Since creating his first work for New York City Ballet in 2012, 29-year-old Justin Peck has catapulted into a dancemaking career that spans ballet and contemporary companies across the world. His spellbinding formations, unusual partnering and impossibly fast petit allégro—along with his hipster-cool collaborations with trendsetters like alt-rocker Sufjan Stevens and fashion label Opening Ceremony—give ballet a bolt of fresh, Millennial energy. Next year, he'll add Broadway to his resumé, taking a turn at reinventing Agnes de Mille's classic scenes in Carousel.
New Year's resolutions don't always have to be difficult or boring. To prove it, we challenge you to take on these two lighthearted resolutions for 2017:
- Go to more movies.
- Brush up on your dance history.
And we're making it really easy for you. Thanks to Fathom Events' upcoming programming of old movie musicals and classic dance films, you can kill two birds with one stone. This month, a trio of stellar movies returns to the big screen, and each one holds a special place in pop culture and dance history. Here's what's playing at hundreds of theaters across the country:
Carousel, January 8 and 11
A scene from Carousel. Photo Courtesy Fathom Events.
Carousel the movie, adapted from the 1945 Broadway musical, is the first Fathom revival to hit theaters this month. The Rodgers & Hammerstein production, starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae, weaves a complex story about a carnival barker and a mill worker who fall in love—and the drama that ensues when things turn sour. Dancers will love the dream ballet, based on the scene's Broadway choreography by Agnes de Mille. Bonus fun fact: In 2002, Christopher Wheeldon choreographed Carousel (A Dance), on New York City Ballet's Alexandra Ansanelli and Damian Woetzel. The 15-minute distillation, featuring music from the original show, is still in the company's repertoire.
Singin' in the Rain, January 15 and 18
O’Connor and Kelly in the number "Fit as a Fiddle." Photo Courtesy DM Archives.
Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and the late Debbie Reynolds made a memorable trio in this landmark movie musical from 1962. It's full of familiar tunes, like "Good Morning" and "Make 'Em Laugh," and who could forget Kelly's famous tap routine in the rain? Relive it all—or enjoy it for the first time.
Dirty Dancing, January 29 and February 1
Feels like flying. Photo Courtesy Fathom Events
The 80s classic starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze turns 30 this year, so there's no better time to invite the tweens from your studio—who likely have never seen Dirty Dancing—on a tagalong outing. Before you go, brush up on your partnering skills. We're all for acting out the choreography along with the movie. Nothing says "I'm Having the Time of My Life" better than the lift. Be warned: Theater staff and other moviegoers may or may not frown upon full-blown reenactments.
For tickets and more details, visit fathomevents.com. See you at the movies!
On remaking Agnes de Mille’s classic dances in Carousel
Byrd working with Spectrum Dance Theater. Photo by Nate Watters, Courtesy Spectrum Dance Theater.
Though he’s best known for his highly physical and socially engaged contemporary choreography, Donald Byrd is no novice when it comes to musical theater. The Spectrum Dance Theater artistic director received a 2006 Tony nomination for his work on The Color Purple. Now, Byrd and his dancers have teamed up with the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle for a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic Carousel, running February 5–March 1. The show, which revolves around the ill-fated carousel barker Billy Bigelow, comes with a weighty choreographic pedigree: Agnes de Mille choreographed the 1945 original.
What cues have you taken from de Mille’s Carousel?
I wanted to honor Agnes de Mille because she was the original author, so she’s quoted in all of the dances. If you know them, you’ll recognize them. The choreography is contemporary, but it’s also balletic, like the original. However, our sensibility of how dance numbers work in musicals is different than in the past. Theater used to have a great sense of building to a real climax—the classic kind of arc. I’ve tried to give it that old-fashioned sense of how a number builds, but also include the highly physical dancing that we’ve gotten used to in musicals.
Did you ever work directly with de Mille?
When I went to the Harvard summer dance school, she came to give a lecture. She watched a class and came up to me at the end and said, “Young man, you need to go to New York. And tell them I sent you.” So I did, actually.
What themes of Carousel have you highlighted for the contemporary audience?
One of the things we’re talking about this season at Spectrum is virtue. The virtue of forgiveness and the notion of redemption fit right in with Carousel. Billy’s character reminds me of somebody who is ill-equipped to deal with his circumstances—the way he treats Julie, his wife. He hits her, and her justification is the same one that you hear for domestic violence now. Certainly people weren’t talking about these things then, in the setting of the musical and even in the period it was produced.
What are the challenges of sharing the work in a co-production?
You have to acknowledge the hierarchy in the theater. The director is the boss, so I answer to him, but all of us answer to the producer. It’s a different level of input. At Spectrum, I’m the final word.
What do you look for in your dancers?
I used to say I look for dancers who are fearless, but that’s not true. I don’t think that anybody is fearless. I look for people who can act in spite of their fear. And also I look for people I wouldn’t mind spending a day with, people I wouldn’t mind having dinner with.