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."
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.