Justin Peck Just Choreographed on Emma Stone, Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and 9 Other Celebs
Julia Roberts is one of 12 celebs Justin Peck choreographed on. Photo by Philip Montgomery, Courtesy NYT Mag.
Each year, The New York Times Magazine shines a spotlight on who they deem to be the best actors of the year in its Great Performers series. But, what we're wondering is, can they dance? Thankfully, the NYT Mag recruited none other than Justin Peck to put them to the test.
Peck choreographed and directed a series of 10 short dance films, placing megastars in everyday situations: riding the subway, getting out of bed in the morning, waiting at a doctor's office.
Be on the lookout for Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Emma Stone, Elsie Fisher, Glenn Close, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield and others.
They're simple moments of movement—you won't see Glenn Close attempting a triple pirouette, but you will appreciate her épaulement as she portrays a janitor working the night shift, who suddenly breaks into dance, partnered by her mop.
Dance filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz was also on set as Peck's associate director and editor of the films. Even when the actors aren't doing a lot of big-D "Dancing," you'll notice a smart sensibility woven throughout these beautifully edited shorts.
In "Table Manners," for instance, Ethan Hawke grows increasingly overwhelmed, portraying a diner who's unsure of which utensils he should use. Within a matter of seconds, he strips the table of its cloth, wielding it like a toreador with a cape.
All of the shorts are solos except one trio featuring The Favourite co-stars, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman, who engage in a tango-tinged battle for a cup of joe in a scene called "Coffee to Go."
If you're curious how Peck coached the celebrities through the choreography, check out this behind-the-scenes video. He gets candid about which actors lent themselves to dancier material. "Regina Hall was one of the most graceful actors we worked with," he says in the video. "She has a beautiful line and extension, and so we wanted to include that in the film." Don't miss her gorgeous feet in "Rise and Shine."
Peck also describes Toni Collette as "amazing dancer" who was "so committed to the movement and went at it 1,000 percent." And he lauds Lakeith Stanfield as a "fascinating mover," mentioning that he showed up on set ready to collaborate with his own movement ideas.
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.