Creative
Spirit
Justin PeckDANCER & CHOREOGRAPHERThe New York City Ballet’s second-ever resident choreographer has created over 40 ballets and collaborated with all kinds of creatives, from fashion designers to filmmakers. And we can’t wait to see his work in the upcoming on-screen adaptation of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg. Here, on a morning walk through his West Side neighborhood, he tells us more about how he sees and moves through the world... 

“I’m lucky in that my job as a choreographer is to
bring different creatives together to make a
collective, cohesive, artistic experience that
takes place on stage.
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“I’m a firm believer in comfort. I also love artistic fashion expression in the studio. So wherever those two ideas meet is where my style falls.”

Music is such a part of my
everyday life. For me, it’s
the greatest thing known
to humanity.
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A morning strollwith Justin...
Tell us about your earliest creative memory.JP: My dad was a painter, so I was really inspired by the visual arts. He did these large-scale, imaginative paintings. Seeing color, composition and line on a canvas opened my mind to creative expression. It helped me to see the potential of what that could be, even before I found the right medium to do it.
What inspires you to collaborate with such a range of talent?JP: I think there’s a lot to gain from collaborating with others. There’s a chemistry that occurs that can’t be accomplished on one’s own. I’m lucky in that my job as a choreographer is to bring different creatives together to make a collective, cohesive, artistic experience that takes place on stage. What’s important for the art form is that we continue to cultivate the next generation—of dancers, choreographers and creatives. That’s how I look at the community and work to encourage, and mentor, others.
Is there a collaboration you’re the most proud of?JP: A ballet I created in 2014 called Everywhere We Go. There was an original design, original music and choreography. It was a collaboration with Sufjan Stevens, NYCB, architect Karl Jensen, Brandon Stirling Baker and Janie Taylor. That to me expressed what collaboration in dance is all about.
What music inspires you most, and how?JP: Music is such a part of my everyday life. For me, it’s the greatest thing known to humanity. A lot of music is constantly running through me. Some artists that I always go back to are Aaron Copland, Sufjan Stevens, Igor Stravinsky and Caroline Shaw.
What do you wear while you’re choreographing?JP: I’m a firm believer in comfort, and I love artistic fashion expression in the studio. So where those ideas meet is where my style falls. I wear functional clothing that has a maximum style component to it. The chino suit is great because it feels like I could roll out of bed, throw it on, and it’s low-key yet formal enough to wear to dinner in the city.
Have you seen, read or listened to anything that has moved you lately?JP: I’ve been inspired by a book called the Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers, and Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris. I also recently enjoyed the PBS documentary Twyla Moves, the film Judas and the Black Messiah and Minari—which felt so nuanced, subtle and poignant.
Where do you go in NYC to be energized and inspired?JP: I love that New York is this massive, dense city that feels like a small town. I’m a pretty avid bicyclist—I commute everywhere on a single-speed bike. That makes the whole city feel even smaller. When I find a sense of solitude that way, those moments feel the most personal.
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Follow @justin_peck
on Instagram
And see his work on the stage @nycballet.
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