When does movement turn into art? Justin Peck navigates this fine line in Become a Mountain, his new film for On. Throughout the piece, six dancers move with a whimsical fluidity through intricate steps, reminiscent of pedestrian movement in the streets of New York City. The moves feel second nature, but the choreography is arresting. It’s this commitment to inspire his audience through movement that highlights exactly why we wanted to work with Justin: a world-class choreographer famous for blending classical dance with the everyday.
Peck invites his audience into his rich and expansive universe, where he rediscovers the world step by step. An athlete in his youth, he has a unique approach to choreography: From the studio to the big screen, he adds speed, strength and agility. The result is work that resonates and sparks imagination. Become a Mountain, his ode to movement and athleticism, is a testament to this.
Justin’s inspiration for the film was serendipitous: he kept spotting On shoes around New York and not only on runners’ feet – commuters and film crews, too. As an artist, it was a versatility he could identify with.
And then there was the beating heart of this film – the music. Justin had worked with American composer Dan Deacon previously and was obsessed with his piece, Become a Mountain. It was classical, yet dynamic – exactly the type of score that ignites your soul.
“We wanted to make a dance that could evoke On’s adventurous spirit. The goal was to make it feel like a live performance – a dance that can exist in a unique way through space.” - Justin Peck
Justin’s path to ballet wasn’t linear. As a young boy, he couldn’t sit still, so his parents found an outlet for his energies: the local soccer league. However, those years playing soccer are now woven into his work. “I came at dance from an athlete’s point of view,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to explore that fine line between artistry and athletics.”
It was watching tap dancer Savion Glover perform in “Bring In ’da Noise, Bring In ’da Funk” that moved Justin, only nine years old at the time, to swap in his soccer cleats for a pair of tap shoes. That eventually led him to New York City Ballet, where he danced as a soloist and moved into the world of choreography.
In 2014, Peck was named resident choreographer of New York City Ballet – only the second person to hold this role – following in the footsteps of the company’s founding choreographer, Jerome Robbins. Then, came more success: his first Tony Award for his impressive work in the third Broadway revival of Rodger and Hammerstein's “Carousel.”
His work in Broadway caught the eyes of Steven Spielberg, who invited him to choreograph the new “West Side Story” in 2021. The result? Glowing reviews and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.