Ballet AZ Blog

Through A Donor’s Eyes: Supporting Contemporary Ballet


This season, Ballet Arizona is privileged to bring In Creases by dancer and Tony Award-winning choreographer, Justin Peck, to Arizona for the first time. This achievement is only made possible by the generous support of Bob Benson, a long-standing advocate and benefactor of the arts and ballet. We asked him to share why Justin Peck’s choreography is so important to the dance world and why In Creases is a must-see for Ballet Arizona audiences.

Bob Benson
Bob Benson

In conversation with Ib Andersen 18 months ago about his intermediate-term repertory desires, he expressed a keen desire to mount one of Justin Peck’s ballets. I have had the privilege of working with Justin on four different ballets at Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, in addition to seeing other of his works in New York and Vail. In the process, a friendship emerged.

Ballet Arizona’s spring 2017 All Balanchine program made such a positive impression on me, notably the energy and esprit of the dancers, that it was a labor of love to encourage Justin to permit Ib to present a Peck ballet.

In Creases became the chosen work – a choice satisfying on multiple levels. In Creases was the first Peck ballet presented by New York City Ballet, in summer 2012 at Saratoga Springs, NY. That was the official premiere, but I and 2,000+ other lucky souls actually got to see In Creases unofficially two weeks earlier at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater in Vail with a group of New York City Ballet dancers. May this work become the first of numerous Peck ballets within Ballet Arizona’s repertoire!

Choreographer Justin Peck
Rehearsal for a new ballet by Justin Peck. New York City Ballet, Thursday, August 31, 2017. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

I was fortunate to see a reprise of In Creases on the same Vail stage a month ago, this time with a cast drawn from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Patricia Delgado, who is helping stage the work for Ballet Arizona. It was wonderful to see the connections between In Creases and subsequent Peck ballets. Despite his great acclaim as a choreographer, Justin continues to dance in part because he wishes to inhabit in his body more and more ballets by George Balanchine. One sees similarity in rapidity of attack and attention to geometry in Peck’s own works.

Balanchine moved beyond his peers by choreographing works by contemporary composers, notably Igor Stravinsky. For Peck also, it all begins with the music, but in his case he draws upon an even more diverse mix of classical and contemporary popular music. He also exhibits a fine eye for contemporary social patterns. Unlike many 19th and early 20th century predictably formulaic works, Peck ballets exhibit a continuous flow and seamless transitions, coupled with diverse gender mixes and roles. Much of the action is in ever evolving groups, mirroring social patterns in today’s high schools and colleges. Figure out how to expose young people to Justin’s work and we will have a much lessened challenge about increasingly graying audiences for dance! Enjoy.

Learn more about In Creases from Justin Peck himself!

Video courtesy of Boston Ballet.

Click here to get your tickets for New Moves featuring Justin Peck’s In Creases at Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Phoenix September 27th-30th!


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