Kirk Peterson. The show will be presented at New Brunswick's State Theatre New Jersey on Friday, May 10 at 8:00 p.m. The full-length ballet, set to music by Tchaikovsky, will be played live by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Nell Flanders.

Kirk Peterson's new ballet, Beauty and the Beast, is an imaginative interpretation of the original French story La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast) by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, first published in 1740. Peterson also credits the 1946 French film of the same title by French filmmaker Jean Cocteau as an inspiration for this production. In the tradition of great ballets such as Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast will appeal to audiences of all ages. had the pleasure of interviewing Kirk Peterson about his career and Beauty and the Beast.

Kirk Peterson had a long and distinguished career with American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet. He was also a principal dancer with London Festival Ballet, Harkness Ballet, and the National Ballet of Washington. Peterson served as Artistic Director of the Hartford Ballet for five years. As a choreographer, his work has been seen with San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Washington Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, BalletMet, San Francisco Opera and The Royal Ballet School. Mr. Peterson was resident choreographer for Cincinnati Ballet for six years and he is also a repetiteur for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. He is currently Resident Choreographer at American Repertory Ballet.

What was your earliest interest in dance?

My family were dancers. My mother and aunt, the Wagner Sisters, were a dance team who toured the night club circuit in the 1940s. I was sort of born in a trunk. I just fell into dance. Its what my family did. My grandmother brought me to ballet in an effort to give me well rounded dance training. I began ballet lessons when I was 3 years old.

Who have been some of your mentors?

My first ballet teacher, Lelia Haller, was my first mentor. She was only the second American to be taken in to the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1920s. She gave me a great classical vocabulary. Ben Stevenson was my second at Harkness Ballet & later, the great Toni Lander at ABT. Glen Tetley was also a powerful influence.

What would you advise young people who want to pursue a career in dance?

Get as diverse training as possible but focus on one dance discipline.

ARB is such a renowned dance company. Can you give us an insiders view of the organization?

ARB has given me a platform to express myself as a choreographer and to continue to teach and coach young dancers. Being "a choreographers company" makes it wonderful to work with, as the dancers are willing to experiment and collaborate.

What are some of the challenges of choreographing Beauty and the Beast?

The main challenge to choreographing "Beauty and the Beast" has been for me to decide which stylistic direction to pursue as my original inspiration was the incredible Jean Cocteau film, but the idea of using Tchaikovsky for another classical/neoclassical full-length ballet intrigued me and pushed me in a direction that exploited ballet classicism and its creative possibilities.

Can you give audiences a little preview information about the show?

This "Beauty and the Beast" tells a romantic, emotional story and contains a great deal of challenging classical dancing with beautiful costumes.

Why do you think the ballet will appeal to its audience?

The appeal of this ballet will be it progressing as a dramatic and exciting dance spectacle plus its beautiful designs and its incredible Tchaikovsky score, some of which is new to the ballet world in this diverse compilation.

Anything else, absolutely anything you want readers to know?

This is a timeless tale of love and redemption and of the idea that true love can be found in the most unexpected places. If one truly loves traditional classical ballet and its creative potential, then this might just be the ballet for you. Also, the idea of a new full-length Tchaikovsky ballet might be intriguing to lovers of ballet.

Can you share with us any of your future plans?

On February 13th, 2020, Cincinnati Ballet premieres my third production of the full-length "Swan Lake". Its a production that combines my contemporary theatrical sensibility with over 50 years of research into the original version, technique and style. I hope to soon revive my Philip Glass ballet "Vortex" to his violin concerto.

Interview: Choreographer Kirk Peterson and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by ARB at State Theatre NJ on 5/10

Beauty and the Beast at State Theatre has been generously funded in part by the late David A. Tierno and his wife Enea, with additional support from Duncan and Nancy MacMillan and The Edward T. Cone Foundation. Tickets to the show on May 10 start at $35. To order online visit or State Theatre New Jersey at, 732.246.7469.

Photo Credit: Lois Greenfield and courtesy of Kirk Peterson


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