What happens when you cross ballet with electronic music? Ballet fans found out last night, watching the innovative choreography by New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck to songs by Sufjan Stevens. At the Guggenheim’s Works & Process, the choreographer and composer, along with conductor Michael Atkinson, discussed their collaboration while NYCB dancers offered a preview of Year of the Rabbit.
Inspired by the Chinese zodiac signs, Stevens put out the album Enjoy Your Rabbit back in 2001. Peck heard the music on WNYC and thought it very danceable; he began to experiment with the album's songs at the New York Choreographic Institute in 2010. The result was so impressive that NYCB commissioned him choreograph the full work for the company, and Peck began working with Stevens and Atkinson to translate the electronic music score for string quartet and eventually for a string orchestra. The trio had ballet in mind throughout the music translation process, because, according to Peck, dancers count music differently than musicians.
At the event, principal Tiler Peck performed an excerpt while Peck gave her corrections. The contrast between the fluid movements of the body and the rigid electronic music (performed by violins) was enchanting. It was also fascinating to watch the young choreographer at work—Peck is only 24 years old!
Year of the Rabbit will have its world premiere next Friday, October 5 at Lincoln Center in New York City.
UPCOMING WORKS & PROCESS :
American Ballet Theatre: Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. Watch the livestream of the September 30 performance at 7:30 pm EDT at ustream.tv/worksandprocess. I'll also be hosting a conversation about the performance on Twitter. Follow @emdanceballet @WorksandProcess and #WPlive.