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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Tiler Peck

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Tiler Peck
Tiler Peck

My theatre life subject for today is one I've wanted to interview for a long while now. Tiler Peck is one of those performers that automatically brings any stage to life from her first entrance and keeps you captivated until her final bow.

This Monday night October 29th, you can see her choreographic debut with a piece called Lincoln Square as part of Gathering, the latest installment of Damian Woetzel's DEMO series at the Kennedy Center. Ms. Peck will also be performing in the piece. The program will also feature several other recent commissions and DC premieres from some of today's most creative voices in dance and music.

Tiler Peck has been a principal dancer with New York City Ballet (NYCB) since 2009. You might have seen her on Broadway in On The Town as Ivy Smith or in The Music Man as Gracie Shinn. She starred as Marie in the World Premiere Kennedy Center production of Little Dancer. It was that performance that made me and a lot of others in this area take notice of Ms. Peck not only as a dancer, but as a strong actress and singer.

Tiler guest starred on Julie Andrews's Netflix series Julie's Greenroom. You may have seen her on television as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, dancing in the Kennedy Center Honors tributes for 2012 and 2014 honorees Natalia Makarova and Patricia McBride, or performing the role of Louise Bigelow in New York Philharmonic's Live from Lincoln Center production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel (choreographed by Warren Carlyle and directed by John Rando). She has also appeared on Dancing with the Stars; and Live from Lincoln Center's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker.

Film credits include staring in the Hulu documentary Ballet Now, Ballet 422, A Time for Dancing, Geppetto, Donnie Darko, and Jerome Robbins' NY Export: Opus Jazz.

Tiler was the recipient of the Princess Grace Statue Award in 2013, The Dance Magazine Award in 2016, and named one of Forbes 30 under 30 in Hollywood and Entertainment. She is the spokesperson for Body Wrappers and designer of Tiler Peck Designs.

Tiler Peck's career extends from classical dance to Broadway musicals and beyond. It doesn't matter if she is performing Susan Stroman's choreography in Little Dancer or George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, when Tiler Peck graces a stage in this country or somewhere else in the world (most recently Shanghai), you are guaranteed a performance you will always remember. This Monday evening is your next chance to see Tiler's work both as a choreographer and dancer in the latest installment of DEMO. Head on over to Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater and start your week off right.

At what age did you see your first ballet and did you know right then and there that it was going to be your chosen profession?

I didn't see my first real ballet until I was eleven years old while I was doing The Music Man on Broadway. I went to see The Nutcracker at New York City Ballet and turned to my father and said, "Daddy, I am going to dance on that stage someday!" Growing up in California, I always thought I would end up in musical theater or commercial dance but that New York moment at the ballet definitely changed my perspective.

Where did you go to school to study dance?

I first went to my mother's studio, Bakersfield Dance Company, in my hometown. Then, I trained at Studio C, which was a competitive studio while taking ballet privately with Alla Khaniashvili. I also trained at Westside School of Ballet with Yvonne Mounsey and Patricia Neary before finding my way to The School of American Ballet in New York.

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

My first professional job was a Sabon commercial at the age of six.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Tiler Peck
Tiler Peck and Roman Meija in Lincoln Square, Choreography by Ms. Peck. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Please tell us something about the piece you choreographed, Lincoln Square that will be featured as part of DEMO on Monday evening at Kennedy Center?

Lincoln Square was composed by Adam Wachter, a friend of mine, and given to me as a Valentine's Day present. There are melodies within the piece that resemble things in my life, like Little Dancer, that perhaps only I can hear. I thought, "What a prefect piece of music to use for my first time choreographing"- something that would be personal to me.

Is Lincoln Square your choreographic debut? If yes how did you enjoy being on the other side of the footlights?

Yes, it is. Actually, I wasn't on the other side because I ended up having to be in the piece when the dancer I originally imagined for the role was no longer available. So, in a way, it was actually harder because I could only watch the piece through video.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Tiler Peck
Tiler Peck and Boyd Gaines in the 2014 World Premiere Kennedy Center production of Little Dancer. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

You were part of the World Premiere of Little Dancer at Kennedy Center. Can you please talk about the experience of putting that show?

Little Dancer was one of the best experiences of my career. The love I have for the show, the creative team, and my time in DC is something I will never forget! I always look forward to coming back to the Kennedy Center because it feels like my second home after Little Dancer. The show just encompasses everything I love: dance, art, and theater.

You have performed on Broadway twice in On the Town and The Music Man. Is the process of putting a ballet together more concentrated time wise than putting up a Broadway musical?

There are many more rehearsals given for a Broadway show for sure. When we put a ballet together we normally get a few weeks depending on how long the ballet is... sometimes it is just a few days, and then there is the premiere. There aren't any "previews" like on Broadway, where the world gets to see the piece onstage before the premiere.

Having been a principal dancer with NYCB for almost ten years now, can you please pick a few of your favorite roles you have danced with the company?

This is always a hard question to answer but I can single out Coppelia, Allegro Brilliante, Theme and Variations, Who Cares?, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a little girl or boy sitting out in the audience watching a dance performance and thinking "I want to be just like that dancer someday."?

I think the best advice is to aim for the stars...I was in fact that little girl too. I think that an immense amount of hard work, dedication, and determination goes into this art form, but if you love it, there literally isn't any better feeling then when you dance!

What does the rest of the 18/19 season hold in store for you?

We are about to open our Nutcracker season where I play the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dewdrop. Little Dancer is having a new life called Marie in Seattle and I am looking forward to dancing all of the amazing ballets on the calendar at the NYCB.

Here is a short video of Tiler Peck talking about one of her favorite roles.

Special thanks to Kennedy Center's dance publicist Brittany Laeger for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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