Justin Peck on His Tony Win—and What Really Fuels the Broadway Community
Could Justin Peck be any busier? In the midst of pulling triple duty at New York City Ballet—as a soloist, resident choreographer and a member of its interim artistic team—he also managed to choreograph a Broadway show. Then, last month, on his first try, he won a Tony Award for best choreography for the revival of Carousel.
The morning after the ceremony, he shared an exuberant Instagram post: As he exited the stage after winning, he ran into the Carousel sailors backstage as they were entering to perform "Blow High, Blow Low" for the telecast. He wrote: "None of them knew we had just been awarded the Tony, and I stood in front of them holding the award, speechless. They erupted in excitement and we exchanged a beautiful moment of embraces, cheers, and happiness. Certainly the highlight of the night for me!" Recently, via email, we caught up with the peripatetic Mr. Peck.
In your wildest dreams did you ever imagine you'd win a Tony on your first try?
No way! I had dreamt of it for a long, long time, though. I always watch the award ceremony on TV each year. And I love to see how the theater community celebrates their collective annual achievements. The inclusive and festive nature of the Tonys is something I always admired. So it was surreal to get to partake in that.
Do you think it will be possible to continue dancing and choreographing at NYCB and working on Broadway?
I love theater and dance, and I'm certainly lucky to get to partake in both communities. So I'm hoping to find a way to sustain further interaction within the two worlds. There are lessons learned from both genres, and I think the crossover allows for me to grow as a contributing artist towards each respective artistic world.
What did you take away from your Carousel experience that will enable you to hit the ground running on your next Broadway project?
Carousel was the perfect basis to learn how a Broadway show is built. I was able to absorb so much, especially from working on a classic golden-age musical.
Peck reinvented Carousel's choreography for its Broadway revival. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy DKC/O&M
For example, how to work with creative collaborators, what sort of endurance is required for the rehearsal/tech/preview periods, the prioritization of storytelling within the theatrical experience, the importance of being a constructive/encouraging/supportive company leader, how to fix or improve a dance number by reading the audience's reactions, how Schmackary's cookies fuel the entire Broadway community. I could go on for quite a while about the lessons I've learned.
- From Balanchine To Broadway: Brittany Pollack On Her Carousel ... ›
- We Have a Few Dance-Centric Ideas for the 2018 Tony Awards ›
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: