Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck is one of the world’s great ballerinas. The California-born dancer is a reigning star at New York City Ballet and also a director and choreographer in her own right. She tells us about learning to love ballet and coming through both injury and lockdown.

Dance Gazette | Why Dance Matters | Issue 7 - June 2023

How did you first learn to dance?

My mother was a dancer, and then she opened a dance studio. Both my sister and I were kind of babysat there. My sister went on to play soccer, but I stuck with it. Soccer was definitely not my specialty – my mom said I used to dance down the field! 

Did you love ballet from the beginning?

Growing up, I was a very strong jazz dancer. We also did ballet, but it was a challenge. But I’ve never liked putting myself in situations where I could already do something, or was the best at it – there’s no fun in that. That’s how I’ve continued in my career – always surround yourself with people that are better. I’m constantly yearning to learn more.

You received a severe injury in 2019 – that must have been a very difficult time?

I suffered a really bad herniated disc in my neck. It was a very traumatic injury – I woke up one morning and couldn’t move my head without so much pain. To hear: “you’re probably never going to dance again”, or “we don’t know if this is going to heal” – that was really hard. I feel my best when I am dancing, so it felt like a huge part of my being was missing. I was invited to make Thousandth Orange for the Vail Dance Festival. I said, normally I do the movements on myself. How am I going to do that when I can’t move? It was a much different process than anything I’d done before because I had to focus on the dancers’ bodies instead of using my own. I love what came out of it.

Photo: Vincent Tullo

You made The Barre Project with the choreographer William Forsythe during lockdown – how did that come about?

William Forsythe and I had tried to work together a few times but our schedules never worked. During the lockdown, I hit a point where I was missing being creative. It felt like a lot of time was being lost. So I texted Bill and said, I know it’s not ideal, but would you want to make something? And he wrote back right away and said, ‘Well, when would you want to start? Tomorrow?’ We never met in person, but spent every day together on Zoom – it was one of the best times of my life.

Why does dance matter to you?

Dance matters to me because I truly believe that it’s healing. Since my injury, I know that it is healing to me. It’s always been the way I express myself and get my emotions out. But I also believe that it’s healing for those that are watching because it has the ability to transport them to a different place for that moment in time.

Artwork: Bex Glendining

Why Dance Matters

Why Dance Matters is the RAD’s podcast – a series of conversations with extraordinary people from the world of dance and beyond hosted by David Jays, editor of Dance Gazette. The fifth season of Why Dance Matters also includes conversations with choreographers Dame Arlene Phillips and Francesca Harper, RAD teacher and examiner Ana Maria Campos and Tim Arthur, the RAD’s Chief Executive. Please do listen and subscribe.


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Benji Reid

Dance Gazette

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REST OF Issue 7 - June 2023


Be well

There’s a mental health crisis in the post-pandemic dance world, say RAD teachers and other dance professionals. Isaac Ouro-Gnao asks if a new focus on wellbeing can lift students and dancers struggling with their mental health?


Together forever

This issue of Dance Gazette brings together three pairs of dance people to share and compare experiences. Dancers in different styles, RAD teachers of different generations, RAD directors in different countries – do they share more than divides them? Deirdre Kelly listens in.


Full circle

From gold medallist at the Genée to choreographer at the Fonteyn – the Royal Ballet’s Valentino Zucchetti tells David Jays about creating work.


TikTok: good for dance?

No social media platform has had a greater influence on dance than TikTok. But just how do you go viral, and is the app safe and valuable for dance? Nicolas-Tyrell Scott investigates.


Family guy

From the RAD’s Production Club to the world’s great ballet companies: Jonathan Gray explores the life and legacy of choreographer John Cranko, who died 50 years ago.


‘Dance is my blood’

In Georgia, a celebrated national children’s dance company shakes off the shadow of Russia and aims to nurture national pride. Sally Howard reports from Tbilisi.


‘It’s a force stronger than me’

David Hallberg – star dancer, now artistic director of the Australian Ballet – tells David Jays about surviving bullying, being the boss and why dance still compels him.

Art of the matter post

Effective teaching

How do you define ‘effective teaching’? Gerard Charles, the RAD’s Artistic Director, introduces the results of an RAD research project.

Big Picture post

RAD Members’ Day

The RAD global community came together on 23 April for a special Members’ Day united around the theme of ‘togetherness’.

RAD Q&A post

Amanda Britton

Amanda Britton leads Rambert School, and will be a judge for The Fonteyn. She discusses dancers’ training and the RAD’s collaboration on Rambert Grades.

Inside RAD post

New RAD Chair

Stephen Moss is the new Chair of the RAD.

Advice Bureau post

Alexander Campbell

Stay true to yourself, says the Australian-born Genée medallist and Royal Ballet principal.

Playlist post

Benji Reid

The ‘choreo-photolist’ shares his favourite music.