(Peck, front right, in his own work Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes)
“There’s this Diaghilev quote that I always go back to. It’s very simple. He said, “I have big plans.” Maybe I’m being overly optimistic. But that’s how I feel. ” – Justin Peck
At age 13, Justin Peck was cast as in extra in American Ballet Theatre’s touring production of Giselle. Witnessing the athleticism of ABT’s male dancers Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, and Ethan Stiefel inspired him to begin ballet training. Previously, he had only taken classes in tap and musical theater. He found ballet challenging, particularly extension and turnout. Nonetheless, within just two years, he proved proficient enough to be accepted into the School of American Ballet. He became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in 2006, a corps member in 2007, and a soloist in 2013.
Peck’s career took a unique turn when he decided to take a dance criticism course at Columbia University. There, his professor Mindy Anloff told him he had a good mind for choreography and encouraged him to give it try. Peck’s first work was a pas de deux for the student-run company Columbia Ballet Collaborative. From there he went on to New York City Ballet’s affiliated program The New York Choreographic Institute. His creations caught the eye of NYCB’s artistic director Peter Martins who invited him to choreograph for the company.
In 2014, after choreographing for New York City Ballet for only two years, Peck was named New York City Ballet’s Resident Choreographer. He was just 26 at the time. New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay has written that Peck is “the third important choreographer to have emerged in classical ballet this century, following Christopher Wheeldon and [Alexei] Ratmansky.”
In Peck’s choreographic process, music and collaboration have priority. He told the Washington Post,”My philosophy on choreography is that the making of a ballet is a team effort, and we’re in this together. It’s not me hammering on them. It’s more about how we can elevate this piece collectively to something great.”
- Peck’s role in ABT’s Giselle at age 13 was a dog handler in Act I
- His guilty food pleasure is Australian licorice
- He admits the main reason he wanted to attend SAB was to live in New York City; he didn’t actually know much about Balanchine when he applied.
Follow Peck On:
His website: http://www.justin-peck.com/
Justin Peck and Janie Taylor
Justin Peck and Taylor Stanley on Peck’s ‘Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes
Justin Peck & Sufjan Stevens – Excerpts and discussion of Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit”
Miami City Ballet: Justin Peck & Shepard Fairey – Excerpts and discussion of Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit”
DanceTabs Interview with Peck
TimeOut New York Interview with Peck
The Washington Post’s Article on Peck
Vulture’s Article on Peck
The Daily Beast’s Article on Peck
Dujour’s Article on Peck
Documentary on Peck Choreographing Paz de la Jolla