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The Jazzy Virtuoso

Making rhythm fascinating: Peck in Who Cares?
(photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)

Carefree and confident, New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck lights up the stage in “Fascinatin' Rhythm," one of the principal solos in Balanchine's Who Cares? “It's one of my favorites," she says. “Every time I perform it, I feel like I'm doing it for the first time." Choreographed for Patricia McBride in 1970, “Fascinatin' Rhythm" requires impeccable technique and serious musicality to show off George Gershwin's jazzy rhythms. Here, Peck shares how she makes the solo such a showstopper.

Musicality Matters

“Musicality is number one," says Peck. “It's the driving force behind the whole variation." She recommends finding moments of stillness to contrast faster movements. In the first section, Peck sustains her piqué coupé to plié, “because it makes the hitch-kick afterward seem that much more surprising." Before the slow sultry section, she pauses before slinking into another pose. “You can be still in the midst of the crazy-fast solo and show another facet of your dancing."

The “Switch Switch"

Dancers tend to have trouble sustaining their balance during the fast arabesque/à la seconde/arabesque body changes (aka the “switch switch"). To stay over her standing leg, Peck suggests hitting a good arabesque first. “If you cheat and flip right to second, you're not going to do it." She also relies on her focus. “When I go to second, I look at my leg and then back to front for the arabesque. Torquing the body helps and gives me something else to think about."

Play with Syncopation

Peck performs the échappé section differently every time. While she doesn't change the steps, she syncopates them in various ways. “I let the music inspire me to hold an échappé here, or a passé there. It's whatever I want to do in the moment!" When she goes to hold a position, she commits to it. “That makes it more exciting for me."

Stamina Secret

It's easy to lose steam towards the end of the two-and-a-half-minute solo, so Peck tricks herself into believing it's easier than it actually is. “Instead of thinking of it as one long variation, I imagine it as three sections: the opening, the slow part in the middle and the end. From the échappés on, you're home free!"

Pencil-Turn Finish

To control the last diagonal of dizzying turns, focus less on your spot and more on the rhythm. “Keep in tempo with the four piqué walks and step-up double pencil. Find your position with the leg at 45 degrees and don't let it waver," Peck says, because sneaking into the turn will make it even harder. “If you really listen to the music, it will drive you home."

Postelwaite and Pantastico's powerful reunion in "Cendrillon." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Lucien Postlewaite's Prince was anything but charming last February in Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Cendrillon, Jean-Christophe Maillot's contemporary take on the Cinderella story. He strutted and preened, egged on by his friends. But once this prince met Cendrillon at the ball, his egotism gave way to lyrical grace, from the curve of his neck through his elegant extensions. For her part, Noelani Pantastico embodied the role of Cendrillon, taking us on her journey from a lonely, unwanted stepdaughter to a lovestruck young woman. Both dancers glided through the technically demanding choreography, infusing it with heartfelt emotion. This may be a fairy tale, but the romance felt real.

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Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet.

This time of year, we're used to seeing dancers embodying the flavors of The Nutcracker's magical Land of Sweets. But the real-life equivalents of those seasonal treats are more than just holiday guilty pleasures, and have benefits that could help you get through a crazy month of performances. Here are a few reasons to indulge in the spices and flavors of the season—now, and all year long.

Peppermint

This powerhouse herb has an abundance of benefits to help you get through a busy performance season. It's been known to aid digestion and help calm anxiety, and one study found that inhaling its vapors may improve athletic performance. Smelling peppermint has also been found to increase focus. You don't just have to get it from candy canes: Try brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea between rehearsals, or to wind down after a long day.

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Richmond Ballet dancers show off two adoptable shelter dogs at its annual "Pupcracker." Photo courtesy Richmond Ballet

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Audience members can meet and adopt featured dogs during intermission. Photo Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

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Rudolf Nureyev and Merle Park in "The Nutcracker" (1968). Photo by Donald Southern, Courtesy of the Royal Opera House Collections.

Given the thousands of incarnations The Nutcracker has undergone—from tiny-tot productions in small-town studios to grand modern classics—the ballet's Grand Pas de Deux from Act II has remained remarkably intact. With slight variations, most professional dancers have seen its familiar choreography at some point or another. Tchaikovsky's radiant score calls to mind elegant promenades, partnered penchées and slow, supported développés.

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Photo by Taylor-Ferné Morris.

I have flatter feet and want to make them look better on pointe. Are there any special pointe shoes for my foot type? —Joana

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Photo by Kyle Froman

Peek inside Devon Teuscher's pointe shoes and you'll see a discreetly placed number. "I want to see how many shoes I go through in a year," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. "Last year it was close to 200 pairs." Teuscher keeps a Sharpie handy for this season's count in a small pouch containing other shoe accessories like ribbons and elastics. It's one of a handful of carefully organized pouches stored in her red mesh bag. "I'm definitely not a pack rat," she says of her no-frills style. Teuscher's bag came from Ascot + Hart, a California boutique that her sister introduced her to. "I love that it's breathable and lightweight and it can pack quite a bit. It's also easy to wash."

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