Justin Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit” has become the bunny wanted by ballet companies around the world. Pacific Northwest Ballet presents the West Coast premiere in their current Director’s Choice program. They are the third company to show the work after New York City Ballet, where it premiered, and Miami Ballet, where it was danced in February. “We would have been the second company,” said PNB’s artistic director Peter Boal in a preview on Thursday, “except Miami called Justin about 24 hours before I did.”
Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit” debuted in 2012 and is a collaboration with American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. The latter’s album “Enjoy Your Rabbit” is based on the Chinese zodiac. The ballet grew out Peck’s earlier “Tales of a Chinese Zodiac” created for the New York Choreographic Institute in 2010.
Currently a soloist at New York City Ballet, Peck also is the company’s resident choreographer, the second person in their history to hold that title. Peck’s works for NYCB include “In Creases” (2012), “Year of the Rabbit” (2012), “Paz de la Jolla” (2013), “Take-Offs and Landings” (2013), “Capricious Maneuvers” (2013), “Everywhere We Go” (2014), “Belles-Lettres” (2014), “‘Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes” (2015), “New Blood” (2015) and “The Most Incredible Thing” (2016).
Stagers Jamie Taylor and Craig Hall joined Boal in PNB’s lecture series this week to discuss why Peck’s work has so charmed both dancers and audiences in recent years. “He’s excited about delving into the geometry, dealing with shapes,” said Hall, who also is a soloist at NYCB. “[Peck] is a little like a mad scientist in how he likes to combine things. He uses the corps dancers in as interesting ways as the principals. So it’s a good thing to come more than once to watch [“Year of the Rabbit”] to take it all in.”
Taylor noted that Peck comes into a rehearsal very prepared, with many of his patterns already thought out. “He’s got this great energy, very youthful and positive. When you’re in the studio with him, it is very charged,” she said. A principal at NYCB, Taylor retired from the stage in 2014.
As stagers, Hall and Taylor taught “Year of the Rabbit” to the PNB dancers. Taylor found the company “very well suited” to Peck’s style.
Boal also picked Paul Gibson’s “Rush,” which premiered in 2002 at PNB, and Alejandro Cerrudo’s “Little mortal jump” for the Director’s Choice program. Cerrudo is the resident choreographer for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. PNB’s ballet master Gibson has created several works for the company and PNB School’s Professional Division.
Director’s Choice opened March 18 and continues through March 27 at McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center. For tickets and times, see PNB’s website.