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Ballet innovates with 'Rabbit'

2013-07-06T00:00:00Z Ballet innovates with 'Rabbit'By Doug Gruse dgruse@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
July 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Chinese zodiac foretells an amazing year for Justin Peck.

The soloist with New York City Ballet is getting rave reviews for his choreography of “Year of the Rabbit,” which premiered in October at Lincoln Center. The ambitious work, which is set to music by electronica artist Sufjan Stevens, will be performed Tuesday, Wednesday and July 13 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center as part of the ballet’s summer season, which opens Tuesday and runs through July 13.

Peck, a 20-something dancer who is building a major following for his choreography work, describes the piece as his “baby.”

“It’s something I have been pondering and developing for about two years,” Peck said.

The inspiration for the choreography first hit Peck several summer’s ago when he was in Saratoga Springs. He heard Stevens’ “Enjoy Your Rabbit” album on the radio and was mesmerized.

“I was really hooked on the music,” he said.

When Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins approached him about creating a new work, Peck immediately knew what he wanted to do. He contacted Stevens, who lives in Brooklyn, to talk about a collaboration.

“I brought him to the ballet, and we got dinner afterwards. I explained everything to him, and he just kind of listened. At the end of dinner, he said it sounded like an intriguing project,” Peck said.

Stevens, who based his 2001 “Rabbit” song cycle on the animals of the Chinese zodiac, worked closely with Peck to bring the piece to fruition.

“He was very involved throughout the whole process. We were constantly back and forth with orchestration. It was refreshing to have the composer so involved,” Peck said.

When the work made its debut at Lincoln Center, Peck had a lot on the line.

“It was the first time I had a substantial ballet premiere at Lincoln Center — our home. I felt a little bit exposed,” he said.

The New York Times called the debut a “triumph.”

“I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who wished the whole 30-minute dance could have been encored immediately,” reviewer Brian Seibert wrote.

Peck received similar praise when his piece “In Creases” made its world premiere at SPAC last summer.

“This is choreography whose forms immediately seize attention,” reviewer Alistair Macauley wrote in The New York Times.

Peck looks forward to giving upstate New York audiences an astrological dance experience.

“I love coming to Saratoga. It’s one of the highlights of the year,” he said. “There’s nothing like performing in SPAC’s outdoor venue.”

If you go

New York City Ballet’s summer season runs from Tuesday through July 13 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs. Justin Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit” will be on the Tuesday, Wednesday and July 13 programs. For tickets and information, go to www.spac.org.

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