Dancer Spotlight

New York City Ballet Corps Member Peter Walker Is Also a Rising Choreographer

Peter Walker with Erica Pereira in "Romeo + Juliet." Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB.

At age 25, New York City Ballet corps member Peter Walker is attracting admirers by simultaneously succeeding at two demanding careers: dancer and choreographer. Last winter, he made his debut alongside soloist Erica Pereira in the title role of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet. Just a few weeks earlier, he had presented his second world premiere for the company, dance odyssey.

"It's a goal of mine to be operating at a high level as both a choreographer and as a dancer," Walker says of dividing his time equally. "Peter has earned his success by doing everything right at every step," praises NYCB principal Daniel Ulbricht.

Lauren King and Company in Peter Walker's "dance odyssey." Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB.


By now, Walker has danced a variety of featured roles at NYCB, from Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Agon
to Mauro Bigonzetti's Oltremare (which he was thrown into at the last minute with principal Tiler Peck). He was introduced to dance by learning tap in his hometown of Fort Myers, Florida. At the urging of his ballet teacher (and former NYCB principal) Melinda Roy, he started concentrating on ballet. By 2007, Walker was accepted at the School of American Ballet year-round, and was invited to NYCB's affiliated New York Choreographic Institute in 2011 and 2012. He entered NYCB in 2012, as a tall, gangly adolescent.

"I hired a personal trainer to get me in my best shape," Walker says, noting that cross-training and meal plans still remain a part of his routine. It's paid off: A combination of artistry and sheer physical strength allowed him to impart a liquid-like flow to a variety of difficult lifts in Romeo + Juliet. In the balcony scene, he went down on one knee—not the most secure of poses to precede a lift—reached out and pulled Pereira toward him, slowly turning her in midair until he could drape her across his other knee. All done in sync with Prokofiev's ardent score.

New York City Ballet in Peter Walker's "ten in seven." Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB.

As a choreographer, Walker has the ability to concentrate on more than steps. His first work for NYCB, ten in seven, premiered at the company's fall 2016 gala with a guitar-centric score. In an odd yet appealing way, the music matches the look of the dancers and the spirit of the work.

Following the composition world closely, Walker chooses his music first, completely immersing himself in it before developing any choreography. "I form the broad arc of the piece, and I have an idea of the feeling behind each movement of music, but I don't usually come up with the steps before I'm in the studio," he says.

Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro in Peter Walker's "dance odyssey." Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB.

"He's very musical, which helps with partnering and really shows in his choreography," says Tiler Peck, who was featured in Walker's latest piece, dance odyssey. Walker notes that "the challenge is to figure out how to show the physicality of the music—to find its ideal physical pairing."

This summer, Walker was invited to Munich, Germany, for the Bayerische Staatsoper Young Choreographers 2018 program to premiere a work for five dancers. "But currently, my number one priority is dancing," he says before sharing his hopes
to continue choreographing for stage and video projects. Walker has a cheery response to questions about what his future may hold: "We'll see," he says.

Ballet Careers
Eri Nishihara in Rex Wheeler's Symphonic Dances. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Eri Nishihara graduated from University of Utah with a BFA in ballet performance in 2016.

As her time in high school drew to a close, Eri Nishihara knew she wasn't ready to dance professionally. She had seen dancers her age from other cities at summer intensives and didn't think that she was up to company caliber yet. "I didn't want to feel like I was having to keep up for a lack of training or experience, while adjusting to a new professional life," she says. Nishihara had trained with University of Utah professors in the past, through summer intensives at Ballet West, and felt that their teaching style would best prepare her for a future career.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Apolla

Ballet dancers today are asked to do more with their bodies than ever before. The physical demands of a ballet career can take an immense toll on a dancer's joints and muscles—subjecting them to pain, inflammation and an increased risk of injury. Considering all that is required of today's dancers, having a top-notch recovery regime is paramount.

Enter Apolla Performance Wear, which is meeting ballet's physical demands with a line of compression footwear that is speeding up the recovery process for professional dancers by reducing inflammation and stabilizing the joints.

Keep reading... Show less
News
The Washington Ballet's NEXTsteps program opens this week. Here are company dancers Ashley Murphy-Wilson and Alexandros Papajohn. Procopio Photography, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ballet West in rehearsal for Le Chant du Rossignol. Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West.

Ballet West opens its season October 25–November 2 with a triptych of works from George Balanchine's early choreographic career with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Highlighting the program is Balanchine's 1925 The Song of the Nightingale (Le Chant du Rossignol), never before seen in the U.S. This ballet is not only the first piece that a then-21-year-old Balanchine made for the Ballets Russes; it also marks his first collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, and features costumes by Henri Matisse. To bring it to Salt Lake City, Ballet West is working closely with Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, who reconstructed the work for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 1999.

Keep reading... Show less