Wednesday, March 11, 2015
"Ballet 422": Justin Peck choreographs a new work for the New York City Ballet at age 25
“Ballet 422”, directed by Jody Lee Lipes, is a valuable documentary about how a young ballet professional, Justin Peck, at age 25 takes on the honor and creative challenge of creating a ballet program for the New York City Ballet, using music of Philip Glass, Martinu, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky (the “Polish” Symphony) and Bizet. The film also features Tiler Peck, coincidentally the same last name (no relation, source). Justin's work is commissioned as the 422nd program of the Ballet company.
The film shows minimal detail on the technical aspects of composing choreography (for example, here. Instead, the film shows Justin interacting with the dancers, showing energy, assertiveness and charisma (and beefcake), and finally preparing himself to dance in the final sequence of the film on opening night. There are also other details on making the clothing and on makeup, as well as the notorious stretch and fitness exercises.
Generally, for ballet I prefer works written by composers specifically to be performed as ballet (like “Swan Lake”, “The Firebird”, etc). Some of Chopin’s piano pieces are adapted into a ballet called “Les Sylphides” (Diaghilev). But some compositions might benefit from being choreographed. I wonder if this is true of Timo Andres’s one hour 2-piano suite “Shy and Mighty” (Drama blog, May 20, 2010) since the ten movements are all rather descriptive of “somethings.” Have I met Justin on one of my trips to concerts in NYC?
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of interior of New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet, taken by David Shankbone, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license. I was on the premises in the 1970s. Second picture is mine, Dec, 2010, taken when I went to a recital nearby by Timo.
In middle school, my mixed chorus teacher actually composed a piece called "Ballet Music" in B-flat, back in the 1950s. Let me mention a favorite classic old film. "The Red Shoes", 1948, J. Arthur Rank, Powell and Pressburger (who gave us "A Canterbury Tale") with music by Easdale.
I saw the film before a fair late weekday audience at Landmark E Street in Washington DC. Many stayed for the credits to identify the music. This film is definitely for ballet and classical music enthusiasts.