Curtain Up

April 26, 2010

Watching a dancer blossom into an artist is one of the joys of being in this field. I loved it as a teacher, and I love it as an audience member—and as an editor. When I first saw Tiler Peck dance with New York City Ballet, she was a perky, lightning-fast virtuoso. But in the last five years, she’s gone from being a streak of fuchsia onstage to imparting all the colors of the spectrum. I was transfixed when she held absolutely still at the bottom of a deep plié in the solemn ritual of Robbins’ Les Noces. Her debut as Aurora was triumphant for its loving command of the entire stage. As the girl in pink in Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering she filled each measure of the Chopin music with a sense of discovery and graciousness.


How did this young dancer get to be so mature, so full of possibilities? In “The Magnetic Tiler Peck,” Astrida Woods traces her path from being a commercial jazz kid in California to a star at NYCB. Peck has a special affinity for Robbins—that’s lucky, ’cause there’s plenty of his work at City Ballet. It’s lucky too that she was mentored by Damian Woetzel in his last years there, and he shared some of his performing secrets with her.


In another stage of a great career is Natalia Makarova, who made the fateful decision 40 years ago to defect from the Soviet Union. Since then she has lavished her gifts on us, both of her exquisite dancing and the production of Bayadère she built on American Ballet Theatre—which, coincidentally, is marking its 30th year. In “Here’s Looking at You, Natasha,” we celebrate this iconic artist with a collage of beautiful photos—and a bevy of them online too.


Will Tiler Peck become as great a ballerina as Makarova? It’s too early to tell, but she has a shot at it. She’s got the raw talent, the passion, and the energy to work hard. And coincidentally, one of her most glorious roles is Other Dances, the duet that Robbins made for Makarova and Baryshnikov.

Just as a single dancer can evolve and absorb outside influences, so can an art form. In “Rhythm Mash-ups”, Darrah Carr, a postmodern Irish step dancer, strikes into a vein of collaboration (I don’t dare say fusion), where tap meets Kathak or flamenco. These artists are borrowing, trading off, and flying together on the same magic carpet of rhythm.



Photo of Tiler Peck and NYCB wardrobe staffer Bonnie Walker by Matthew Karas.