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Review: Tiler Peck Turns It On

“Turn It Out” With Tiler Peck & Friends, The Soraya, Oct. 28-29, 2023


Nov. 3, 2023 | By Bruce R. Feldman


In Brief: Exquisite dancing and crowd-pleasing choreography made for a satisfying evening of modern ballet from a company whose main goal seemed to be to celebrate the sheer joy of movement and music, rather than offer themes or reflections on the zeitgeist of this or any particular moment.


Tiler Peck, Roman Mejia in "Swift Arrow." (Photo: Luis Luque, Luque Photography)

The dance world sensation that is Tiler Peck came to the Southland this week, bringing with it a program of four abstract ballets and gorgeous, disciplined dancing that adoring fans embraced with enthusiasm at every turn.


Thousandth Orange opened the concert. It was a pleasant if unemotional introduction to the company and Peck’s choreographic predilections. The piece for six dancers – decked out in visually striking Easter egg-colored leotards and tights – started and ended with the same tableau of dancers frozen in place, which is to say that it was all a bit formulaic and mannered.


A pianist and three string players performed Caroline Shaw’s score on stage. Sadly, the avant-garde composition could be heard only through the auditorium’s sound system. That’s a disappointment for a chamber piece, but to be expected in an all-purpose hall the size of the Soraya.


Swift Arrow, from choreographer Alonzo King, was an engrossing duet for Peck and Roman Mejia. Peck is a complete dancer. Mejia is exceptionally strong. It’s easy to watch these two stunners, even if they were dancing the phone book.


"Thousandth Orange," Tiler Peck and company. (Photo: Luis Luque, Luque Photography)

Tap dance guest artist Michelle Dorrance joined the entire company for Time Spell. Other critics have praised this ambitious piece, though, for me, the footwork felt intentionally stodgy.


On the other hand, the intriguing original score, composed and performed luminously by Aaron Marcellus and Penelope Wendtlandt, was memorable. It consisted of airy vocals and improvised electronic beats. The result was much richer and more impactful than you might expect from just two vocalists.


The Barre Project, Blake Works II, with choreography by William Forsythe to James Blake’s ethereal music, was the fourth and final work. Peck and three male dancers performed heightened, charming barre routines in the ballet’s first half, following by some handsomne ensemble work.



If the dancing was the main attraction of this concert, Peck made it clear that music also is an integral part of her artistry. She is not setting dances to music. She is creating dances with the full collaboration of her composers and musicians.


It remains to be seen whether Peck’s young company will resonate beyond its current iteration. At this point the group, lovely as it is, appears to be a more of a somewhat indistinct gathering of gifted artists, rather than a focused ensemble that embodies an indelible signature style and clearly defined aesthetic.


You will have another opportunity see the group perform locally when Peck & Friends reprises this bill at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa this weekend.


"Turn It Out With Tiler Peck & Friends, Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, CA 91330-8448, (818) 677-8800, thesoraya.org


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