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Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck

The inaugural season of a new series at New York City Center is a vivid example of the deep pool of dance talent available nowadays.

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A scene from Tiler Peck’s “Thousandth Orange,” part of Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck at New York City Center (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left”] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]

After watching a stage full of beautiful dancers moving with gorgeous sensuality and style, it is difficult to see the faults of what they are dancing.  Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck presented such a problem when that New York City Ballet ballerina directed and curated a program of four new and newish works, including her own “Thousandth Orange.”

Certainly the vision of the six superb dancers in that work stole attention away from Peck’s choreographic weaknesses.  Dressed in Louise Apparel’s vapid practice outfits, they began in a pose reminiscent of 19th century ballet engravings, scattering into quiet duets, sudden bursts of virtuoso steps punctuated by a running theme of embraces.  It all coalesced back into the opening sculptural tableau.

Caroline Shaw’s spare score, entrusted to the fine Bergamot Quartet, didn’t support all the smooth exertions of the dancers but was well played. Isabella Boylston, India Bradley, Herman Cornejo, Jovani Furlan, Christopher Grant and Lauren Lovette did Peck proud as they went through her soft-edged permutations.

Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia in a scene from Alonzo King’s “Swift Arrow,” part of rtists at the Center: Tiler Peck at New York City Center (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

Peck got a chance to show off her artistry in Alonzo King’s duet, “Swift Arrow” to Jason Moran’s off-kilter, energetic score played by Sequoia Snyder.  Peck’s partner was the astonishingly agile Roman Mejia.  Both were barely dressed in costumes credited to Robert Rosenwasser:  Peck in a backless black leotard and Mejia in tiny dance shorts.  King—director of the LINES ballet troupe—put the two dancers through their paces, each performing tricky steps that united the two in a series of agile lifts.  It didn’t add up to much but it was good to see both dancers in top form.

The most visually arresting work was William Forsythe’s “The Barre Project, Blake Works II,” to music by James Blake.   Forsythe, an American ex-pat, the elder statesman dance maker of the program, is famous for his strikingly unemotional, angular, garishly lit ballets.  Here the strangely dramatic lighting was by Brandon Stirling Baker.

True to its title, “The Barre Project” began with four dancers—Lex Ishimoto, Brooklyn Mack, Mejia and Peck—taking turns doing fancy versions of ballet exercises at a barre (the horizontal pole used by ballet dancers to support precise movements).  In the second section a huge projection of ballet barres on a long diagonal, plucked by unseen dancers’ hands, made for a memorable image, followed by a disappointing third section which seemed to exist to show off the dancers’ fancy layered costumes (designed by the dancers, themselves) as they zipped about the stage, barely relating to each other.

A scene from the world premiere of “Time Spell,” part of Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck at New York City Center (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

By far, the audience favorite was the world premiere “Time Spell,” an entertaining attempt at a hybrid of tap dancing (choreographed by Michelle Dorrance and Jillian Meyers) and ballet (choreographed by Peck) with the assistance of Byron Tittle.  The musicians Aaron Marcellus and Penelope Wendtlandt provided witty a cappella close harmony vocal accompaniment, even occasionally joining in the dancing.

The alternating of tap dancing and ballet began slowly with the two dance forms not combining easily, but as the speed picked up so did the similarities until the ballet dancers were tapping in their toe shoes and the tappers were bourrée-ing in their tap shoes.  The large cast included Dorrance, Meyers, Peck, Lovette and Mejia.

This was the inaugural Artists at the Center program and was a vivid example of the deep pool of dance—and to a lesser extent, the choreographic—talent available nowadays.

Dance enthusiasts: the City Center Dance Festival is scheduled for March 24th through April 10th and includes performances by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Ballet Hispánico, Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Martha Graham Dance Company

Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck (March 4-6, 2022)

New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit

Running time: 90 minutes including one intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (564 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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