Justin Peck, the New York City Ballet’s 28-year-old choreographer-in-residence aims to entice a new audience to the theater with costumes and scenery designed by David Zwirner-represented artist Marcel Dzama.
Peck hopes to stun audiences with a madcap display of agile dance moves, paired with costumes resembling an antiqued, intergalactic take on Dr. Seuss.
The plot of the ballet (first published in 1870) includes a king who charges his people with creating “the most incredible thing” — a competition in which the winner will win the kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage. An outpouring of submissions yields the cast’s Creator, who earnestly triumphs with a magical clock. After being decreed winner, the cast’s Destroyer, a sinister character with a club-shaped arm, destroys the clock — an act decreed even more incredible. He wins the princess, albeit temporarily — for the clock’s magic comes back to life and the Creator wins again; sending the message that goodness and art prevail over evil.
“The whole thing is about the rise of art over tyranny or destruction. I had never read this story before and learned about it right at the time that ISIS was destroying Palmyra [in Syria] — I thought ‘Oh, this is so timely,’” said Dzama, between dancers’ wardrobe fittings at NYCB’s in-house costume shop.
Marc Happel, New York City Ballet’s director of costumes, was tasked with bringing Dzama’s fanciful tutu visions to life — in a way that thrills audiences while providing the company’s performers a full range of motion.
“We wanted the costumes to look like they almost come from another period — like they were created in the Twenties, but with a vision of what the future would be, even farther beyond us,” Happel said of the silvered wardrobe’s overall effect.
Each hour on the Creator’s clock is represented by a miniature ensemble of dancers — three kings, five senses, seven deadly sins, nine muses, et al. The deadly sins and their Dante’s Inferno choreography, in particular, are sure to amuse audiences with flame-colored, hand-painted unitards.
On the designs Peck (who also dances as a soloist for the company) said“For me it’s about creating relevant work, not just new choreography but also commissioning new music and new visual designs from the most talented artists working today. I think there is a responsibility to keep the art form moving forward and that was the intention [with this ballet],” he said of the piece, his 10th choreographic work.
“It’s not going to feel like an old-school classical ballet — it’s going to have my own choreographic style and voice, a new version of what some of these narrative fairy tales are like.”