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Flash Interview, 1-18: Full Steam Ahead
A Conversation with City Ballet's Daniel Ulbricht

By Harris Green
Copyright 2007 Harris Green & Daniel Ulbricht

Harris Green: You were in New York City Ballet's corps for a little over three years when you were promoted to soloist in January 2005, and you had just turned 22 in the 2006 winter season when Peter Martins cast you and Tiler Peck as the leads in his very demanding "Friandises." You set new standards for City Ballet male virtuosity in the finale. Your father, however, seemed to take your triumph for granted. When I asked him if he'd ever had doubts about your choosing a career in ballet, he said he knew you'd succeed, just as you had with karate. What got you started in karate, for God's sake?

Daniel Ulbricht in New York City Ballet's production of George Balanchine's "Mozartiana." Paul Kolnik photo copyright Paul Kolnik and courtesy New York City Ballet.

Daniel Ulbricht: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "The Karate Kid." I was six, I had energy to burn, and I wanted something to do. So I think mom and dad got the idea. Plus, the karate school was next to the Chuck E. Cheese place.

What I learned from karate, besides coordination, was control, self-respect, and self-discipline, all of which I retained after quitting when I was 13. I had a second-degree black belt and had won two state championships, around 1996, for kata, the equivalent of performing a variation in ballet.

HG: You mean you work with specific gestures done a specific way?

DU: You perform either choreographed scenes or a variation. You can actually create your own. Kata is an art. It's limitless, but it has to be done with discipline. My teacher, Kathy Marlor, always stressed discipline.

HG: When did you start ballet?

DU: When I was 11. I followed my sister, Heidi, to ballet class. I guess through osmosis somehow I decided to try it. While continuing karate I also took gymnastics for a couple of years, until I had a couple of accidents tumbling. I was doing three different activities -- karate five days a week, dance two, plus the gymnastics -- and if I hurt myself in one I couldn't do the others.

I realized I had to start slowing down and decide what I wanted to do. At 13 I asked myself, Where could I go with both careers? With karate you either open a school and teach or you make movies, and everybody knows that's dominated by Jackie Chan.

I began ballet at Judith Lee Johnson's Studio of Dance in St. Petersburg -- in Florida, I always add after a pause. I'm a native of St. Pete. Leonard Holmes was my first teacher there. He had gone to SAB (School of American Ballet), then taught in Florida. He was one of the two defining teachers I've had. He taught me how to appreciate dance, all aspects of it, and partnering. And the big reason why things are and how they happen.

He wisely let me take my first class in shorts, baggy T-shirt, baseball cap, and some ballet shoes. I could do a double tour or an entrechat six, something like that, before I could do a tendu, a rond de jambe, or a plié. I wasn't interested in the basics. I wanted to go straight to the action.

HG: So you were doing virtuoso steps from the start?

DU: Yes, and when I kept doing double tours Lenny called all the teachers to come watch. Lenny taught me how to love dance. I still keep in touch with him.

A year or two later Javier Dubrocq, from the National Ballet of Cuba, really gave me the foundation to begin my training. I took private lessons with him on weekends. It was exactly the schooling I needed.

HG: What did you perform in Florida?

DU: The normal "Nutcracker" run. My first year was with Edward Villella's Miami City Ballet. I was their Prince for two years. And I also did a couple of other local "Nutcracker"s. Miami City Ballet came to St. Pete but we had a local group that did "Nutcracker" as well.

HG: Were you always the Prince?

DU: My first role was Fritz. I did Fritz for a couple of years.

HG: Typecast from the start.

DU: Yes. And then I did the Prince. In a couple of other versions I did Fritz, the Nutcracker, Russian, or Candy Cane. There was another St. Pete company that the students' parents put together, Les Jeunes Dancers. The dancers were from five different studios in the area, so it wasn't dominated by any one. I was doing ballet class six days a week by then, instead of five or four. Les Jeunes was strictly St. Pete. We had a summer or a spring show. Maybe Halloween. It was always one performance a year.

HG: Your energy and elevation, your daring and your delight in being daring are what excite audiences now. Did you have those gifts then?

DU: I knew I wanted them. I don't know if I had them then. I'll look at a videotape now and notice some things I'd definitely change and some things I'd keep. I like to perform and I think that's what audiences respond to.

HG: When did you start performing out of the state?

DU: I started freelancing at 14. I got contacts through the summer program at Chautauqua. Some teachers I met there said, "We'd like you to come do 'Nutcracker' with us." So I went to Pittsburgh Youth Ballet. That December I danced in four different "Nutcracker"s: Miami, St. Pete, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo.

HG: At Chautauqua you studied with Jean-Pierre Bonnefaux and Patricia McBride so you had extensive exposure to the Balanchine style.

DU: Yes, for four years. It was a new way of moving. I loved to dance so I didn't care what was thrown at me, but after I had studied the Cuban style, which was slower, I was forced to move quicker and be lighter on my feet. Being taught these ballets and also having a Balanchine-style class opened my eyes. It's okay to move fast and it's okay to move slow. It made me more versatile.

The first Balanchine ballets I did were "Valse-Fantaisie" and then "Western Symphony." We performed maybe four or five times in seven weeks so it was intensive. I had the chance to be in a summer professional company. I had the opportunity to have ballets choreographed on me and to perform with an orchestra.

HG: When did you make contact with the School of American Ballet?

DU: During Buffalo's "Nutcracker" their teacher said, "Daniel, you should go somewhere else." And Judith Lee Johnson in St. Pete said, "You might want to take that next step." After I did Pittsburgh's 1998 spring show, I flew to New York with my dad. I'd already arranged to study at SAB, and for three days I took as many classes as I could.

The first day I took an advanced class with Peter Boal and an intermediate class with Krammy (Andre Kramarevsky). The next day I took three classes. I wasn't supposed to take the special men's class. I remember the registrar getting angry at me, but Peter stepped in and said, "I told him I was okay." That calmed everything down.

I also took the advanced class with Jock Soto and that was an eye-opener. And I had taken the intermediate class earlier that day. So, yes, I think in the three days I took about six or seven classes. I wanted "to show 'em what I got."

HG: Boal tells me that when they saw you their "jaws dropped open at how well prepared" you were, so obviously you made an impression. When did you talk to Peter Martins? As ballet master in chief of City Ballet and artistic director and faculty chairman of SAB, he's the one who counted.

DU: I didn't have any contact with him until I was in the school full time. About 99.9 percent of SAB students start in the summer program, but I didn't. I came for the regular year. I was 15, and I remember Peter Martins teaching class. I didn't get a chance to really work with Peter until I was 16. I already had an SAB scholarship for room and board, but I didn't start at New York City Ballet until May 2000, when they were doing his "Sleeping Beauty" and needed extra people.

"Daniel" was listed on the company's schedule that's posted every day. They didn't know my last name so suddenly there was just "Daniel." Nobody in the company then had that last name. Everybody at SAB was asking, "Oh, Daniel, are you in? Are you in?" I didn't know, so I asked (SAB faculty co-chair) Kay Mazzo, who said, "Peter didn't tell you?" I said no. She said, "Go over to the theater." So I got there late for my first rehearsal, the Garland Dance, 20-some couples.

HG: That's a great way to start off as an apprentice.

DU: Right, 30 minutes late. Rosemary Dunleavy, the ballet mistress, said, "Oh, oh, you're the one. Go in the back." So I stood out like a Popsicle there waiting to learn the steps. That caught me off guard because we do stuff fast here, we put together ballets quicker than any other company. And that weekend I rehearsed two other roles in 'Beauty': a Creature --

HG: Those awful things accompanying Carabosse? They look like houseflies but I understand they're supposed to be cockroaches.

DU: I have no idea. I'm just inside the costume. And I was one of the Jesters. I had four, four-and-a-half, five hours of rehearsal that whole weekend -- starting on a Friday, and then we opened on Wednesday for two weeks. I realized I had to know my stuff quick or else I was going to be totally lost and miss out on the opportunity.

HG: I spotted you after the Garland Dance, when you were a spectator standing around onstage, because your costume looked too big for you, but when you turned up as the central Jester in the trio, your dancing stood out from the two guys flanking you, who were already full-time corps members. You looked sharp, bold, very confident.

DU: The first time I was nervous as can be. I didn't stop fidgeting until I actually went onstage. But once you're out there, you can't think about being nervous. We three guys make a triangle onstage and suddenly we run toward the center with this huge jump, and just go up. That jump is incredible. Then you're yourself out there. You start acting and doing what comes naturally, besides the steps.

It was an amazing experience! You get to jump and touch your feet to your head. At one point Peter has us make a kind of tower, and I'm the third person on top. How many times do you get to jump on somebody's shoulders and then tumble off and do a la seconde turns? A la seconde turns and splits until you can't do them anymore. It was fun. It's what I wanted to do. Chock full o' tricks!

HG: That was spring of 2000, with the SAB workshop coming up. You did "Stars and Stripes" and "Danses Concertantes" -- the red trio, the fourth pas de trois, to the best music, I think.

DU: Yes, it had a nice jazzy lilt to it, and you've got a kind of let-it-go beat. It's fun, too, if you have two fun side girls. In "Stars and Stripes" I led the men's regiment.

HG: Had you ever seen the ballet?

DU: No, only the videotape Suki Schorer put on for us to study during rehearsals. I never saw 'Stars' until we actually performed it. I'd seen very few Balanchine ballets, for that matter. I saw NYCB's 50-year celebration on TV, but only the pas de deux from 'Stars.' Once I started working with the company, I began going to the ballet more because I wanted to know what was in our rep, what I would have the chance to do, eventually.

HG: After the SAB dress rehearsal for 'Stars,' while details for the dancers were being fine-tuned, I noticed you standing apart upstage. Are you the kind of guy who goes off on his own? Do you have your own way of working on certain things?

DU: It depends on what ballet and when. There are so many variables. If it's a ballet I've just finished rehearsing and something didn't go well, at least according to how I felt, first I want to figure out what went wrong. So it's kind of like retracing your steps. If it was a pirouette or a jump, I want to try it again. Normally, after a performance or even after a rehearsal, I'll think, Well, this went okay today but that pirouette could've been bigger, or this landing could've been nailed, or I could've held the girl on her leg better. I probably keep to myself because that's just what I do. You want to focus on what needs to be taken care of even if nothing does, sometimes. It's preparing yourself for what might come next.

HG: Have you always had this rather "intellectual approach" to dance?

DU: I think it was instilled in me by karate but it was reinforced with dance because you have this one opportunity onstage. You have to seize the moment. It's your chance to shine. Why not bring as much as you can to the role? Why not try your hardest?

HG: City Ballet apprentices do a number of roles in "The Nutcracker." With your technique and speed, were you content in such small roles?

DU: They may be brief but they're demanding. I'm trying to make "Hoops" (Candy Cane) more challenging. Every dancer gives the hoop a double flip as he jumps through it during the finale. After I found a hoop much lighter than the usual one, I started working up a triple flip. The first time I performed it that way it caused a lot of excitement backstage and out front. Here's a "behind-the-curtain" scoop: Before I go on, I'm in the wings holding both hoops, listening to the music and deciding which one to use.

HG: You realize that now you're going to be expected to do triple flips at every "Nutcracker."

DU: Okay by me, if the tempo permits. That apprentice year, the 2001 winter season, I did no other Balanchine ballets but I danced Peter's "Fearful Symmetries" and "Harmonielehre." The next season the only Balanchine I did was his "Swan Lake, Act 2." I was in the hunting party.

HG: Very demanding.

DU: Well, you try standing there wearing that feathered cap with a Swan Girl on either side of you and see how difficult it is to keep a straight face. 2001 was a slow year for me. I did only five ballets, "Swan Lake" included.

HG: During your apprenticeship, company members seem to have considered you both a colleague and a mascot. They respected your energy and technique but they thought Martins wouldn't hire another short guy.

You were 5 feet, 5-1/2 inches tall then. Gen Horiuchi, the gifted but very short dancer -- shorter than you, as a matter of fact -- who became a principal in 1989, was of limited use to the company because of his size. I give Martins much credit for taking a chance on you, and with another short fellow, Joaquin De Luz, now that he's left American Ballet Theatre. He's an exciting jumper, too -- a competitor.

DU: Absolutely. It's a pleasure to have Joaquin with us. He's a great guy, a real colleague, and I can learn from him. After company class we're always challenging each other, seeing who can do a step or a jump best. Right now he's a better turner than me, but I think I have the edge in speed. Joaquin's still getting used to our fast execution of steps.

HG: When were you accepted into the company?

DU: At the end of the 2001 "Nutcracker"s, and then the ball started rolling. In January 2002 on a Saturday, as the newest company member, I danced my first Faun in the Fall section of Robbins's "The Four Seasons" at the matinee, then repeated it at the evening performance after dancing my first Gigue in "Mozartiana."

For an 18-year-old -- for anyone -- that was a full helping. I remember that afternoon getting ready for just "The Four Seasons" I was already pumped -- that's the only word. Pumped. But then I had to do another debut that evening. After it was over I felt relieved. But it was a good cast and I had a blast.

Jean-Pierre Frohlich, who was ballet master for "Four Seasons," let me do a special move of my own devising. I call it "The Spaniard." There's a diagonal where it's your moment to use some pyrotechnics. Some dancers do "switch splits," some do "helicopter," but I chose to do what I call "The Spaniard." It's a sort of saut de basque en dedans. You open to second, make sure (company photographer) Paul Kolnik is looking, pull into a single saut de basque, and then land. It happens so fast that it looks to the untrained eye like two-and-a-half rotations. It was a chance to pull the tricks "out of my sleeve," to show what I have. Actually the Faun isn't wearing a shirt, but you know what I mean.

HG: There are no opportunities for "The Spaniard" in the Gigue of "Mozartiana."

DU: I rehearse that role so many times physically and mentally because I think I'm going to forget it. It's difficult because if you don't pay close attention to detail, it looks like it's "blobbed" or some bad robot dance. You want to make it clear and precise. Victor Castelli taught it to me. He said you have to look like a fine porcelain doll, but that porcelain doll has to jump and dance and turn while looking elegant. It was almost like being two people at once. The body is moving like a soccer player's.

There's a section called the "football step" where you must kick but just sort of brush your legs together, while the upper body must be like "time for tea." I became more comfortable with Gigue but it's definitely one of those roles that I feel like I aways can continue to work on.

HG: When you say "robot dance" do you mean the way the elbows are crooked as you turn and you make this elegant gesture with your wrists?

DU: Yes. It can unfold the wrong way, depending on how you hold your fingers. When I was nervous in rehearsal, I wouldn't show it in my face, but Victor would say, "Look at your hands." I'd look down and they looked like lobster claws. He said, "It's just as important to have the elegance on top, to have the length in your line, to have your fingers relaxed, because otherwise you'll look like you're trying too hard. You have to make it look elegant, because that's the way Balanchine wanted it -- that's the way the music dictates." So I picture that little doll sitting on a glass pedestal with the "Mozartiana" music playing in the background.

New York City Ballet's Daniel Ulbricht in Jerome Robbins's "Fancy Free." Paul Kolnik photo copyright Paul Kolnik and courtesy New York City Ballet.

HG: By the 2002 winter season you were an official company member, and since you had grown at least two inches you were getting more corps work. Then you were cast in "Fancy Free" as the Sailor who does the first solo. It's a good match for your appearance and personality.

DU: Yes, it matched my height but it's not quite my personality. The First Sailor is on shore leave, it's his first time in New York, and he's looking for a fight. It's hard for me to play that kind of character. Out with a group of friends, I'm the "Okay, guys, whatever you say" sort. It was a big test for me to take a role and act the whole time. I continue to fine-tune and work on that sailor. You can't be satisfied with the way just one show goes. You have to tell the story and show it. Sometimes I don't show it enough and sometimes I show it too much. So I still feel I have to find that balance.

HG: There is that first double tour that ends with a split. Early on in rehearsals you told me you were dreading it, yet two weeks later, when I asked "How's it going?" you said, "I worked it up."

DU: You have to approach a new step gradually. You have to iron out the kinks, if it's a turn, a jump, or a tendu.

HG: But this is a split!

DU: Well, it's not just a split. You start the solo after you're tuckered out, fighting with the two other guys. Now it's your time to shine, do a solo. You're already puffed, you're sitting on the floor, you get a couple of minutes to breathe -- minutes?; more like seconds.

They call it the "Shostakovich Solo." The music is staccato, which does match my personality. The first step is a double tour and instead of landing normally, which would be in fifth position, you slide all the way down to a split with no stop. So you do the double tour, you open and drop down, and then you have to keep going. You have to spin on your butt twice, come up, turn your knee, turn, and smile at the girls.

Rehearsing with J-P (Frohlich), I spent half of our rehearsals on the solo, working that out. And of that we'd work maybe 10 minutes on the beginning section. You have to analyze what could go wrong, what you need to do if something does go wrong. Maybe I need to go a little more to this side, or maybe my weight needs to be here or there or my arms have to be somewhere else. It's a trial-and-error process.

The biggest thing is you can't be afriad. You can't go up to a trick feeling afraid or you'll probably end up hurting yourself. You can't have fear or you'll second-guess yourself. So I go up with, "Hey, I'm going to do what I can do." You have to believe in yourself going up doing a trick or a jump the whole time, from liftoff to takedown.

HG: I've seen two fine dancers at ABT hesitate a split second -- split second!, oh, that's good! -- when they came out of the double tour; you could see they landed on their heels in preparation for the split. You don't seem to do that. You seem to come out of the turn and go right into the split.

DU: That's what I'm trying to do. The music is very fast. Any pause and you lose your momentum, you stop what comes next, so you have to keep going. It's easier, in a way, because the momentum will take you where you want to go. If you stop you'll throw yourself off, and you have to almost start from scratch again. If you keep something going that's already moving, it's much easier to continue. There are some things you can't think about. When you do a jump, it's not technique anymore. Your body just does it. When you get to that point, the step becomes a sensation inside of you. You know you can do it. It soaks in. It feels comfortable. It's like walking -- fast walking.

Daniel Ulbricht as Puck with Joaquin de Luz as Oberon in New York City Ballet's production of George Balanchine's "Midsummer Night's Dream." Paul Kolnik photo copyright Paul Kolnik and courtesy New York City Ballet.

HG: Everyone who's seen Puck in Balanchine's "Midsummer Night's Dream" thinks you're a natural for it.

DU: I have to say I had a lot of rehearsals for Puck. I'd learned the steps but 'Dream' is one of the ballets where I had to stand in front of a mirror to learn which reaction would be best. You don't want to change the nature of Puck.

HG: Who is a genuine character.

DU: Oh, he's a character, all right. You're an imp painted gold with pointed ears who runs around in a skimpy leotard. When you greet Oberon, you have to cringe and act servile and gesture with both hands: "Oh, hello master." The next minute your elbows are pumping. You have to be an airy presence, and you have to command the stage at the same time. Because you're a sprite, a spirit, you can't make noise onstage.

HG: I heard your landings back in Row Q.

DU: Okay, I'm working on it.

HG: Had you seen "Midsummer Night's Dream" before?

DU: I'd seen it the season before, and studied a very good tape with J-P.

HG: I meant the Shakespeare play.

DU: No, but I rented or maybe bought the movie. The black-and-white one with Mickey Rooney.

HG: With respect to your research, that 1935 mismatch of Max Reinhardt and Warner Bros. didn't do Shakespeare any favors.

DU: A little before my time. But I learned a lot about characterization from Mickey Rooney. Not how he talked but the way he laughed and moved.

HG: Since your debut you've refined your characterization while dancing it with extra power. You do a helluva manege with the red blossom, and those rapid-fire midair kicks are dazzling. Now, there are fewer Rooneyisms and more subtle touches, like that special strut when you lead the "translated" Bottom offstage after you've slapped the ass's head onto him. It's as if your ankles were cocked. I don't remember anyone else doing that step so vividly.

DU: It's probably been done but I don't know who to credit. You take what you're given and you make it your own.

HG: You certainly did that with two corps parts in Susan Stroman's "crossover" hit "Double Feature," made for the Balanchine centenary. For the first part, "The Blue Necklace," you're onstage briefly as a newsboy in knickers but no one can miss your tossing off a brace of double cabrioles. And then you return to do -- what was that?

DU: It was supposed to be a revoltade but it wasn't horizontal. I'd ask for hazard pay if I could do that move parallel to the stage.

HG: What about the business you ad-libbed that Stroman thought hilarious in the second part, "Makin' Whoopee!"?

DU: I'm one of the male brides in drag, the last to take his seat at the end of the front pew in the church. I sit there like a guy, with my legs open, until I notice how demurely all the girls are seated. Then I slooow-ly bring my knees together. Susan loved it.

And in the scene where Tom Gold disappears into a mob of brides, I jumped so high trying to see what's going on that she asked me to do an entrechat six there. I also bring up the rear whenever we chase Tom across the stage, so I can do a grand jeté at every exit if there's time. In later performances much of the drag bride stuff was toned down because I was attracting too much attention. The same thing happened when I did a "Firebird" monster, the Green Rooster -- in Peter Boal's old costume. I was flapping my wings, strutting like a chicken, and pecking for corn. Rosemary said it was funny but it was too much so I cooled it.

HG: Do you like performing classically modified Broadway-style dance? You've also been a Jet in "West Side Story Suite."

DU: The two are not really the same. "Double Feature" is a program-length piece, the first time I've worked on a new ballet of this scope. It was fascinating to see how it all came together, how your piece of the puzzle fit in. As for 'West Side,' you need trained dancers to do it justice, but you can't really dance classical ballet in sneakers and jeans. However, it seems so right to dance Robbins dressed that way. Stroman's steps are more classical and the costumes permit us to move classically so they feel right, too. In that sense "Double Feature" is the more classical ballet, for all its Broadway showmanship.

HG: What about other solo roles, like the Jester in Martins's "Swan Lake"? Hearts sank when it was learned there would be a Soviet-inspired Jester, but you've made him bearable.

DU: It's a great opportunity because this Jester is a part of the action though not a part of the plot, not a character like Puck. He's there to entertain the court and the theater audience at the same time.

HG: Although you're in whiteface and wearing a costume covered with Jackson Pollock-style drippings, your dancing stood out because it was powerful, clean, and exciting.

DU: My makeup is alabaster, but thanks. With Peter's permission, I sexed-up my one and only solo, performed after I've been caught napping in the Prince's chair and tossed onto the stage to race through music ordinarily danced by "a feisty peasant girl." The Jester ends it with turns a la seconde in the middle of the stage, turning as fast as he can. I felt comfortable with that but I wanted to add one of those tricks-up-my-sleeve things, a matter of pulling in and doing a plié and a double tour and ending to the knee on the music. I sort of melted down and pushed up into the double tour. Peter loved it.

HG: To plié while turning on one leg looked like you were a corkscrew.

DU: I'd prefer it to look like a double-tour, but if you thought "corkscrew," that's fine.

HG: Once you lost your balance coming out of the plié and ended up seated on the stage. You saved yourself by staying in character throughout. You reacted the way the Jester would to a mistake, and the audience bought it.

DU: It doesn't matter how big your part is if you give it your best shot. I'm not Siegfried, just the Jester, but when I come out for my bow the audience roars, not just shouts of "Bravo!" Let me tell you, 2,500 people roaring is really encouraging, especially if you're happy with the way things went. Your next challenge is to do it again -- but better.

HG: In "Tarantella" you and Megan Fairchild are a knockout and repeatedly earn three curtain calls.

DU: I was first exposed to "Tarantella" in Chautauqua, another of those Balanchine moments there, when I had the chance to learn it directly from Patty McBride. But I didn't do it then because I was in three other pieces on the program. City Ballet's 2002 Saratoga season is when I first performed it -- with Ashley Boulder. We rehearsed it here at the theater, then had a couple of weeks off before Saratoga. I tried to remember what Patty said, where to breathe, where to smile, where to hit the tambourine, and where to go onstage. But out there when you're doing it is a totally different feeling.

I make sure to have two or three tambourines set out in both wings offstage, because I generally smash one at every performance. Sally Leland, when she coached me, kept saying, "More tambourine! More tambourine!" So I really whack it. Often I grip it so tight someone has to help me pry it out of my hand before the curtain calls.

Sally also burned me about looking at the audience during the diagonal. Each detail matters.

HG: When Villella danced "Tarantella" he radiated power but never effort or strain. He didn't seem to be working hard; his personality came through so powerfully that he never had to sell his performance.

DU: You must work really hard to make "Tarantella" look easy. And you've got to be concerned about overselling it, too. I'm working on that. It's a matter of finding myself in the choreography. The more I dance it, the more I find that I can do certain things naturally.

HG: Do you prefer a fast tempo for "Tarantella?

DU: Dancers are always bitching about tempo. A very slow one is just as tough to dance to as an extra fast one, but I've decided that tempo is just another challenge, like doing the steps with the style the choreographer wants.

HG: You had a monopoly on tearing off the four consecutive double tours in "Interplay" and dancing Horiuchi's role in "Eight More," which suggests that Martins revived it for you. In spring 2005, you were infrequently cast, which must have made it tough to remain in peak condition.

DU: I knew the season was going to be slack when Kyra Nichols was called to rehearsal before me. I took extra classes at Steps and SAB and worked off my excess energy at home by banging on my drum set.

Once I took company barre wearing a "Nutcracker" Mouse head. Guest teacher Espen Giljane told me a while ago, "Daniel, you should be caged." And I do imitations. Nikolaj Hubbe demanded to see the one of him taking barre, and he loved it.

HG: You didn't dance more often after your promotion but at least you got a soloist's dressing room.

DU: I turned it down. I was still doing corps work in "Rubies" and "West Side Story Suite" and, anyway, I like the camaraderie of being with the guys. After I led the men's regiment in 'Stars,' some of them told me, "Daniel, we danced better tonight because of you." That means a lot.

HG: Your dancing is so powerful you must start each day with a full head of steam.

DU: Are you serious? Some days it's a strain just to get out of bed, to get started. But after I walk the five or six blocks to the theater, the juices are flowing. Some dancers find class a chore but to me it's a challenge and I enjoy meeting challenges. That's when you test yourself, when you learn. Performance: that's the ultimate challenge.

(New York City Ballet's 2007 winter season continues through February 25.)

Harris Green is presently a contributing editor to Macfadden Performing Arts Media's dance publications after servng as features editor under Richard Philp on Dance Magazine, when it was located in the real dance capital of the world (not Oakland). This article was adapted and updated from the fall 2005 Ballet Review.

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