‘Inside NYCB’: Q&A with Peck and Ratmansky


Last week I went to watch “Inside NYCB”–a regular feature organized by the New York City Ballet for its members and supporters. Since I moved to New York, I am lucky to have gotten a free, one-year membership at the “Friends” level via the IDNYC system. Each of the “Inside NYCB” event features a peak into the work behind the scene of new performances by the company.

In anticipation of the “HERE/NOW” program this Spring, “Inside NYCB” featured a Q&A with the company’s resident choreographer Justin Peck and its guest choreographer Alexi Ratmansky, as well as short demonstrations of a few dances that would be presented in the “HERE/NOW” festival, featuring 43 ballets by 22 choreographers.

While it wasn’t the first time I saw the two choreographers on stage in some form of presentations, I learned quite a few new things about them and how they work alongside dancers. Both Peck and Ratmansky exhibited a great sense of humility, which is humbling to watch considering how much talent each possesses and what big names they have made for themselves in today’s ballet landscape.

In particular, Ratmansky mentioned a little trivial that contrasts hugely what he has accomplished today: He was rejected both times he auditioned to be a dancer with NYCB in his 20s. Ironically, he was invited to choreograph for the company in 2006 when he was still Artistic Director at the Bolshoi Ballet. His first work for NYCB, “Russian Seasons,” is still being danced today and is included in the HERE/NOW program alongside “Namouna.”

As for Peck, he demonstrated both awe and disbelief when NYCB decided to showcase an all-Peck program, featuring his works “In Creases,” “The Dreamers,” “New Blood” and “Everywhere We Go” for three evenings. He conjectured that this would likely never happen again in his lifetime–something that I doubt! Peck talked about his beginning as a tab dancer and how his sense of rhythm has translated into this work for the ballet company.

Unfortunately, Ratmansky had to leave early. After he left, a few dancers came on stage and talked about how it was like to work with Peck. They all expressed a strong sense of excitement recounting how it was like to work with an extremely talented, living choreographer who is young enough to actually demonstrate the movements and to have dances choreographed on them in real time–a sharp contrast with how it feels to be working on Balanchine choreography. They highlighted how strenuous Peck’s dances are to execute, and Peck conceded that when he actually filled in for a dancer in his own ballet one time, he was left breathless after the performance!

There were demos of a few dances by the two choreographers, but they were really short and gave us just enough of a glimpse of what was to come during the festival to whet our appetite!

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