Justin Peck's Quirky New Pas de Deux

November 28, 2001

This interview first appeared in the April 17
Pointe e-newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.

On April 20, Miami City Ballet will collaborate for the first time with Miami’s New World Symphony, premiering CHUTES AND LADDERS—a pas de deux by choreographer-of-the-moment Justin Peck—as part of the symphony’s New Work program. Pointe‘s e-news talked to MCB principal Jeanette Delgado about working with Peck on the piece, which is set to Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 1.

How would you describe CHUTES AND LADDERS?

We started off rehearsals by working on a section where we’re facing the musicians, not the audience. So from the beginning the idea was, this is about the music, and it’s for the musicians as much as anyone. We’re performing at The New World Center, so they’re inviting us into their home, and this is our way of saying “thank you.”

What is it like working with Peck in the studio?

Justin has an interesting way of giving you analogies and little bits of imagery to help you get what he wants, so you aren’t just mimicking his movements. By the end I felt like I was moving differently—it wasn’t just Jeanette dancing in yet another piece. He also created a nice push and pull between the choreography and the score. At one point he said to me, “OK, this part is a race between you and the music.” Other times he asked us to elongate everything until we were almost late. He wants the audience to see all the dynamics of the melody.

How does dancing to live music change the nature of a performance?

Watching music is just like watching dance in the sense that the closer you are to it, the more you feel the rhythm and the life. For CHUTES AND LADDERS the musicians will be onstage with us, so we’ll be able to feed off each others’ energy. And with live music there’s always more breath to everything. You can never give a stale performance, because you have to be completely present—the way they play the music is never going to be the same twice!