As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are coping with the self-isolation on a daily basis, both physically and creatively.
The series continues with New York City Ballet Artistic Adviser and Resident Choreographer Justin Peck, who received a 2018 Tony Award for Best Choreography for his work on the recent revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel. Peck joined New York City Ballet as a dancer in 2006, performing in works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexei Ratmansky, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and more. In 2013, he was promoted to the rank of Soloist, performing through 2019 with the company. Peck began choreographing in 2009 at the New York Choreographic Institute, and in 2014 he was appointed as Resident Choreographer of New York City Ballet, the second person in the institution’s history to hold the title. Peck has created over 40 ballets, 20 of those for New York City Ballet.
What is your typical day like now?
My typical day consists of a leisurely morning greeting of the day with my wife Patricia, then some kind of physical activity (a ballet barre, a run, a bike ride), some Zoom meetings for New York City Ballet (we recently launched our Digital Spring Season, where we are streaming two new ballets a week… May 8 we’ll stream Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH at 8 PM ET on New York City Ballet’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, and website), some more Zoom meetings for a show I’m in the process of developing, a long walk usually at sunset along Riverside Park, cooking dinner at home (we’ve been really into making pizza from scratch), and finally some reading or a movie at night (we just got a new projector to screen movies at home, so that’s been fun).
Every time I think of someone, I shoot them a text or call them or email them to see how they’re doing and share that they’re in my thoughts.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I’ve been in a phase of reading a lot of books on creative process, while I have the time right now—Elia Kazan’s Kazan On Directing, Jerome Robbins’ By Himself, Stephen Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat. But I’m also really looking forward to starting The Overstory, which was recommended to me by my sister-in-law, Jeanette Delgado. For TV shows I’m watching the new High Fidelity series, Unorthodox mini-series, and David Chang’s Ugly Delicious. I’ve also been very much into podcasts lately. Some of my favorites include Dance and Stuff, Still Processing, The Director’s Cut, Conversations on Dance, WTF hosted by Marc Maron, and Here’s the Thing hosted by Alec Baldwin.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
Take the time to connect with anyone—I mean anyone!—who crosses your mind. Every time I think of someone, I shoot them a text or call them or email them to see how they’re doing and share that they’re in my thoughts. I’ve had some really great re-connections this way. Feels like I am feeding a web of a community that I didn’t spend enough time with before this pandemic hit. So that’s been a silver lining. And I highly recommend it as a way to counter the sense of isolation that comes with this challenging time.
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
To be honest, I have taken this pandemic as a kind of chance to slow down for a moment. I’ve taken a choreographic “sabbatical,” and have simply been trying to rest that side of the brain while I can. I’ve been more focused on reading, writing, meditating, having conversations with loved ones, and learning from the experiences of others. It’s been a good refresh for me. And I hope to eventually fly out of this time period with as much added perspective and creative energy harvested as possible.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Yes, I am working on developing a new dance show right now. We are still in early phases of development, mostly writing at the moment. We have done a few virtual readings via Zoom, which has been a helpful way to keep the ball rolling. More on that someday soon!