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Sufjan Stevens’s Ballet Lessons


Justin Peck working with Ashley Bouder and Craig Hall for Year of the Rabbit.  

In rehearsal, though, Stevens and Peck seem like they’re in different worlds. Peck is preternaturally calm, standing on a small chair in a Volcom T-shirt and gym pants, surveying the proceedings like a boyish traffic coordinator. Between movements, he gives casual, minimal notes that sometimes sound as if he’s talking to himself (“I’m not so sold on this,” he says, executing a little jump, “but I’ll tweak it”). “People tell me I go into a kind of trance,” he says. “All of the dancers are staring at me, wondering when I’m going to move. Two minutes later, I lift my head, but to me it’s like no time passes.”

Meanwhile, Stevens, in a green SAY YES TO MICHIGAN! T-shirt, hunches in a corner near the piano, head in his score, whispering to the accompanist. The chaos of the rehearsal space is still something to get used to, even for the maximalist. “The dancers are in their sloppy rehearsal clothing, and they’re not shaving—they’re all wearing different colors. They all look like they just woke up! And the understudies are, like, shadow-dancing in the background,” he says. “I can’t even look at it. I have to just look at the score. There’s too many things going on!”


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