A Day in the Life of Dancer and Choreographer Justin Peck

Published in the August/September 2013 issue.

Photography by Kyle Froman

 

It’s been a remarkable year for Justin Peck. Since last summer, the 25-year-old choreographer and New York City Ballet dancer has been promoted to soloist, seen the premieres of three of his works on the company’s home stage, created his first piece for Miami City Ballet and received a Benois de la Danse award nomination for his ballet Year of the Rabbit.

But his successes have also made for a jam-packed schedule, as Peck balances his increasingly demanding choreographic career with an increasingly challenging slate of dance roles. “The days when I’m choreographing, and rehearsing a dance part, and then performing at night—you can get a little glazed over,” he says.

Peck is finding, though, that wearing multiple hats has broadened his perspective. “Working on meatier roles has helped me learn just how mutually beneficial choreographing and dancing can be,” he says. “When I dance a principal part, I get to know an incredible ballet from the inside out—its style and its structure—and I can take that with me into my own choreographic work. The same thing goes in reverse: Experimenting with different types of movement prepares me to tackle new styles as a dancer.”

Warming up before company class with NYCB principal Rebecca Krohn

Grabbing a snack en route from his apartment to the David H. Koch Theater

Rehearsing corps member Lydia Wellington for a new ballet, which touring ensemble NYCB MOVES will premiere in August

“Lydia’s dancing has a peaceful quality,” says Peck. “I wanted to bring that out.”

Rehearsing Jerome Robbins’ "The Cage" with principal Sterling Hyltin and ballet master Jean-Pierre Frohlich. “Figuring out the nuances in the choreography that transform you into this buglike creature—it takes a lot of refining to get that right,” Peck says.

Applying makeup before the show

Dancing Bernardo opposite Georgina Pazcoguin’s Anita in a dress rehearsal for Robbins’ "West Side Story Suite." Peck says, “I really enjoy ballets where I get to take part in the storytelling.”