‘West Side Story’ Taps Justin Peck as Choreographer

West Side Story Justin Peck

Choreographer Justin Peck has come on board the new West Side Story film which has three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List) attached to direct. Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time Oscar nominee Tony Kushner (Lincoln, Munich) adapted the 1957 musical written by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. Leonard Bernstein wrote the music and Jerome Robbins handled the choreography in the original production.

“This is a total dream-come-true. Getting a chance to work alongside such an illustrious and inspiring team to present a West Side Story for today’s audience is something I never imagined I would experience,” stated choreographer Justin Peck. “The original West Side Story was one of the guiding forces that led me to dance in the first place, so I feel very honored on a deeply personal level.”

West Side Story was previous adapted into a feature film in 1961. The cast included Natalie Wood as Maria, Richard Beymer as Tony, Russ Tamblyn as Riff, Rita Moreno as Anita, and George Chakiris as Bernardo. The musical earned 11 Oscar nominations, winning 10 including Best Picture, Best Director (shared by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins), Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), and Best Music.

Justin Peck’s Background, Courtesy of Amblin:

Justin Peck began choreographing in 2009 at the New York Choreographic Institute. In 2014, after the creation of his acclaimed ballet “Everywhere We Go,” he was appointed as Resident Choreographer of New York City Ballet. He is the second person in the institution’s history to hold this title.

He joined New York City Ballet as a dancer in 2006. As a performer, Peck has danced a vast repertoire of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and many others. In 2013, he was promoted to the rank of Soloist.

Peck has created over 30 ballets – 17 of those for New York City Ballet. His works have been performed by Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, LA Dance Project, Dutch National Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet, to name a few. His collaborators include composers Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner (The National), Dan Deacon, Caroline Shaw, M83; visual artists Shepard Fairey, Marcel Dzama, John Baldessari, and Jules de Balincourt; and fashion designers Mary Katrantzou, Humberto Leon (Kenzo, Opening Ceremony), Tumori Chisato, and Dries Van Noten.

Peck choreographed the 2018 Broadway revival of Carousel. The production was directed by Jack O’Brien and stars Jesse Meuller, Joshua Henry & Renée Fleming. That same year, Peck received the Tony Award for best choreography, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Choreography for his work on the production. Additionally, Peck has danced the role of Bernardo in Robbins’ ballet “West Side Story Suite” and this past spring he choreographed a Leonard Bernstein piece, “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs,” for the New York City Ballet.