A few months ago, Tiler Peck turned 25. It’s an age when most ballet dancers are earning their first breakout roles, gradually discovering who they are onstage.

Not Peck. She followed an uncommonly accelerated path to the spotlight, joining New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 2004 at age 15 and becoming a principal in 2009. An enormously versatile dancer with prodigious technical gifts, she already has an enviable ballet resumé. She knows exactly who she is on NYCB’s stage.

Yet Peck has an appetite for challenges that has led her outside the ballet world. Her growing list of musical theater credits isn’t a surprise to longtime fans: Peck started out in jazz and commercial work, earning a role in director/choreographer Susan Stroman’s production of The Music Man on Broadway when she was just 11. She and her husband, fellow NYCB principal Robert Fairchild, had a well-received turn in the New York Philharmonic’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel last year, which was later broadcast on PBS.

In October, Peck will take on her biggest theatrical challenge to date: She’s set to dance (and sing and act) the title role in the new musical Little Dancer at the Kennedy Center. The project reunites her with Stroman, who custom-tailored Little Dancer—the story of the student who inspired Edgar Degas’ iconic sculpture—to Peck. “I was envisioning Tiler even as we were writing it,” Stroman says. “From the earliest stages, it was always her in my mind.”
In a way, Peck is a throwback to crossover dancers from 50 years ago. She’s a modern-day Vera Zorina, with that dare-you-to-look-away star quality many of today’s ballerinas lack. There is a certain hardness to that kind of glitter; Peck has yet to master the more soulful roles of the classical repertoire, and Broadway’s razzle-dazzle seems unlikely to deepen that side of her artistry. But few performers feel as at home singing Rodgers and Hammerstein as they do dancing Balanchine. What other 25-year-old could inspire a Broadway director to conceive a musical for her while simultaneously serving as a muse for contemporary ballet choreographers? Peck is a true stage animal.

Navigating her jam-packed schedule—at the moment, she’s essentially working two full-time jobs as she rehearses for Little Dancer’s opening—requires exceptional drive. That’s never been a problem for Peck. Even as a young child studying jazz and other styles at her mother’s dance studio in Bakersfield, California, she was always hungry for more opportunities. In her jazz classes, she discovered the freedom that now characterizes her performances at NYCB. “I think that background gave me something unique—it kept me from being afraid,” she says. “In jazz, you’re throwing your body around all the time. You learn to just go for it.”

At 7, Peck began studying with former Bolshoi dancer Alla Khaniash­vili. Though it took her a while to warm up to ballet—“I was always ‘sick’ when it was time for ballet class,” she remembers—her mother insisted that she develop a solid technical foundation. Later Peck worked with former NYCB dancers Yvonne Mounsey and Colleen and Patricia Neary, who introduced her to Balanchine technique.

At the time, however, Peck was more interested in commercial work. When she got the call for The Music Man audition, she figured it was a long shot—previously, the role of mayor’s daughter Gracie Shinn had been played by an 18-year-old—but ended up booking the job. She moved to New York for a year to perform in the show, accompanied by her grandmother. While in New York, Peck began studying at the School of American Ballet, and found that she relished the difficulty of Balanchine’s style. A few years later, she enrolled in the school’s full-time program.

Peck loved living with like-minded ballet students, including Fairchild, in the school’s dorms. “It was like college, but at 14,” she says, laughing. Soon Fairchild became her first boyfriend. He also came from the jazz world—they’d first met a few years earlier in a jazz class at Steps on Broadway. “What we felt for each other was so big that at that age, we didn’t know what to do with it,” Peck says. They were an on-again, off-again couple for years. “I always knew she was the one,” Fairchild says, “but we both needed to grow up a little.”

At 15, Peck became a NYCB apprentice, and a few months later she joined the corps de ballet. Before long, artistic director Peter Martins had cast her as the lead in his Friandises, a showcase for rising corps dancers. Roles began coming thick and fast; Martins felt she was ready. “You would have to have your eyes closed not to recognize Tiler’s gifts,” he says. “Even at a very young age, she had an uncanny ability to understand the essence of each ballet—be it classical, romantic, contemporary, or neoclassical.”

Peck was just 20 when she became a principal. A couple years later, Stroman arrived at the NYCB studios to choreograph a new work, Frankie and Johnny…and Rose, with Peck at its center. By then Stroman had already begun thinking about Little Dancer. When Stroman asked Peck to participate in the musical’s workshop, the ballerina was initially taken aback. “I knew I wanted to come back to musical theater eventually, but I thought it would be something I’d do later on, a transition out of ballet,” she says. “I love City Ballet, and I have so much more to accomplish here.” Still, she found herself drawn to the show’s story, which follows the spirited Paris Opéra Ballet student who posed for Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen sculpture. Stroman and Martins worked together to ensure that none of her work on Little Dancer, which has a limited run at the Kennedy Center, would conflict with her NYCB schedule. “I didn’t want to choose one or the other—I wanted it all,” she says. “I’m so happy that somehow it worked out.”

Peck and Fairchild also worked out: In June, they married in New York City. Over the past few years, as they began dating seriously, they have danced together with increasing frequency, both at NYCB and on side gigs. “Not only do we have a great time together—she laughs at my jokes!—but we also push each other to be better,” Fairchild says. Peck appreciates that the two of them share the same drive. “When I’m working with other partners, I’ll say maybe five of the 10 things I want to fix,” she says. “With Robbie, we’re so close that we can both say it all, and make everything as perfect as possible.”
Though Peck sees more Broadway in her distant future, her current goals remain ballet-focused. She still dreams of conquering the dramatic roles that have so far eluded her, particularly Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. She has also enjoyed showing more of her natural persona onstage through the vibrant ballets of Justin Peck. There are more ballet mountains for her to climb, and she’s not a timid mountaineer.

 “The thing about Tiler is that you always have fun watching her onstage,” Fairchild says. “She works incredibly hard in the studio, and that’s how she’s become such a powerful artist. But by the time she gets to the performance, there are no nerves. You know it’s going to be spot on.”


Video still by Nel Shelby Productions, Courtesy Dancio.

"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."

For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.


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New York City Ballet in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Lincoln Center.

Nutcracker season is upon us, with productions popping up in on stages in big cities and small towns around the country. But this year you can catch New York City Ballet's famous version on the silver screen, too. Lincoln Center at the Movies and Screen Vision Media are presenting a limited engagement of NYCB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at select cinemas nationwide starting December 2. It stars Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop and Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier.

While nothing beats seeing a live performance (the company's theatrical Nutcracker run opens Friday), the big screen will no doubt magnify some of this production's most breathtaking effects: the Christmas tree that grows to an impressive 40 feet, Marie's magical spinning bed, and the stunning, swirling snow scene. Click here to find a participating movie theater near you—then, go grab some popcorn.

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Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet rehearsing for "The Sleeping Beauty" for the 2017/18 season. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today the Pennsylvania Ballet's board of trustees announced the appointment of Shelly Power as its new executive director. Having been involved in the five-month international search, company artistic director Angel Corella said in a statement released by PAB that he's "certain Shelly is the best candidate to lead the administrative team that supports the artistic vision of the company." Power's official transition will begin in February. This news comes at the end of a few years of turmoil and turnover at PAB, including the departure of former executive director David Gray in June.

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Pointe Stars
Tiler Peck with Andrew Veyette in "Allegro Brillante." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

"I was particularly excited when I saw my name on casting for Allegro Brillante in 2009," remembers principal dancer Tiler Peck. "Balanchine had said Allegro was, 'everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes,' and of course that terrified me." To calm her fear, Peck followed her regular process for debuts: begin by going back to the original performers to get an idea of the quality and feeling of the ballet and ballerina. "It is never to imitate, but rather to surround myself with as much knowledge from the past as I can so that I can find my own way," says Peck.

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


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