Before she could walk Tiler Peck was dancing. By the time she was four-years-old she had a talent for remembering three minute dance solos. “I was dancing all the time,” says Peck who has been a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for over a decade. “My mother put me in soccer and I would leap and dance down the field.”
Tiler Peck, with her pup Cali, preps for her Instagram Live classes (Photo by Myka Peck)
Working professionally since she was a child, Peck made her Broadway debut when she was 11 in Susan Stroman’s revival of The Music Man playing Gracie Shinn. She is hosting regular ballet classes on her @tilerpeck Instagram.
Peck makes classes doable for beginners and also creates challenging exercises and combinations more intermediate dancers. She does the classes from her family’s kitchen using the counter as a barre. “I love that people say, ‘I would never have had the courage to come into a ballet class. Here I don't feel that people can judge me,” says Peck. “There are 6 year-olds and younger, moms with their children, 40-year-olds and older, taking ballet for the first time.” She asks people to post videos of themselves doing the combinations with the hashtag #TurnItOutWithTiler so she can get a sense of who she is teaching and offer feedback.
“I am so happy when I get messages that people are looking forward to classes” says Peck. “It makes me motivated to wake up in the morning because I know that I have all these people counting on me.” The classes have been such a sensation that thousands of people, of all ages shapes and sizes, from South Africa, to Brazil, to Australia and all parts in between, have joined in to dance together.
As thrilling as it is to have this ultimate master class from a prima ballerina who is known for her artistry, it’s equally thrilling for Peck. “I feel so moved by every single person talking class. Just as they thank me, I have to thank them,” she shares. “This is a hard time for everybody. It’s hard to go through it alone. And I would probably have a very difficult time trying to give myself class by myself every single day” Even though she cannot see the students, she can feel the thousands of people dancing with her. “It makes everything so much better,” she says. “To know we are in this together.”
Peck also has a new children’s book, Katarina Ballerina, (Simon & Schuster), which she cowrote with actor Kyle Harris, who last appeared on Broadway in The Inheritance. Sumiti Collina created the whimsical illustrations. Peck and Harris wrote the book from a Seattle, Washington hotel in between performing in their Broadway bound show Marie.
Ten-year-old Katarina dreams to become a prima ballerina. “Sometimes when she closed her eyes, she could imagine herself dancing in front of a huge crowd of people. She’d leap and twirl across the stage, and everyone would jump to their feet to clap for her when she was finished!,” offers one passage.
In the book Katarina has a love for dance but her feet turn in and her curly hair doesn’t always fit into a sleek bun. Yet, as joyful as she is for dance, Katarina cannot picture herself like the quintessential and flawless ballerinas she sees in dance videos. Her curly hair doesn’t always make it into a sleek bun. Her feet have a tendency to turn inward. “…like her big toes were two magnets, always being pulled together by some invisible force,” writes Peck and Harris. “None of the perfect ballerinas in the video had toes like that.”
Although Katarina is not supposed to be Peck herself, she and Harris infused Katarina with their own traits. “Kyle’s feet turn in and he has crazy, curly hair. And I always felt like a jazz dancer trying to be a ballerina. I never felt like I quite fit in,” says Peck who got her start at her mother’s dance studio, Bakersfield Dance Company, which her mother still owns. “We wanted Katarina to have this immense love to dance, yet isn’t quite perfect for it. And honestly, I've never felt like I had the best turnout.”
“Katarina has one thing that you can’t teach. She has a light within her that makes people want to watch her dance,” says Peck. “While technique can be taught, love and passion can’t. The message is for kids to own their unique gifts. That makes you stand out.”