No dust has settled on the pointe shoes of Bakersfield-born ballerina Tiler Peck during this pandemic. Still, this week may be a record for the renowned dancer who has two projects launching online, including a livestream performance at the Fox Theater on Friday.
Sponsored by Kern Dance Alliance, Friday's "Live from the Bakersfield Fox: Swan Lake" will feature Peck and fellow New York City Ballet dancer Roman Mejia performing the Act II pas de deux from Tchaikovsky's iconic ballet.
The event came about in a conversation Peck has with Andrea Hansen, president of Kern Dance Alliance, about the toll the pandemic has taken on the performing arts. Since KDA has been working to provide opportunities to give dancers work during this time, Hansen and Peck started brainstorming what they could organize.
Hansen said, "It's funny. Tiler just asked me. She said, 'Andrea, can I dance at the Fox?'"
"I have always wanted to perform at the Fox and since my partner Roman Mejia was in town, we thought this is the perfect time," Peck wrote in an email.
It was an easy scheduling call since Hansen is also a Fox board member and outreach coordinator.
Next came selecting a dance piece that would both pique viewers' interest and would work within a tight rehearsal schedule.
"We choose 'Swan Lake' because it is the epitome of pure classical ballet and easily relatable," Peck wrote. "Most people think of 'Swan Lake' when they think of ballet, and the pas de deux is so transporting that I thought it would be a beautiful piece to share with everyone."
"It is one of the most beautiful pas de deux in classic ballet and also one of the hardest," Hansen said. "It's a really exciting challenge for her, something that she loves to dance."
Hansen said after the pas de deux, which is about 12 minutes long, each dancer will have a solo then a coda together. After a quick breather, the performers will return to the stage with Hansen for a live Q&A.
Anyone who wants to submit a question can email firstname.lastname@example.org or post on the KDA's social media pages, Hansen said.
Peck said she expects people will want to know how life has been for performing artists during the pandemic and how they have kept themselves in shape as top athletes.
The Bakersfield-born dancer, who had recovered from an injury prepandemic, said she wouldn't let the shutdown slow her growth.
"I needed to keep dancing and being creative, so I created a few amazing projects that kept myself extremely. These include my #TurnItOutWithTiler classes (on Instagram) and 'The Barre Project.'"
"The Barre Project," which has its virtual world premiere this week, is the creation of choreographer William Forsythe, who designed the five musical episodes focused on barre, the most primary feature of ballet training.
Peck along with Mejia and fellow dancers Lex Ishimoto and Brooklyn Mack perform in the film, which was choreographed to have the feel of a live performance and is set to the music of singer-songwriter James Blake. (As the second of such efforts by Forsythe, the project's subtitle is "Blake Works II.")
Presented by CLI Studios, the global leader in online dance education, the project was created via Zoom, with all rehearsal, filming and assembly taking place "bicoastally and entirely remotely," according to a news release.
Peck said she was thrilled to work with Forsythe and the dancers and she hopes this project inspires the next generation of dancers to "think outside of the box in every way possible."
She knows that the past year has been a struggle with many artistic projects on hold but that performers should glean what they can from the experience of unprecedented times.
"A dancer's career is short, so I can feel your frustrations; however, these life struggles and overcoming of obstacles will only add to his or her artistry and therefore shine through in his or her dancing in the future."
Hansen said being able to now see performances like the upcoming Fox livestream can bolster viewers' spirits as we move closer to having live performances again.
"The arts keep us alive. They provide hope, they provide joy. They provide healing. We've been through a lot of trauma this past year and arts can be a road to recovery.
"By showing performers like Tiler and Roman on our Bakersfield stage, that's going to give a lot of people the feeling that hope is on the horizon."