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By Terry Trucco
Playbill Arts
December 4, 2013

The Children of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

Maximilian Brooking Landegger as the Nutcracker Prince and Rommie Tomasini as Marie (photo by Paul Kohnik) 2013[New York, New York, USA] – It’s impossible to imagine George Balanchine’s The NutcrackerTM without children—and not just the ones in the audience. Young dancers between the ages of 8 and 13 help propel the plot in the ballet’s first act, danced in the proper living room of the Stahlbaum family, home to Marie and her impish brother Fritz. Children are again a focal point in the second act as Candy Canes, Marzipan, Hot Chocolate and other whimsical inhabitants of the Land of Sweets frolic for the enjoyment of Marie and the Prince. Young dancers appear in many of Balanchine’s ballets, though none as prominently as in The Nutcracker. Balanchine, after all, was himself a child dancer, performing with the Imperial Russian Ballet. Each fall, two alternating casts of youthful dancers are plucked from the ranks of the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, to appear in the Company’s holiday jewel.

What’s it like to dance in front of nearly 3,000 people a night while you’re still in elementary school? We talked with six young performers about their experiences, on and offstage.

Rommie Tomasini, Marie

At age 10, Rommie Tomasini, a soft-spoken Manhattan fifth grader, is already a four-year Nutcracker veteran with a wealth of onstage memories. After a season as the Bunny in the first act battle scene— “I was very scared of the Mouse King,” she recalls with a smile— and another as a Polichinelle—“It’s dark and kind of hard to see under Mother Ginger’s skirt”—she danced last season as Marie, a role she’s eager to repeat this year. “My favorite part is spinning on the bed. Your eyes are closed, and you’re getting dizzy, but it’s actually fun.” Rommie started ballet when she was 6, following, almost literally, in the footsteps of her older sister. “While I’m in ballet class I clear my mind and only focus on one thing and that’s to dance,” she says. When she’s not dancing or doing homework, Rommie enjoys reading books about ballet, eating crepes with Nutella and going to museums. “This year our class gets to go the American Museum of Natural History and sleep under the whale, so I’m looking forward to that,” she says.

Maximilian Brooking Landegger, The Prince

Maximilian Brooking Landegger, who’s known as Max, was 5 years old when a friend cancelled a play date and changed his life. “My younger sister was going to her ballet class and I thought, ‘Oh no, I have to go watch ballet,’” he recalls. “But when I saw it I realized I wanted to take lessons.” He auditioned for SAB as soon as he turned 6 and never looked back. “Ballet class is completely mind blowing,” says Max, who performed recently as Oliver in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals at NYCB. “I forget about grades or problems that I’m having. And being so energetic and trying my hardest makes me feel good.” This year marks the fifth Nutcracker and second stint as the Prince for the 11-year-old Manhattan fifth grader whose favorite school subjects are English and history. In his spare time Max enjoys going to the ballet and counts Balanchine’s Serenade and Tarantella among his favorites. “I like to jump. So it’s inspirational to watch the dancers jump in Tarantella and think, wow, I hope I can do that one day,” he says. As for his sister, she still dances, and Max looks forward to sitting onstage in the second act and watching her as a Polichinelle.

Philip Henry Duclos, Fritz

“I love this role,” declares Philip Henry Duclos, an angelic-looking 10-year-old known as Henry, who is in his second year as the devilish Fritz. “ It’s really fun to be that kid who’s naughty. It’s fun to act it out.” Though Henry savors almost every Fritz moment, his favorite comes at the very beginning, when he shares an empty stage with Marie. “You’re lying down asleep in Marie’s lap, you peek out, and you see this huge audience with thousands of people. It’s amazing,” he says. A three-year Nutcracker veteran and fourth-year student at SAB, Henry relishes taking ballet class taught by former NYCB dancers Jock Soto and Arch Higgins and particularly enjoys doing pirouettes. “When I see the older dancers turning onstage I love how the turns look, and they’re a lot of fun to do in class,” he says. A Manhattan fifth grader, Henry calls ballet his “priority.” But he also plays the violin, likes to draw and ice skate and enjoys “eating breakfast for dinner, things like French toast, pancakes and eggs.”

Claire Simon, Marie

Like many young girls, Claire Simon, an 11-year-old Manhattan sixth grader, dreamed of what it would be like to be Marie in The Nutcracker. “I always wanted to go up in the sleigh with the reindeer,” she says. After dancing in the party scene for two years, she got her wish this year. Her selection came as a surprise. “At the casting a boy from a higher level at SAB came to get me, and I thought I was in trouble,” she recalls. Instead Dena Abergel, NYCB Children’s Ballet Mistress, greeted her with the good news. Claire spends her days practicing her steps at every opportunity, “even on the subway,” she says. “I can never sit still, and ballet is a disciplined way of moving.” Though she auditioned successfully for SAB when she was 6, she left the following year when her family traveled the world for seven months. “My favorite countries were Greece and Cambodia,” she says. When she isn’t dancing or studying, Claire likes to swim, ice skate and read historical fiction, “especially about World War II.” She also helps look after the family dog, Clovis. “I have to take her out, which I don’t like. But I like her anyway,” she says.

Lleyton Ho, The Prince

Lleyton Ho (Nutcracker prince), Robert La Fosse (Herr Drosselmeier), and Claire Abraham (Marie) in Balanchine’s “Nutcracker,” at New York City Ballet (photo by Paul Kolnik) 2013Lleyton Ho recalls his excitement the first year he appeared in The Nutcracker in the party scene. “When I was little, the only thing I’d really look forward to at Christmas was watching The Nutcracker on television. The Nutcracker was always a big part of my life,” he says. Last year Lleyton, a 13-year-old seventh grader from Scarsdale, graduated to the role of the Prince, a part he’ll repeat this year. “It’s really special seeing all the professional dancers up close and watching them perform,” he says. Lleyton came to ballet at the age of 8 at the suggestion of his gymnastics instructor. “I discovered I loved ballet more than gymnastics and decided to keep doing it. There’s discipline in ballet but also freedom, which is an unusual combination,” he says. Commuting into Manhattan for ballet means hours in the family car, but Lleyton uses “car time,” as he calls it, to plow through his homework “I’m lucky I don’t get motion sickness,” he says. When summer rolls around, he enjoys sailing, swimming and reading, especially books about soldiers and espionage. “A lot of books I don’t think I’ll like at first I end up liking a lot,” he says.

F. Henry Berlin, Fritz

When F. Henry Berlin was 8 years old, his ice skating instructor suggested he study ballet to improve his flexibility. It turns out ice skating was considerably more helpful to ballet than the other way around, especially with balance. “You’re out there holding your leg up to your ear without a barre, and that’s kind of what we do on ice,” says Henry, an 11-year-old Manhattan fifth grader. “Besides, there’s really no bad part about dancing. If you fall you’re not going to slide and hit the wall.” After a year as a Nutcracker party boy, Henry danced Fritz for the first time last year, a role he’s excited to return to. “The fact that you have a name is nice. People know Fritz. But the great thing about playing Fritz is you get to act really, really devilishly without getting in trouble. That’s fun.” Though he calls ballet his “main focus,” Henry also plays soccer and the violin, takes art classes and likes “the kind of books I can’t stop reading,” like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. “I’ve got The Goblet of Fire on my Kindle. It’s my number one obsession now,” he says.

Copyright © 2013 Playbill, Inc

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By Amanda Gabeletto
The Altoona Mirror
April 7, 2013

Jared Angle in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante (Photo by Paul Kolnik)As a child, Altoona [Pennsylvania] native and New York City Ballet principal dancer Jared Angle, 32, saw the Allegheny Ballet Company perform “The Nutcracker” at The Mishler Theatre.

About a month later, the boy who would go on to reach the highest-rank of professional dance at one of the most well-known companies in the world started lessons at the local company’s school.

In third- or fourth-grade on a trip with classmates to the Kennedy Center, Angle watched San Francisco Ballet dancers take the stage. That is where he realized ballet was in his future. “I think I didn’t really quite realize that it was something you could do for a job,” he said. “I really just enjoyed the lessons and dancing. … Our school took a trip to see them because one of our former students was in that company and I think that’s when I finally put it together that it was like a job and I decided then that’s what I wanted to do.”

Angle attended two summer sessions at the School of American Ballet in New York before moving to the city at age 16, he said. With the city summer school under his belt, moving to New York as a teenager was not particularly intimidating, he said. “But it was also just a necessity like it was time to take my training to the next level so it was necessary to go so I was ready,” he said.

Angle said Allegheny Ballet was a foundation for where he ended up.

“It basically has everything to do with where I am now,” he said. “Ballet is one of those careers that you have to start very early because you can only dance until you’re 40 or something so if you don’t have really good rigorous training in the beginning. … I don’t want to say a lost cause, but it’s really hard to catch up.”

Fact Box

The Jared Angle file

Oct. 1, 1980: Born

1986: Began his dance   training at age 6 at the Allegheny Ballet Academy.Fall 1996: Entered the   School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet.

1997: Received the Rudolf   Nureyev Scholarship to continue his training at the School of American Ballet   for the 1997-1998 school year.

March 1998: Became an   apprentice with New York City Ballet

July 1998: Joined the   Company as a member of the corps de ballet.

2000: Appeared in the   Columbia Pictures’ feature film “Center Stage.”

February 2001: Promoted to   the rank of soloist with the New York City Ballet.

2001-2002: Received the   Princess Grace Dance Fellowship.

May 2004: Appeared in the   Live from Lincoln Center broadcast of “Lincoln Center Celebrates   Balanchine 100,” dancing in “Liebeslieder Walzer.”

November 2005: Promoted to   principal dancer following a performance during a company visit for the   reopening of the Tivoli Concert Hall.

Source: New York City   Ballet website

 

Angle said he and others were fortunate to have Deborah Anthony, founding director, to guide them. He said she is “a wonderful teacher,” especially for the younger students. As students progressed, Anthony brought in teachers, who were former professionals or taught elsewhere, to supplement their learning, he said.

The training was “really well rounded” and contained performance experience, he said.

Angle has since experienced major milestones as a male dancer, but said he never went into his career thinking he would become a star.

He “liked the work” and “loved dancing,” he said.

He recalled landing his first principal part when he was about 18 years old after someone got injured. Angle performed a pas de deux with one of the major ballerinas of the company, Dorothy Kissler, who also just happened to be the wife of Angle’s boss.

“It was scary but exciting and it went well. That was the first milestone and then getting promoted to soloist was again surprising and totally thrilling,” he said.

In 2005, Angle got promoted to principal dancer. The milestone was exciting like the others, “but also at the same time it’s a lot of pressure because you have to live up to the title, you know what I mean?” he said. “I felt like now you’re promoted, now you have to prove it even more in a way.”

Angle’s aunt, Jean Geist of Altoona, said her nephew has worked hard for his achievements. “I’m just ultimately very proud of how humble he has been in his success and how amazingly successful he has become,” she said.

Angle’s musicality was evident from a young age, she said. “He just was very comfortable and could move beautifully with the tempo of almost any kind of music,” she said. “So he had it. He has a gift.”

His dedication was also there at a young age. “From the time he walked into the studio in kindergarten he was just comfortable there. It was just his thing. He’s very very musical. Plays the piano beautifully,” his mom, Barb Angle of Altoona, said. “It’s just been fun to watch him grow into it. And like I said he’s really educated himself and us about his craft… he’s the one that would sort of say to us in sixth grade, ‘Well, you know I want to go to this summer program. This is what I have to do if I want to get better. You go away and you study in the summer.’ And you know that was completely new, we didn’t know anything about this world so he really kind of did the research, and even as far as setting his sights on New York City Ballet.”

Jared is “extremely humble,” she said. “He’s just very sort of low key about it all.”

He isn’t the only son to have reached such success either. His brother, Tyler, 27, is also a principal dancer with the New York company.

Barb and her husband, Clay, are proud of their four sons, she said. “I think its incredible. I think [Jared] certainly deserves it. I think he’s extremely talented. He takes it very seriously. He feels that it’s an important art form and it’s been good to him,” she said. “Naturally we couldn’t be any more proud.”

Jared Angle and Teresa Reichlen in George Balanchine’s Vienna Waltzes. (Photo by Paul Kolnik)

Angle enjoys the performances where he loses the sense of himself in the piece. “I like those ballets where you sort of disappear into the mood,” he said. “The best is when you forget about yourself and you’re just involved in this thing and then you have to come to at the end. Those are my personal favorite ballets to do.”

Angle sees the bigger picture to his dancing. “Because you’re dancing to an orchestra playing with you and then you’re on stage dancing steps that someone else has made so it’s about this whole puzzle that comes together ….[that is] greater than the individual performers,” he said. “That’s what I like.”

Although Angle has reached the top rank for a ballet dancer, he is not done. “I mean definitely getting to this rank is amazing and I am very much happy that I have gotten there, but at the same time there’s always something to work on. It’s never over,” he said. “We start every day with a ballet class where you look at yourself in the mirror and basically try to work on what’s wrong. So every day it starts with zeroing in on something that you don’t like or that could be improved upon so there’s always that quest to either technically make something better or to just artistically explore things deeper, so it’s never over and I think that I would maybe lose interest if it was just like, ‘I’m there I reached it.’ If I just clocked in and clocked out every day it would interest me much less than always searching for something better.”

© 2013 The Altoona Mirror

Related Article:  The Dancer Is Young, the Soul Is Old

By Julie Cushine-Rigg
Spotlight News
July 11, 2012

Six-year-old John Zorbas of Colonie can’t wait until he’s big and strong enough to lift ballerinas high into the air – and he’s well on his way.

Zorbas will be dancing with the New York City Ballet in their production of “Firebird” at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center through a program that has been in place since 1968 that allows young local dancers to take the stage with the renowned ballet company.

“I’m so excited to be dancing in the ballet,” said Zorbas, who has been dancing for a year now.

His mom, Colleen Zorbas, said she first started seeing hints of interest in ballet from her son when he was 3 years old. “He’d watch his sisters dance … I always knew he had something just in him and he knows he’s doing a good job,” she said.

John’s sisters, Calista, 12, and Eemetra, 9, have been dancing for several years.

Colleen Zorbas added that at first John didn’t see any other boys but he doesn’t let that worry him. She’s also seen a lot of other benefits for her son.

“His balance is great … he also really appreciates the arts and notices things when he watches ballets,” she said.

Every year, over 200 local dancers audition to take the stage with the ballet company. Zorbas is one of 19 dancers who made the cut for this year’s ballet season at SPAC, which will be in residency until July 21. SPAC’s Director of Arts Education Siobhan Dunham said this partnership dates back to at least 1968, two years after SPAC opened.

She said that at 6, Zorbas is a little on the young side to be starting ballet, and is especially young for a boy. “Boys tend to come to it a little bit later…it’s often not on their radar unless they have sisters who dance,”

Dunham said. Performing with the ballet can be a priceless experience for any dancer, though.“It’s not just about the fun of it and being on stage. It’s about seeing the company and how it works,” she said.

SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White said bringing a ballet in which local children can dance in is very important to SPAC. “It really provides local children with an opportunity for exposure with the world’s greatest dance company,” she said. “It takes children that have a great dream on a great journey.”

She added the dancers make not only their friends and families proud, but the whole community, and that opportunity is a “great confidence builder” for the children. She noted the young local dancers who audition tend to be good students. “I think it’s the discipline that comes hand-in-hand with it. … You can’t be a dancer at the level that you’re selected by the New York City Ballet unless you have that,” she said.

Leslie Kettlewell has been Zorbas’ dance instructor for the past year at the National Museum of Dance’s School of The Arts. She said her student is exuberant about life and brings little surprises to class every week. “He once brought in a stuffed animal that he really liked and propped it up for the whole class. … He has the ability to watch when something is demonstrated and emulate it. He really focuses,” said Kettlewell.

Zorbas is looking forward to his time on the big stage, where he’ll be a cape bearer. “I get to hold a cape and put it down and go across the stage. I’ll have a black cape,” he said.

He added ballet is “a good way to get stronger” and that he’s building up his muscles so that he can do the lifting (“partnering” in ballet terms) later on

© Copyright 2012 Community Media Group, LLC.

By Joseph Carman
Dance Magazine
September 1, 2011

A new generation of men reigns at New York City Ballet.

All five men featured here came through the ranks of the School of American Ballet. In a company built for choreography, they offer vivid individuality while serving the bigger picture. They possess complementary skills, artistry, and temperaments. Too young to have worked with Balanchine or Robbins, they are still instrumental in defining the new NYCB. Nearly all mentioned Peter Boal, Nikolaj Hübbe, and Jock Soto as role models or mentors. Three have siblings who dance professionally. And each one has a story.

Read More: http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/September-2011/The-Golden-Guys

© 2011 Macfadden Performing Arts Media LLC.

 
 

By Terry Trucco
PlaybillArts.com
02 Dec 2009

 

New York City Ballet’s annual staging of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker boasts a multitude of unforgettable moments. Dancers from the company share some of their personal favorites.

As seasoned ballet-goers know¡ªand newcomers quickly learn¡ªGeorge Balanchine’s The Nutcracker boasts more than its share of exceptional sequences, as spectacular as the Christmas tree that rises to the rafters, as tender as the instant Marie’s mother removes her shawl to cover her sleeping daughter.

Given The Nutcracker’s fanciful plot, it’s no surprise the ballet is bursting with moments to savor. In a nutshell: a little girl receives a toy Nutcracker from her godfather at a Christmas Eve party, falls asleep cradling her new toy and dreams of dancing snowflakes, dastardly mice, true-blue toy soldiers, cavorting candies, frolicking flowers, a Sugarplum Fairy, and a life-size Nutcracker who turns into a prince.

What makes this truly memorable, however, is the pitchperfect confluence of Balanchine’s inspired choreography and Tschaikovsky’s lilting score.

New York City Ballet’s dancers have their favorite moments, too. We recently asked several veteran Nutcracker performers to tell us about one such moment in the variations they perform during the second act, and why that moment is special.

 

 Daniel Ulbricht – Candy Cane
“This is such a thrilling piece even though it’s just over a minute long. Candy Cane is literally and figuratively jumping through hoops, and the audience can count along at the end when he jumps through the hoop 12 times in a row. A great place to watch for is in the middle where it looks like he’s actually turning within the hoop. It’s a little whirlwind turn, then all of a sudden he shoots his foot out. It’s almost as if he’s playing a little game, but of course the difficulty is that he’s doing it with a hoop. If it’s done correctly, the dancer will jump up, then jump out, jump up and jump out, almost like he’s jumping across a river. The idea is to kind of suspend time for a moment. When he lands, it’s like he’s being shot out of a cannon.”

 

Tiler Peck – Dewdrop
“I love to turn, so my favorite moment comes after Dewdrop’s third entrance (she runs on and off the stage five times). She does a series of complicated turns and at the end, I try to hold the pose as long as I can. I love that moment. It’s exhilarating. You can really play with the phrasing to make it completely your own. Each year I try to think of something a little different to do to make the audience hold their breath. I also love the very last entrance where she comes out from the back, then goes straight to the front of the stage. You know you’re done when you get to do those steps coming forward and you can just let everything go.”

 

Antonio Carmena – Tea
“This piece is just a minute long, but if I had to pick one special moment, it would be the series of seven big split leaps Tea does near the end. The leaps are a lot of fun, especially because I can play with them according to how fast or slow the music is that day. The audience probably doesn’t hear much variation in the tempo of the music, but when you’re in the air, you notice even a hair’s breadth of difference. I like a fast pace because it makes me more excited to do the jumps. But there’s also something fun about the days when the music is slower, and everything goes well, and you feel you can stay in the air a little bit longer.”

 

Abi Stafford – Sugarplum Fairy
“I really enjoy Sugarplum’s first solo. I can picture little girls in the audience being enthralled by the music and the costume, and I remember being a young kid and being blown away by how magical it was and how I wanted someday to dance the role. The choreography looks simple, very clean and classical, but it’s actually very difficult to do well. It takes a lot of strength and control. It’s very easy to find moments that are very musical where you can add your own little flourish. I see Sugarplum as the queen of the land and she’s invited Marie and the Prince. She’s a benevolent leader, very warm and kind to the children, and she doesn’t see herself as above the others.”

  

Lance Chantiles-Wertz – the Nutcracker/ the Prince
“The Prince gets to do a lot of fun things, like go up in the chariot with Marie at the end of the ballet, but the pantomime where he tells a recap of how he and Marie have fought off the Mouse King and saved the land is a really important moment. Every movement in the pantomime has a word that goes with it, which I say in my head as I do it. In the beginning part I say “Everyone here listen, and I will tell you the story.” Then I mimic the Mouse King running across and how Marie throws her shoe. But every little finger movement explains something. There’s a part where the Prince says “over there” and points. I love it all, but one of my favorite parts is when I’m showing how I fenced the Mouse King and how we killed him. It’s a lot of fun to do the pantomime and a real honor to be dancing Mr. Balanchine’s choreography. I get a bit of an adrenal rush every time I hear the music playing.”

From:PlaybillArts.com

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The Flier: The Gravity-defying thrill of NYCB’s Daniel Ulbricht

The Gravity-defying thrill of NYCB’s Daniel Ulbricht

 

By Harris Green
Dance Magazine
June 2008

 Daniel Ulbricht, NYCB

Being short is no handicap for male dancers whose low centers of gravity can be a springboard to airborne virtuosity. Those possessing the artistry and technique to compensate for their stature include Vaslav Nijinsky, Edward Villella, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Herman Cornejo. Whether Daniel Ulbricht can join this distinguished honor roll remains to be seen, but New York City Ballet’s ballet master in chief Peter Martins has such faith in the dancer’s star power that he has created high-flying, technically demanding solos for him in his last three ballets. The decibel count during curtain calls always spikes when Ulbricht takes a solo bow.

Otherwise Ulbricht has failed to follow the usual ballet traditions. Yes, he did join his sister, Heidi, in ballet class when he was 11 years old, but before succumbing to that cliché, he had devoted five years to karate. “The Karate Kid and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made a big impression on me,” he recalls. “I begged my folks to sign me up. Because my teacher, Kathy Marlor, always stressed self-respect and discipline, I carried her lessons over into ballet.” Before he decided to concentrate on dance at age 13, he had earned a second-degree black belt, won two Florida championships in kata—variations on established forms—and found time for gymnastics. It took a knee injury to slow him down—for a while.

He felt fortunate in his ballet teachers, beginning with Leonard Holmes at Judith Lee Johnson’s Studio of Dance in St. Petersburg, Florida, his hometown. “Lenny wisely made me—the only guy—feel at ease by letting me take class in a baseball cap and baggy shorts and T-shirt,” he says. “I could do double tours and entrechats six from the start, but the barre bored me. He taught me how to harness my energy.” Holmes, who had studied at School of American Ballet, gave Ulbricht a foundation in Balanchine style. Private lessons with Javier Dubrocq from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba followed. Ulbricht stood a little over five feet at the time, but he continued to grow and is now about 5’8″. (Heidi’s short stature would eventually rule out a career in dance; she’s now married and has a degree in elementary education.)

Four years of summer study on scholarship at Chautauqua Summer Dance Program in upstate New York led to further Balanchine training under Patricia McBride, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, and Violette Verdy (her likening a plié to melting ice cream remains with him to this day). “Soon teachers who were visiting Chautauqua were offering me gigs,” he says. His freelance career began at age 14 with four Nutcrackers: Miami, St. Petersburg, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Everyone was suggesting he study at SAB, so in the spring of 1998, he flew to New York with his father for three days.Daniel Ulbricht of NYCB performs George Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux 2008

During that visit, he sneaked into Peter Boal’s advanced men’s class. Boal, now artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, says he spotted Ulbricht as a “trickster” but he was stunned by how advanced he already was: “I thought: What on earth can I teach this kid? Yet I found him open to any correction. He was a dream student.” SAB offered him a full scholarship, and Martins didn’t wait until he was an apprentice to cast him as the central jester in the last-act divertissements of his Sleeping Beauty. “I was dazzled by Daniel when I first saw him as a student at the school,” Martins says, “and my admiration only continues to grow.”

Ulbricht’s jester, with its brilliant à la seconde turns and uniformly high side-straddle hops, and his leader of the men’s regiment in Stars and Stripes at SAB’s spring 2000 workshop earned him a Dance Magazine “25 to Watch” in 2001. Former City Ballet principal Daniel Duell, who now runs The School of Ballet Chicago, was bowled over by Ulbricht in Stars, a role Duell had danced. “Everything Daniel did was unfailingly musical,” he says, “always on the center of the beat. And he regularly landed in soft plié—a perfect fifth.”

Casting after he joined NYCB’s corps in the 2002 winter season proved a feast-or-famine affair. One Saturday he made two major debuts: as the spunky Faun in the Fall section of Robbins’ The Four Seasons and that evening as the refined Gigue in Balanchine’s Mozartiana. “The Gigue is my hardest role,” he says. “Victor Castelli taught me I must always consider myself a delicate Dresden figurine, which was a stretch.” More often he was, say, a huntsman in Balanchine’s one-act version of Swan Lake. (“If you think it’s easy keeping a straight face wearing a feathered cap while standing between two swan girls, you try it some time.”) Opportunities were limited by his height and the difficulty of finding a regular partner. (His offstage partnership with principal Sterling Hyltin has cooled but they remain chums.)

Waiting his turn at repertoire occurs less often now that Martins is creating roles on him. As Mercutio, Ulbricht danced eight of the first 14 performances of the new Romeo + Juliet last year. He bristled with prankish virtuosity yet died with powerful simplicity. No one else has ever been assigned the midair twists yards above the stage in Friandises. Tiler Peck, his partner, remembers, “Danny would finish rehearsing some really demanding stuff with Peter and then have the energy left to partner me. I felt I could trust him completely.”Daniel Ulbricht in Fancy Free

Not everyone appreciates the veneer of sunny showmanship in his performances. One reviewer said he looked like he was “auditioning for a Three Stooges routine” as the First Sailor in Robbins’ Fancy Free. “I know I enter the bar walking like Popeye,” Ulbricht says, “but that’s what Robbins wanted.” More newsworthy was his performance of the sailor’s solo with its sensational split landing after a double tour. No one else at NYCB or American Ballet Theatre really goes for it like Ulbricht. Most guys land on their heels, then slide to the floor, but he performs both actions so quickly he seems to have crash-landed on his crotch. “You have to do everything in a split second,” he says.

Now a principal at age 24, with the great Villella roles such as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and “Rubies” within his reach, he’s concentrating on toning down the showmanship. Villella, for instance, smiled but Ulbricht grins. Fortunately, the grin flickered only fitfully during his first two performances of Prodigal Son last winter. What drove audiences to demand multiple curtain calls was the power of his soaring Prodigal leap, his spiky pirouette of rage, and his embodiment of defeat and degradation. (“You can’t use your legs when you drag yourself off; it’s done with your elbows and shoulders.”)Daniel Ulbricht in NYCB's Tarantella

Tarantella, another Villella specialty, has become Ulbricht’s signature ballet. When City Ballet visited London last March, he impressed veteran critic Clement Crisp with “his exact phrasing and his engaging freshness, as if inventing on the very moment the delights he shows us.” Before rehearsals for the spring season began, he took it on freelance gigs to San Juan, St. Petersburg (Russia), and Dallas. “Tarantella is going to buy me my apartment.”

And his burgeoning side career as a teacher will furnish it. He was invited to conduct his first class three years ago at the New York State Summer School for the Arts in Saratoga, and became so involved he lost his voice. Now that Damian Woetzel has stepped down as head of NYSSSA, Ulbricht and City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer will share its direction. Ever adept at networking, he has since taught at—and always been asked back by—Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, The Rock School, School of Ballet Chicago, and Indiana University.

The teenage boys in Ulbricht’s advanced men’s class at SAB, where he began teaching last winter, would be surprised to learn how their teacher regularly clowned around in company class. Now while he gives them a challenging barre, he prowls the classroom, singing the counts like a nursery rhyme while stressing the beat with finger snaps and open-palmed thwacks to his thighs that go off like pistol shots. Once, however, he did a barre wearing the head of a Nutcracker mouse. Inspired by the production manager’s backstage instructions to his stage crew (“Housewarmers cue—go”), Ulbricht would amuse—or annoy—nearby classmates by whispering, “Sous-sus cue—go!”

He tells students that thorough preparation conquers fear, and that the barre should be treated as a performance. Yet he can’t remain solemn for long.Daniel Ulbricht Teaches at The Rock School

“You’re introducing yourself every time you step onstage,” he says. “But if you stand like this”—the posture sags, the neck disappears, the shoulders grotesquely hunch up to the ears—“it’s like you’re saying”—in the squeaky voice of an adenoidal robot—“Hi, I’m Daniel.”

Then the posture straightens, the shoulders subside, the neck elegantly lengthens, and all caricature vanishes. In his normal light baritone, Ulbricht says, “Hello, I’m Daniel.” And now everyone grins.

 

© 2008 Macfadden Performing Arts Media LLC

By CLAUDIA LA ROCCO

New York Times

Published: January 23, 2009

 

[Edited]

 

tyler-angle-in-the-new-york-city-ballet-production-of-the-nightingale-and-the-rose

 

When Tyler Angle was 12, his family drove from Pennsylvania to see his older brother, Jared, in his debut as an apprentice with the New York City Ballet. The dance was “Union Jack,” by George Balanchine — but Mr. Angle, with apologies to his brother, has no memory of it. What he does remember from that day is seeing Wendy Whelan and Peter Boal perform Jerome Robbins’s “Opus 19/The Dreamer.”

“That’s when it really hit me,” Mr. Angle said. “It was so transcendent. I realized I want to do that.” tyler-angle-in-the-city-ballet-production-of-agone

Now he does. Mr. Angle, 22, began his own apprenticeship in 2003, after studying at the School of American Ballet, just like his brother, who is five years his senior and now a principal. Tyler Angle joined the company in 2004 and was promoted to soloist in December 2007. This season he is appearing in a range of works (including a new ballet by his former colleague Melissa Barak) and seems poised to secure his prominence as one of the company’s leading younger dancers. An elegant performer and an assured partner, he belongs to a rising generation of dancers at City Ballet who know Balanchine only through his ballets.

“If a dancer was touched by Balanchine they were obviously incredibly lucky, but there was also this adulation that went along with it,” said Christopher Wheeldon, the former City Ballet resident choreographer who created a featured role for Mr. Angle in “The Nightingale and the Rose,” alongside Ms. Whelan, and has continued to work with Mr. Angle through his own company, Morphoses.

“There’s hope in a way that these Balanchine ballets will take on a new, almost uncomplicated freshness because they’re being approached really just as works of art in their own without the mystique or aura of the choreographer,” Mr. Wheeldon said. “One could also say they’ll suffer because the choreographer is not around — but a dancer like Tyler, he launches himself into the process of learning and performing a ballet and is totally engaged, and incredibly intelligent.”

Mr. Angle is cavalier regarding the slings and arrows that inevitably come when one dances in such a high-profile troupe and is constantly measured by longtime observers against earlier performers — and often found wanting.

“It’s always harder for the generation right after; they were really in the fishbowl,” he said of the dancers who came into City Ballet around the time of Balanchine’s death in 1983. “That’s the trouble and wonder of being in a company founded by a genius.”

When Mr. Angle was 9, his father surprised him with his first ballet class — after Tyler announced that he had nothing to do — by driving him to what turned out to be the local studio where Jared trained. He became interested only after he found that he was no good at this form, which seemed so effortless to his classmates.

“My body wouldn’t do anything it was supposed to do,” he said. “It really got to me. It was something I felt I needed to conquer.”

That attitude is typical. “He’s always had that,” Jared Angle said, laughing, when asked about his brother’s swagger. “From age 2 on, we always thought he would be a politician.”

This confidence served him well as a developing dancer.

His wry wit and ease with himself translate to beautifully understated confidence and presence; his performances never seem hurried, no matter how fiendish the choreography. The principal dancer Maria Kowroski, a regular partner, described him as “an old soul.” Even in workmen’s boots, jeans and a bulky, toggle-tie jacket he calls his Paddington Bear coat, it is easy to picture Mr. Angle existing in another time. He is drawn to romantic ballets, like Balanchine’s “Vienna Waltzes.”

“I enjoy trying to bring across an idea — maybe more the idea of a character, or a feeling,” he said of such richly perfumed ballets. And, besides, he added, “Who doesn’t love a little gold brocade?”

Brocade or no, Mr. Angle is unburdened by the legacy of Balanchine. He has a wide range of interests, and mentioned Pina Bausch and William Forsythe as the choreographers with whom he would most like to work. Between City Ballet, where he works with a range of choreographers, and stints at Morphoses, he has avoided being typecast. Mr. Wheeldon said that should Morphoses ever become a full-time company, Mr. Angle is at the top of the list of dancers he would invite to join.

Mr. Angle said he has no plans to go anywhere for now, and was rather definitive given his age: He isn’t interested in running a company (“I don’t think I have any of the right qualities”) or choreographing, and he said he would like to retire with City Ballet. When asked what Balanchine would have thought of him, a question that some of those first-generation dancers have acknowledged pondering, Mr. Angle, despite his enduring love for the man’s choreography, didn’t miss a beat.

“Would he have liked me?” he asked. “I have no idea.” He paused, then added with a wicked little laugh, “Probably not.”

 

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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