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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
cast you and Tiler Peck as the leads in his very
"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
|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
1996, for kata, the equivalent of performing a
variation in ballet.
HG: You mean you work with specific gestures done a
DU: You perform either choreographed scenes or a
can actually create your own. Kata is an art.
but it has to be done with discipline. My teacher,
Kathy Marlor, always
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.
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
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
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
He wisely let me take my first class in shorts, baggy
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
professional company. I had the opportunity to have
choreographed on me and to perform with an orchestra.
HG: When did you make contact with the School of
DU: During Buffalo's "Nutcracker" their teacher said,
should go somewhere else." And Judith Lee Johnson in
St. Pete said,
"You might want to take that next step." After I did
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
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
I also took the advanced class with Jock Soto and that
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
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
"Daniel" was listed on the company's schedule that's
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
houseflies but I understand they're supposed to be
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
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
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
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
DU: The first time I was nervous as can be. I didn't
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
backstage and out front. Here's a "behind-the-curtain"
scoop: Before I go on, I'm in the wings holding both
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
"Fearful Symmetries" and "Harmonielehre." The next
season the only
Balanchine I did was his "Swan Lake, Act 2." I was in
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
"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
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
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
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
HG: When were you accepted into the company?
DU: At the end of the 2001 "Nutcracker"s, and then the
rolling. In January 2002 on a Saturday, as the newest
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
a diagonal where it's your moment to
pyrotechnics. Some dancers do "switch splits," some do
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
Kolnik is looking, pull into a single saut de basque,
and then land. It
happens so fast that it looks to the untrained eye
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
DU: I rehearse that role so many times physically and
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.
taught it to me. He said you have to look like a fine
but that porcelain doll has to jump and dance and turn
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
HG: When you say "robot dance" do you mean the way the
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
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
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
DU: Yes, it matched my height but it's not quite my
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,
you say" sort. It was a big test for me to take a role
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"crossover" hit "Double Feature," made for the
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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
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
in sneakers and jeans. However, it seems so right to
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
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
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
HG: In "Tarantella" you and Megan Fairchild are a
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
Leland, when she coached me, kept saying, "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
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
personality came through so powerfully that he never
had to sell his
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
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
HG: You had a monopoly on tearing off the four
consecutive double tours
in "Interplay" and dancing Horiuchi's role in "Eight
suggests that Martins revived it for you. In spring
2005, you were
infrequently cast, which must have made it tough to
remain in peak
DU: I knew the season was going to be slack when Kyra
called to rehearsal before me. I took extra classes at
and SAB and worked off my excess energy at home by
banging on my drum
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
"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
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.