Back in 2017, New York City Ballet principal dancer and Broadway alum Tiler Peck (The Music Man) was the first woman ever to be asked to curate The Music Center’s famed BalletNow program in Los Angeles. On July 20, the documentary on Peck’s titanic task to stage a full show of 15 routines in five days, aptly titled Ballet Now, debuts on Hulu from executive producer Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale).
As in the exclusive clip above, Ballet Now features never-before-seen footage inside Peck’s rehearsal room, working onstage, and more as she faces the pressure of dancing in multiple pieces while producing and directing. “BalletNow is a groundbreaking program designed by the Los Angeles Music Center to showcase the diverse range of artistry within ballet and help make this classical art form more relevant for a new generation,” Peck tells Playbill. When Rachel Moore and Michael Solomon of The Music Center approached Peck regarding the bi-annual event, she “jumped at the opportunity.”
Here, Peck walks us through her vision for her Ballet NOW, creating the number “1,2,3,4,6” (as shown in above), and why ballet must continue to evolve:
In the trailer for the documentary, you say you want to show that ballet is more than pink tutus. But why bring in tap, hip-hop, etc.? Why not just contemporary takes on ballet itself?
Tiler Peck: I wanted to bring tap and hip-hop into the programs because I think in modern dance, many disciplines cross over into one another. For example, some hip-hop dancers and tap dancers dance on their toes like we ballerinas do in pointe shoes. I think that each style helps one another push boundaries and move forward so I wanted to show what being a ballerina means in today’s world. To me, it means being able to do it all and take references from the other groundbreaking dance that I am seeing from my peers in different disciplines.
Was it always the plan to create new work and mix that with presentations of other works?
Most definitely. My main goal was to pay tribute to the genius choreographers of the past like [George] Balanchine, [Jerome] Robbins, and [Kenneth] MacMillan while also highlighting the new voices of today like Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, and Michelle Dorrance. Ballet encompasses all of these choreographers and styles and I wanted the L.A. audiences to be able to see the full range of the art form.
Tell me about the creation of this piece. What’s the story behind the “ballet”?
The ballet is called “1,2,3,4,6” and is a piece that was originally conceived at the Vail International Dance Festival which is directed by Damian Woetzel but was with a totally different cast and choreography here. The idea behind it is fusing the styles of dance together and what comes out of a collaboration with four different artists with different backgrounds. We had a total of seven rehearsals together. [And] yes, I still call it a ballet.
What did you want to accomplish by mixing all of these different styles?
Personally, I wanted to challenge myself and learn new styles while also sharing my expertise with them. It was a fun process for us all and extremely collaborative. Artists love working off one another, and creating a new piece with dancers from different genres was very exciting for us.
What did you expect to be the biggest challenge of BalletNow overall?
The time constraint. I invited 24 dancers in total and we were all only together for four days. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to put together 15 different ballets in the [few] days we had. It was incredibly stressful… but we did it!
How was it having cameras documenting your process? Did that change your process at all?
I honestly didn’t even notice them because I didn’t have time to. I had to be so focused and in the moment with every person and question that came my way that I didn’t have time to think for one second “I don’t want to be filmed, I don’t look that good right now” or “I am not sure I want that on camera.” For me the most important thing was putting together successful shows.
What else can audiences expect to see in the Ballet Now documentary?
They can expect to see an intimate and realistic glimpse into what it takes to put on something of this magnitude. There is no fluff, just the simple hard work, stress and beauty that comes with this art form.
Why is concert dance—its performance, its evolution, its consumption—necessary?
I think live performance is something so important. What the audience is witnessing only happens once at that one moment in time and one evening can be inspiring and sometimes literally life changing.
What do you say to someone who says, “I don’t like ballet”? How do you make your case that they should come check it out?
I didn’t like it either and now look at me, I am a huge fan!