NYCB's Tiler Peck Immediately Called Her Mom When She Found Out This Good News

Peck in Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB

At 11, while watching a performance of New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, Tiler Peck leaned over to her father and said, "Dad, I'm going to dance on that stage one day." It was a surprising declaration for a competition kid from Bakersfield, California. But her prediction came true: Peck joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice four years later. "It was the challenge that drove me," she says. "I always had natural ability to dance, but when it came to the School of American Ballet, I felt like a jazz dancer trying to do ballet. But I was going to get this. I was going to be a ballerina." Her mastery of timing and crisp lines quickly took her from being a 15-year-old apprentice to a 20-year-old principal. Now, nine years later, she's dazzling audiences at Lincoln Center night after night.

On learning she would finally perform Odette/Odile in Swan Lake...

"I had been in the company for 10 years and never done it. I had given up on it. I trusted [then artistic director Peter Martins'] opinion and just decided to let it go. He pulled me aside in the hallway before a performance and said he wanted to tell me something. I said, 'Is it bad news? Because maybe we should wait until after the show.' And he said, 'No, I think you could really use this news right now—I'm going to have you do Swan Lake.' I immediately got teary and called my mom. It came at a point in time when I really needed something. I was so happy it happened 10 years into my career instead of earlier, because I felt like I had the experience I needed to understand the roles of both Odette and Odile."

The ballet she feels most at home in...

"Coppélia feels like it was made on me. It can be so hard to do these parts that were created for other ballerinas, so when you reach the point of feeling like a ballet was made just for you, it's really special. I felt like Balanchine was in the room choreographing on me when I first learned it. The steps and the character are just so me. It was the first full-length ballet I was given with the company. Now when I do it, I'm at a point in my career where I don't need to plan every moment onstage. I can trust myself to do something different every single show."

Her pre-show pointe shoe ritual...

"The night before a show, I spend 45 minutes picking out and testing 50 different shoes from the pointe shoe room. For Swan Lake, I pick out pointe shoes (one for Act I and two for Acts II and III); for Nutcracker, I pick out two; and for Romeo and Juliet, I pick out one. Some ballets need softer shoes, some need harder. Some even need a harder right shoe than left. If I'm picking out shoes for Swan Lake, but the shoe I try on feels right for Coppélia, I'll write a 'C' on it to come back to later. It's a science."

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

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