Wednesday, Dec 19 2012 01:34 PM

CAMILLE GAVIN: Hometown dancer meets biggies

By The Bakersfield Californian

Here's what Bakersfield native Tiler Peck had to say about dining with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Dec. 1, followed the next day by a reception at the White House where she was greeted by President Obama and the first lady.

"It was by far the most exciting weekend of my life," she said in an email. "I felt like the luckiest girl in the world! It was like fantasy land."

Related Info

Kennedy Center Honors TV show

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: KBAK-TV, Channel 29

Admission: Free

Information: 327-7955

'Family Holiday Extravaganza'

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Masonic Temple, 1920 18th St.

Admission: $12, $10 children 12 and under; free to children under 5

Information: 831-8114

'The Muppet Christmas Carol'

When: 3 p.m. Friday

Where: Northeast Branch Library, 3725 Columbus St.

Admission: Free

Information: 871-9017

Peck, 22, a principle dancer with the New York City Ballet, was in Washington as part of the entertainment for the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. We'll be able to see her -- and a lot of show business celebrities -- in a taped broadcast of the show at 9 p.m. Wednesday on KBAK-TV, Channel 29.

One of this year's recipients of the prestigious award is Russian-born ballerina Natalia Makarova, 72, who during a long and successful career danced with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, among other masters. Peck and four other dancers were asked to perform a tribute to the ballerina. For her solo performance, Peck did the first variation from a Jerome Robbins ballet called "Other Dances."

"Because Jerome Robbins choreographed this piece for (Makarova) it was a very important ballet to be a part of her tribute," she said. "I also felt the pressure of having to dance a role for the woman it was created for. However, I was so excited to be a part of the performance."

Also saluted during the show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington were this year's other honorees: Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, bluesman Buddy Guy and Led Zeppelin.

Peck's busy weekend began on Dec. 1 with a dinner hosted by Hillary Clinton in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department. Peck admitted to being a bit overwhelmed upon meeting the secretary of state.

"She (Clinton) was the first star that I met that weekend, so I was sort of at a loss for words," she said. "She looked beautiful and her speech welcoming the honorees was intelligent and witty."

Peck's escort at the dinner was Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff who now is the mayor of Chicago. During the dinner conservation she learned that Emanuel once was a dancer himself.

"He (Emanuel) was so gracious," she said. "He could tell that I was awestruck and, looking around the room, he asked me who I wanted to meet. And I said, 'How about David Letterman?' "

Emanuel then offered to take a picture of Peck with the talk show host. Afterward. Emanuel joked, "See, this is what the mayor's job has come down to -- taking pictures. Who's next?"

The mayor then introduced her to several other guests, including Bill Clinton, Alec Baldwin, Buddy Guy, Yo-Yo Ma, and other celebrities.

The reception at the White House was held the next evening, a few hours before the performance.

"I couldn't believe I was actually at the White House meeting the president and first lady and would also get to dance for them later that evening," Peck said. "He was very personable and they both were very tall and looked very dignified."

Upon learning that Peck was one of the group who would be performing that evening, Michelle Obama said, "I could tell they are dancers by the way they move their bodies and the way they walk."

Peck's mother, Georgia Peck, was her first dance teacher. At age 7 she started taking lessons in Los Angeles from former NYC Ballet dancers and at 11 appeared on Broadway in "The Music Man" as Gracie Shinn, the mayor's daughter.

During this time she completed her studies at Christa McAuliffe Elementary and Tevis Junior High in the southwest before moving to New York.

Upon joining the NYC Ballet at 15, she attended Professional Children's School in New York, graduating in three years. Working her way up through the ranks, she served as an apprentice, as a member of the corps de ballet and soloist before being named a principle dancer in 2009.

Although Peck lives in New York, she hasn't forgotten her roots. The ballerina visits Bakersfield several times a year and while here, often teaches some of her mother's students. She also has a dog named Cali -- short for California -- and she's kept her original cell phone number that begins with 661, the designation for our area.

BCT at the Masonic Temple

To allow for repairs of its playhouse on South Chester Avenue, Bakersfield Community Theatre has switched venues for its Christmas show, "Family Holiday Extravaganza."

Final performances for the production, which began on Dec. 14, are this weekend at the Masonic Temple in downtown Bakersfield.

"The time was just right," said Ed French, BCT president. "The theater needs so many repairs and we had the money and the people to do it."

French said a major part of the work being done involves a renovation of the interior and exterior lighting system.

BCT board members have long struggled with the idea of whether to move from the theater's South Chester Avenue building, possbily for the downtown area. With that in mind, I asked whether the move the Masonic Temple could be permanent.

"No," said French. "We're still looking for a place we can convert to a theater."

I also asked how BCT is doing financially.

"We're still discussing a budget," he said. "We're still alive and kickin'."

Former artistic director Sheila McClure has resigned from the board to spend more time with her family, French said. Kenneth Whitchard has assumed that position. Whitchard is director of the holiday show, which includes a cast of 24. Dianne Kennedy assisted Whitchard with the vocal direction and Moddie Mena, did the choreography.

Free parking is available in the Guild House lot across the street from the Masonic Temple.

Free movie for kids

If you're looking for a way to keep the young ones entertained as they await the arrival of Santa Claus, you might want to take them to the Northeast Branch Library on Friday afternoon where "The Muppet Christmas Carol" will be shown. What's more, it's free.

The film, made in 1992, is based on the story by Charles Dickens and features the Muppets' characters like Kermit the Frog. Veteran actor Michael Caine voices the part of Ebenezer Scrooge.

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