Justin Peck's Quirky New Pas de Deux

This interview first appeared in the April 17 Pointe e-newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.

On April 20, Miami City Ballet will collaborate for the first time with Miami's New World Symphony, premiering CHUTES AND LADDERS—a pas de deux by choreographer-of-the-moment Justin Peck—as part of the symphony's New Work program. Pointe's e-news talked to MCB principal Jeanette Delgado about working with Peck on the piece, which is set to Benjamin Britten's String Quartet No. 1.

How would you describe CHUTES AND LADDERS? 

We started off rehearsals by working on a section where we're facing the musicians, not the audience. So from the beginning the idea was, this is about the music, and it's for the musicians as much as anyone. We're performing at The New World Center, so they're inviting us into their home, and this is our way of saying "thank you."

What is it like working with Peck in the studio?
Justin has an interesting way of giving you analogies and little bits of imagery to help you get what he wants, so you aren't just mimicking his movements. By the end I felt like I was moving differently—it wasn't just Jeanette dancing in yet another piece. He also created a nice push and pull between the choreography and the score. At one point he said to me, "OK, this part is a race between you and the music." Other times he asked us to elongate everything until we were almost late. He wants the audience to see all the dynamics of the melody.

How does dancing to live music change the nature of a performance?
Watching music is just like watching dance in the sense that the closer you are to it, the more you feel the rhythm and the life. For CHUTES AND LADDERS the musicians will be onstage with us, so we'll be able to feed off each others' energy. And with live music there's always more breath to everything. You can never give a stale performance, because you have to be completely present—the way they play the music is never going to be the same twice!


Latest Posts

Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Liam Scarlett with Marianela Nuñez and Ryoichi Hirano during a rehearsal of his Swan Lake at The Royal Ballet. Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy ROH

Choreographer Liam Scarlett Has Died

Over the weekend, news broke that 35-year-old choreographer Liam Scarlett, a former artist in residence at The Royal Ballet, died suddenly at his home in England. "It is with great sadness that we announce the tragic, untimely death of our beloved Liam," Scarlett's family said in a brief statement. "At this difficult time for all of our family, we would ask that you respect our privacy to enable us to grieve our loss."

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks