Justin Peck: A Choreography Role Model for the Millennial Generation

imageBeing a dancer takes sacrifice, while being a choreographer takes vulnerability.  The documentary “Ballet 422” explores the development of twenty-five year old Justin Peck’s ballet creation “Paz de La Jolla.”  In 2013, within two months, he set New York City Ballet’s 422nd creation to a musical composition from 1935 by Bohuslav Martinu.  The ballet featured three company elite principal dancers (Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin, and Amar Ramasar) along with a 15-member corps.  Peck explores a contemporary ballet style with constant fluidity and directional changes.  His style, movement quality, and confidence reminds me of Jerome Robbins’ work where he intertwines movement within a story while bringing the audience deeper into the musicality of the composition.  Peck uses every beat from the quick sound of the violins to the strong brass blows that brings the piece of music truly alive.  His attention to detail and specifics from hand placement to body angles for a lift shows his ability to create strong work like Balanchine.

Peck had a modest start in dance training in tap at age 9.  It wasn’t until he was 13 years old that he started training in Ballet after he saw an American Ballet Theater performance of “Giselle” that inspired him.  At 15, he moved to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet where he ultimately joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 2006 at 18.  From there, Peck rose through the ranks.  In 2007, he became a member of the corps, and as he continued to choreograph and dance his career flourished, and in 2013 he received the title of soloist.

As a choreographer, Peck produced his first Ballet in 2008.  He found success in the Company’s Choreographic Institute.  In 2013, when the documentary was created, he was commissioned to create the only new Ballet of that year for the winter season at 25 years old.  Now at 28, Justin Peck is a soloist at the New York City Ballet and has become one of the most requested choreographers in the Ballet world.  In 2014, he was appointed Resident Choreographer of the NYCB; only the second person in the history of the NYCB’s 68 year institution to hold such a title.  Peck has choreographed 25 works for companies all over the world such as San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, LA DanceProject, and the Paris Opera Ballet. His choreographic work – “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes” was award in 2015 with a Bessie for outstanding production.  His focus for the work was about finding a balance between athletics and artistry.  It was primarily an all male cast with men partnering men. It explored that aspect of the men being the center of attention instead of the women, which was a refreshing view considering other Ballet casting structure.

The documentary “Ballet 422” brought the audience into a behind the scenes peek at a young choreographer as his career was beginning to explode.  Unlike most documentary, there was no interviews with any of the members of the production.  The viewer saw the the blood, sweat, and tears that went into “Paz de la Jolla” without verbal interjection.  Seeing Peck develop the work through movement studies in the studio alone as he sketched out formations and movement phrases showed that artists truly need time away from others to be creative.  Many artists are all about control, but Peck seemed to understand that it is important to let others interject in the creative process as it makes the work better as a whole from the costume designers to the dancers.  He seems to have an open forum for the people he works with that makes him approachable as the work is developed in a collaborative atmosphere.

Justin Peck is a forward thinker. Someone who thinks outside the box as a choreographer, dancer, and collaborator, which makes him push the boundaries as an artist.  Mikhail Baryshnikov said, “I found that dance, music, and literature is how I made sense of the world…it pushed me to think of things bigger than life’s daily routines…to think beyond what is immediate or convenient.”  Watching the end of the documentary as you see Peck walk away and preparing to dance after watching his piece on stage, I imagine that the wheels never stop turning for someone who is multi-talented from development to artistic you need consistent evolution.

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Keone and Mari Madrid – The Next Hip-Hop Dynamic Duo

Keone and Mari Madrid are called the next NabbyTabs.  It’s wonderful to get compared as an artist to people you admire, but this dynamic duo has a style all their own.  With the caring and kind nature of Keone and the graceful and free spirit of Mari these two are out to change the world of dance through education, choreography and philanthropic efforts.

Keone Madrid’s first love was basketball.  He grew up playing sports and didn’t take his first hip hop class till he was fifteen, where he started with one class a week taught by KJ Gonzales.  Starting dance at such a late age and becoming a successful professional is rare, but he was determined.  After his first class he joined the apprentice crew of Culture Shock San Diego called Future Shock San Diego, which eventually become the director.  After high school his students and mentors encouraged him to pursue his choreographic aspirations and really get out in the world.  He was nervous to post his work online so students started to on his behalf which led to his first international gig in Norway.

Mari Madrid also didn’t start dancing until a late age.  At thirteen years old, she took her first dance class in Boulder, Colorado.  At seventeen she moved to San Francisco and danced with a group called Funkanometry.  Finally, at twenty-three she moved to San Diego to dance with Choreo Cookies.

These two love birds originally met at Urban Legends in Temecula, California where they were both teaching.  They eventually joined the same crew shortly following Choreo Cookies, which they became co-directors in a short time.  These two have choreographed for music artists all over the United States and Asia as well as had a successful commercial career choreographing the 2012 Hyundui commercial and most recently was on So You Think You Can Dance as a choreography duo.  The couple has signed with Go 2 Talent Agency as a choreographic team.  They have also founded Kingdom Made which is an arts charity that sells clothing and accessories to fund its international mission to build homes and offer dance and art workshops for the underprivileged.

When I look at people to admire, I look at no only talent, but are these people truly good people.  The Madrids are beyond good people.  They don’t allow society to run the way they think or their actions.  They play by their own rules as professional dancers and choreographers as well as personally in their beliefs on relationships and importance of getting to know someone deeply before fully committed to a marriage and that marriage actually mean something more than another step in a relationship.  I spent hours watching their work on YouTube and noticed that as individuals they were technically beautiful, but as partners they had an undeniable spirit in the way they moved.

I watched YouTube videos for hours before I came across two that spoke to me personally.  The Madrids created a music video in 2011 called Don’t Stop the Music which was stylized in the 1920s and went from black and white to color.  An energy and connection that was undeniable as they used off rhythms to make the movement flow.  Their style was full of illusion with smooth yet sharp isolations.  They incorporated small changes in their movement like doing arm motions sitting to standing to different camera angles of the same movement that seem different but they are not.  The remix done by Jamie Cullum is revolutionary and drives the piece as Mari is a beast in her heels while maintaining the sweet and lovable side in her dancing.  The other piece I watched was one done at the Urban Dance Camp with music by Sam Smith, Stay With Me.  In this piece they were so in sync with each other that it was undeniable that they were meant to dance together.  A beautiful couple, a perfect choreographic partnership, and two people that are unstoppable.

**All life information about the couple was found at Dance Spirit Magazine article by Ashley Rivers and Go 2 Talent Agency**

Watch their Don’t Stop the Music Video Below!  Their articulate hand and arm choreography is so intertwined that I think I backed up the player more than 10 times.