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

Tiler Peck on Making the Lead in "Allegro Brillante" Her Own

"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.

The ballet had premiered with Maria Tallchief and Nicholas Magallanes in 1956. Peck also watched the video of Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins and found Farrell's sense of freedom especially helpful. Coaches Susan Hendl and Richard Tanner taught Peck the steps but gave her room to find her own voice. "That's what I love about Susie; she never insists that two ballerinas do a role the same way," says Peck. "But I also have a fond memory of my stage rehearsal with Peter Martins. He was pushing me and challenging me in ways that I didn't even think were possible. That energy rubbed off on me. It made me more confident to go out there and just leave it all on the dance floor."

Peck found her signature sparkly style by choosing to simply lean into the fear and challenge of dancing a ballet that is all about the ballerina. "I must admit that when I walk to the center of the stage for my solo in the cadenza, I always feel the pressure of having to command the entire stage—it's just me and the pianist. It is terrifying, exhilarating and freeing at the same time."

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