Principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, Tiler Peck is a much loved and highly talented member of today's ballet elites. She will appear along with more than a dozen other top dancers from around the world, including her fiancé and dance partner Robbie Fairchild, in Indianapolis City Ballet's Evening with the Stars, the best night of ballet in Indianapolis all year long. We recently caught up with this California girl on a break in her hometown of Bakersfield.
- Gene Schiavone
Sky Blue Window: What about Evening with the Stars makes you want to return this year?
Tiler Peck: Oh, I just love Indianapolis. It's one of my favorite galas to dance in because the people are so nice, and the audience always seems really excited for us to be there and really into it. I'm just excited to come back and experience that again.
SBW: What are you most excited for in this year's show?
TP: It's so nice to share the stage with such amazing dancers, and just to be a part of the whole evening is a huge honor. It's fun to be up there dancing with artists from different places, backgrounds. I haven't actually gotten the full roster yet, so that's kind of what's fun--you show up, and some of them are friends, and you're like, 'Oh, I didn't know you were here.' I remember the last couple of galas, we had the Russians, who I had never met before and we became good friends. So it's just fun to see familiar faces and also meet new people.
SBW: You and Robbie were Artists in Residence at this year's Vail International Dance Festival and you got to dance some different styles. What was it like dancing hip-hop?
TP: I grew up dancing all kinds of dance, so it wasn't that foreign, but I definitely haven't done it in a really long time. And it was also a different type. I was dancing with Lil Buck. His real name is Charles Riley, but he goes by Lil Buck. He's from Memphis, and the type of dancing he does is called "jookin", and it's a special dance. There are different types of hip-hop, and his is like you dance on pointe, in sneakers. So it was really similar to dance with me, because I'm in pointe shoes. We were doing the same thing on our toes, but he was in sneakers and I was in pointe shoes. There's a video of it on YouTube, if you want to see what I'm talking about. It's pretty cool. It's pretty funny. I'm in a baseball cap.
SBW: What keeps you dancing?
TP: I just love it so much. I've danced since I was two years old, and besides when I've been injured, I haven't really gone many days without dancing somehow. Maybe like two weeks, or something. If I'm not dancing, I miss it. So even though our schedules are hectic and we're always on the go, during the summers especially, it's just fun. It's fun because you go to different places and get to experience different countries and states, depending on where you go. So you just get to see and hang out with different dancers. That's always what I really love, because I get inspired watching dancers from different companies dance. It's not necessarily your same style, but the talent that's on the same stage is so amazing and just inspiring to watch.
SBW: Where's your favorite place you've danced?
TP: My favorite place that I've been is probably... well, I love Italy. One of my favorite stages to dance on is the Taormina. The water is the backdrop, and the volcano is in the background, like on the water. It's so beautiful. And then we just danced on Fire Island, and that was really beautiful too. It's another stage where the water is the backdrop. And I showed my mom a picture, and she actually goes, 'Is that a backdrop?' It's so beautiful that it looked fake.
SBW: How did you start dancing?
TP: My mother owns a dance studio in Bakersfield, California. So that's actually why we're here visiting. I'm very close with my family, and my grandma is living with my mom right now because she's getting over pneumonia, so we're here visiting. I was also helping teach, too, with Robbie at my mom's studio. I choreographed some dances for them for their competition, because that's what I came to do. So it's kind of nice for me because it's a way for me to still dance but take a little bit of time away from ballet, cause the dances are more like what'd you see on So You Think You Can Dance, like contemporary. And Robbie and I both come from that background, so it's fun for us because we get to do what we used to do.
SBW: Do you enjoy choreographing?
TP: I do, I do. I've been doing it since I was about twelve years old. I started doing it on my friends at my mom's studio who were the same age as me. And then I've just been helping her every year since then. And it's fun to see, some of the kids [I've taught] now are seniors in high school, and I've been teaching them since they were four years old, just to see how much they've progressed in the past few years. I think that's why I like teaching, I can watch the kids grow.
SBW: Do you eventually want to teach dance full-time?
TP: I mean, I do love it. And I've thought, maybe I'll open my own studio or something. But right now I'm just trying to focus on dancing, because hopefully I'll have a lot more years to come. Eventually, though, I think I'll do something with dance. Maybe I'll be a coach... be a ballet coach, which is like the people that teach us the ballets. That would be really fun. Or to teach ballets all over the world, there are people that do that.
SBW: Do you want to end up in California? Would you be open to settling down anywhere?
TP: I would love to end back up in California, but I think that's just because that's where I grew up. I love the weather, and I love how spread out everything is. You can have a back yard. I think it's a good place to grow up. For kids, I would think that's a better place than New York. But who knows? I could very well end up in New York, if that's what worked.
SBW: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
TP: Hmmm... I guess just becoming a principal dancer. It was something that I dreamt about, but you never think it's possible because there are like 80 other dancers in the company who are all so talented. You know, you go from school, where you're at the top, and then you're in the company with all of those top dancers, so it's just like everybody's good. And everybody, I think, is vying to get to that rank. But the day it actually happened, it was a pretty big deal for me. I was honored that I get to say I'm a principal dancer with one of the best companies in the world.
SBW: So after this summer and Evening with the Stars, what's next for you?
TP: So right after we finish we go right back into rehearsals for our fall season. We're premiering this new piece, and it's by a French choreographer. His name is AngelinPreljocaj, and so that's going to be really fun because it's something new and exciting. I'm just excited to see what new roles I'm given and new opportunities that come about and staying with the company and doing all of our shows.