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Gai Behar and Sharon Eyal

Gai Behar and Sharon Eyal.

When they met, Israeli dancemakers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar were from different worlds—she was performing in the venerated Batsheva Dance Company, and he was producing underground techno raves. “I remember I used to come to his parties and run away because it was scary for me,” Eyal told The New York Times. “For me, nothing is too much, but this moment was too much.”

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October 9, 2015 by New York City Center
Tiler Peck in Studio

Tiler Peck in the City Center studios, photographed by Jordan Matter.

When New York City Ballet star Tiler Peck dances onstage to the music of Mendelssohn and Tschaikovsky, audiences probably don’t realize that she warmed up before the show by blasting Beyoncé, Pharrell Williams, and Taylor Swift. “Because my days are filled with classical music, I’ve always felt like it’s the only music I listen to,” says Peck. “These pop songs feel like refreshers. They get me excited.”

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October 6, 2015 by New York City Center
Steven McRae Rehearsal

Steven McRae rehearsing The Rite of Spring in 2011, photographed by Johan Persson.

Royal Ballet star Steven McRae is the son of drag racer, and in a way his chosen profession isn’t much different. “Every time you step on stage there’s always the risk that it could go horribly wrong, but it could also be the best show of your life,” McRae told The Guardian in 2011. “It’s that adrenaline of just not knowing. I live off that buzz.”

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October 1, 2015 by New York City Center
Doug Elkins Dance Music

Doug Elkins in Fräulein Maria, photographed by Christopher Roesing.

When we called choreographer and self-proclaimed “style thief” Doug Elkins, he was busily teaching the Paul Taylor Dance Company how to twerk. “Some of them are already very versed in it,” he says. Elkins’ commission for the iconic modern dance company was announced in March, and recently a friend asked what he was creating. “I think I’m making a mixtape,” Elkins replied. “They laughed, but it’s true. I’m a fan boy making a mixtape. I’m sampling.”

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September 30, 2015 by New York City Center
William Finn

William Finn in 1998, when A New Brain premiered Off-Broadway.

When A New Brain composer-lyricist William Finn was hospitalized with an arteriovenous malformation in 1992, his friend and collaborator James Lapine repeated a mantra every time he visited: “I hope you’re taking notes.” Finn didn’t fall for it. “I would say, ‘I’m dying. You take the notes,’” he recalls, laughing.

Instead of a notebook, Finn brought a “crappy little” cassette player to the hospital and spent his nights listening obsessively to his favorite music: Paul Simon, Philip Glass, Joni Mitchell. To soothe his claustrophobia during an endless string of MRIs, he even had the technicians play Leonard Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow” on loop. When the tape player broke mid-session, Finn asked, “Can you sing it? Do you know the a cappella parts?”

“I was a jokester,” he says. “But it’s one of the most glorious songs ever written. I love when it goes into the a cappella stuff. It just rises. You want to kill yourself when you’re in the hospital, and you just need moments when everything soars. I felt like I was floating. The music got me through.” City Center asked Finn to share some of the music that made him “soar” during the near-death experience that he later musicalized in A New Brain.

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June 4, 2015 by New York City Center
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