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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 Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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