Tiler Peck Says This Hulu Documentary Shows Her Most Exhausted, Honest Self
Tiler Peck is coming to Hulu. Fans everywhere can catch her new documentary, called Ballet Now, starting on July 20. But Seattle residents will get a sneak peek at the Seattle International Film Festival starting tonight.
The film follows the New York City Ballet principal during her time directing the BalletNOW series at The Music Center in Los Angeles last July. And it's got some legit names behind it: The director is Steven Cantor, who's mostly known in ballet circles for directing Sergei Polunin's DANCER. And the producers include Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Productions, Cantor's Stick Figure Productions and none other than actress Elisabeth Moss, who stars in Hulu's hit "The Handmaid's Tale."
We caught up with Peck to get the inside scoop.
How She Went From Principal Dancer To Director
Peck hired dancers from NYCB, ABT, Paris Opéra Ballet, Miami City Ballet and other companies. Still from Ballet Now, via dogwoofsales.com
Last year, The Music Center reached out to Peck (who happens to be an L.A.-native) to ask if she'd curate its second-ever BalletNOW program. They gave her free reign to choose the dancers and rep—basically to put together a program of whatever she considered "Ballet Now" to mean. She created different programs for each of the three nights, featuring 24 dancers and 16 ballets overall.
Oh, and she also performed in three or four of those ballets each night.
"I had never been so tired in my life," Peck admits. "I was putting the rehearsal schedule together, I was picking out the dressing rooms, I was making sure all the costumes were together, I was going over tempos with the conductor. Anytime anybody had a question, people were looking to me. I'd be out in the audience during rehearsals, taking notes to give corrections and then I'd have to run onstage to pull on a tutu and do Stars and Stripes. "
And, whether she liked it or not, cameras were right there to capture every moment.
So What's The Elisabeth Moss Connection?
Elisabeth Moss made a point to see Tiler Peck perform in The Sleeping Beauty last year. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
It turns out that Elisabeth Moss went to the same ballet school as Peck—Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica—although not at the same time. Moss told Peck that as soon as she saw her name attached to the project, she jumped at the chance to help make dance more mainstream. "She wanted to show the truth behind the scenes of what it takes," says Peck.
What It's Like To Watch Herself In The Film
Although Peck usually hates seeing herself on screen, she loves the honest way that director Steven Cantor captured her. "You can see how exhausted I was," she says. Having the week captured on film also offered an unexpected benefit: It's allowed her to relive what felt like a total whirlwind. "To rewatch those performances and see everything I was going through, it gave me a chance to really take it all in."
Her Next Challenge: Choreographing at Vail Dance Festival
Tiler Peck with Lil Buck at Vail 2013. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail.
Although Peck has tried her hand at choreography in various ways ever since she was a kid, she's never made a piece in a professional setting. During a birthday dinner with Vail Dance Festival director Damian Woetzel in January, he told her, "I'm thinking it's time for you to choreograph." She admitted that she'd been thinking about the same thing.
Before she knew it, Woetzel had told The New York Times that she'd be choreographing, so she couldn't back out. "I'm definitely nervous, but at this point in my career, I figure, why not try it now?" she says. "There's never going to be a 'right' time."
Her plans? So far she knows she wants to use a piece of music composed by a friend, and she's hoping to work with four dancers, including one woman and three men. "But it's all still up in the air."
The Biggest Surprise? Getting Inspired To Direct More
Peck seems to accept any challenge thrown her way. Still from Ballet Now, via dogwoofsales.com
The BalletNOW performances left Peck wanting to direct again. "I totally surprised myself," she says. "Putting together those shows is definitely one of my proudest moments of my career. And it made me feel like I might want to be an artistic director at some point."
She loves finding these new sides of herself. And she's totally open to discovering more. "A lot has happened to me in the past year. At this point, that's what I want to do most—just push myself and see what I can do."
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
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New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.