Tiler Peck Takes Us Inside Her Busy Choreographic Fall Season

October 25, 2023

You’d be hard-pressed to find a dance lover who hasn’t heard of New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck. Her lightning-fast footwork, and magnetic performance quality, has made her a household name. But it’s not just her dancing that’s causing a buzz this fall—she’s making waves in her choreographic career, as well. Peck has been commissioned by companies like Northern Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet to create new works for their fall seasons; NYCB has one of her premieres slated for this coming February. Recently, Peck also performed in the ADEAM runway show for New York Fashion Week, and she was named a 2023–24 fellow for The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University and National Sawdust. Last but not least, she’s bringing her self-curated Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends to Southern California starting October 25.

Pointe spoke with Peck about her blossoming choreographic career.

Tiler Peck and Michelle Dorrance dance together, the former in pointe shoes and the latter in tap shoes, in front of a black backdrop.
Peck and Michelle Dorrance in Time Spell for Turn it Out with Tiler Peck and Friends at New York City Center. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Peck.

How have you managed to pack in so many projects on top of dancing with NYCB?

All of my commissions were done on the off time from NYCB, and they have been spaced out nicely. I only take on things that I can do whole-heartedly. I think that’s why it took me so long to start choreographing. I never felt like I had enough time to do it while also being a ballerina. I’m careful about what I choose to do and what makes sense scheduling-wise.

How do you feel about this sudden burst of activity in your choreographic career?

I’m excited! Alexei Ratmansky recently asked, “How are you, Miss Choreographer?” I replied, “Oh, I’m hardly a choreographer.” To which he said, “Don’t you have works? See, you are a choreographer!” I guess he’s right. I just love to make up steps that other dancers love to do—steps that will challenge them.

How did these opportunities come about?

Each one came to me organically. Boston Ballet saw a piece I was commissioned to do for Vail Dance Festival, BalletX saw my Boston Ballet piece, Northern Ballet saw my BalletX piece, and so on.

I think it’s really special that I’m still a ballerina while setting these works. Sometimes it’s frustrating when choreographers come in and don’t know how to use the pointe shoe. I’m in pointe shoes and doing all of the steps with the partners.

What’s the origin story of Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends?

It all started when I taught class on Instagram during the pandemic. It was something people counted on, and I counted on it too. When I came up with the idea for my shows, I wanted to call it something that people already knew. I used to bring friends on as special guests to my classes during the pandemic, and half of them were going to be in my shows anyway, so I decided to call it Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends.

Lit in a spotlight, a large group of dancers suspend in mid-air in an arabesque saute.
Peck (second from right) in Time Spell for Turn it Out with Tiler Peck and Friends at New York City Center. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Peck.

You’ve done other iterations of Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends in both London and New York. How do you feel about bringing it closer to home?

I’m excited to bring this performance to my home state of California. My dad’s health has been struggling for the past month, and the fact that he and the rest of my family can come means a lot. I have never been so proud of something before. I think it needs to be seen by everyone.

What in particular should viewers look out for?

The Barre Project, by William Forsythe, which is one of the best things that’s ever been created on me. I’m also excited about the Alonzo King piece, Swift Arrow. Most choreographers like to create fast works on me, but I love dancing lyrically, and this piece allows me to do both. I’m also excited to share my own choreography. I talked this over with Baryshnikov, and he said, “You have to have a work of yours.” I wasn’t sure, but because he said I had to, I said okay.

What visions or goals do you have as a choreographer going forward?

I try to not set too high of expectations for myself and my choreography. Setting myself up to make a masterpiece seems like the wrong way to go about it. I’ll just start with music that I love and that I think people will love listening to, and from there the steps will flow out.