Tiler Peck dances with a fleetness so astonishing, it’s as if her feet were made of wings. For this ballerina, performing 32 fouettés — those flashy whipping turns made famous in “Swan Lake” — is like a rest step, she once told me. A rest step. Even a seasoned ballerina might find that absurd.
“I’ve never been really nervous when I perform,” Ms. Peck, a principal at New York City Ballet, said in a recent interview at a restaurant across the street from Lincoln Center. “I’ve always just been able to be onstage and feel very comfortable.”
As odd as it might sound, being comfortable onstage isn’t always a good thing. It often seemed that for all her facility, Ms. Peck, 29, was dancing behind a veil. In recent months, that veil has been lifted and a different Ms. Peck has emerged: a little raw, emotionally unguarded and daring in a more delicate, walking-on-a tightrope way.
“I feel like Bambi,” she said, with a laugh. “I feel so wacky.”
Ms. Peck’s transformation has much to do with what she accomplished last summer: conceiving and directing an impressive program of dance at the Music Center in Los Angeles. In “Ballet Now,” a new documentary directed by Steven Cantor, Ms. Peck is captured in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the performances. “It changed me as a person, and I think that’s what has translated into my dancing now,” she said. “I do feel a difference.”
The film, produced by Vulcan Productions, which is committed to introducing more dance programming to the general public, will be available to stream on Hulu on July 20. It tracks Ms. Peck, who in less than a week put together an eclectic program of ballet, tap, hip-hop and mime, featuring choreography by George Balanchine, Justin Peck (no relation), Bill Irwin, Michelle Dorrance and others; she oversaw dancers, choreographers, the orchestra and every other last detail. Of course, she danced, too.
“It was such a huge turning point for me,” she said, adding that it brought on an important realization: “I know I could run a company. And I could do it really well.”
After she said this, Ms. Peck laughed with delight. She’s always been cheerful, but she’s never seemed so loopily at ease. The experience of being in charge has both relaxed and empowered her. “It was never something that I really ever thought about,” she continued. “Now I know it is something that I want to do.”
In “Ballet Now,” Ms. Peck is shown behind the scenes, racing from one rehearsal to the next, dealing with the orchestra and wolfing down sandwiches.
The actress Elisabeth Moss, one of the film’s executive producers — and a former dancer who trained at the Westside Ballet in Santa Monica, Calif., and at the School of American Ballet in New York, just like Ms. Peck — pushed for the movie’s behind-the-scenes focus.
“I love watching the normalcy mixed with the extraordinary that you see in Tiler in this film,” Ms. Moss said in an email. “She’s one of the most brilliant dancers internationally and also gets tired and sore and needs caffeine and to talk to her mom. I was struck by the similarities to many other working women.”
Ms. Moss was also involved in the editing of the film. It was important to her and Ms. Peck that this would be an accurate representation of work that went into the performances. “We didn’t want to gloss over anything, or have it be just a performance piece,” Ms. Moss said. She wanted to present a more realistic take on ballet that would show, she said, “the grit. The ugly parts. The parts that we all deal with every day in our own jobs. These dancers are no different.”
At one point in the film, Ms. Dorrance refers to Ms. Peck as a “stage beast,” and it’s true. But she’s also pragmatic, exacting and candid, qualities that Mr. Cantor, who is also one of the film’s producers, captures. “It wasn’t like he was trying to make me be something I wasn’t,” Ms. Peck said. “That was the most important thing, because I’m so tired of seeing ballet dancers being overdramatic.”
Mr. Cantor, who previously created a music video with Ms. Peck, could see that the experience of directing the show changed her, even during the course of shooting. “She went from being really nervous — ‘Oh my God, all of these people are coming in, and how am I possibly going to pull this off?’ — to almost compartmentalizing her schedule so that everybody thought she was totally attentive to their needs,” he said. “She would go from one thing to the next and be completely in the moment with people.”
Apart from the stress of putting on her first show, Ms. Peck was also dealing with a personal crisis: the breakup of her marriage to Robert Fairchild, then a principal dancer at City Ballet. That story is left out of the film; Ms. Peck, with Mr. Cantor’s support, held her ground to not include it. And, for Ms. Peck, that was another important step.
“I’m not so good at saying no — or I wasn’t until I did this show,” she said. “I don’t like people to be upset at me. But I wouldn’t have gotten anything done if I wasn’t able to say, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”
She demonstrates that ability in the film. At one point, just two hours before curtain time, her patience wears thin when stagehands explain that applying a nonslip solution to the dance floor for Ms. Dorrance’s piece will take too long to dry. She tells the crew, “So let’s stop maybe talking about it and do it.”
At City Ballet, she’s more assertive now, too. It used to be that if she was asked to give up a performances in favor of another dancer, she would agree to it, but be upset. “I feel like this is my time,” she said. “I had to wait for things and people can wait for things, too.”
She paused for a moment. “Now,” she added, “I stand up for myself.”
The artistic landscape has changed at City Ballet. Peter Martins, the company’s longtime ballet master in chief, resigned earlier this year after allegations of physical and sexual misconduct. Ms. Peck and some of her fellow dancers, she said, “are the ones carrying the company, not necessarily the interim team.”
The current and former dancers Craig Hall, Rebecca Krohn, Justin Peck and Jonathan Stafford make up that interim group. “But we’re the ones onstage still having to dance the way we dance, and it feels like it’s up to us to teach the younger dancers,” Ms. Peck continued. “We are the ones that have to carry these ballets forward.”
Ms. Peck is also branching out. This summer, at the 2018 Vail International Dance Festival, directed by Damian Woetzel, Ms. Peck is trying something new: She’s choreographing a ballet for herself and fellow City Ballet dancers Roman Mejia and Harrison Coll. Before Mr. Woetzel gauged her interest, she had already been considering it. Her first ballet teacher was her mother; and Ms. Peck, who comes from Bakersfield, Calif., grew up choreographing at her studio. (Her father was a college football coach, and Ms. Peck remains a fan of the game.)
“Now’s the time,” she said about choreographing. “This whole year feels like, just go for it.”
So why not apply for the directorship of City Ballet? Ms. Peck laughed and stuttered. “It’s hard to say,” she started, before composing herself and explaining her thinking.
“There’s that sweet spot of when your technique and artistry meet, and I feel like that’s happening, “ she continued. “I just feel, right now, that I still want to dance. I’m not ready for that to be over. If that weren’t an issue, then yes. Let me put it this way: Nothing would be an issue.”
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