Daniel Ulbricht started practising his footwork at age 11. By the time he was 16, he was stepping on to the stage with New York City Ballet dancers. At age 17, being a child was something other people did; Ulbricht owned his own apartment and paid his own bills.
“I won’t say I lost something, but it accelerated me growing up,” he explains.
He doesn’t complain about his other family members though and says when he looks at his life from others’ point of view, he realises how lucky he was.
“I was very fortunate to have two very supportive parents, without [them] I wouldn’t be here today,” he says.
When he calls dance his calling, it’s tough to disagree, after all, he’s not only been adulting for a while, but doing quite well at it. He took the mantle of the New York City Ballet principal dancer, then went on to found the Stars of Ballet group. And this troupe is what’s bringing him to Dubai to perform at the Opera house on March 8. He says he’s got a roller coaster ride planned for the audience.
“I want to create a journey of dance for the audience” with a spectrum of music, he says. There’s Tarantella, with music by Louis M Gottschalk; Apollo Pas de Deux by Igor Stravinsky; White Swan Pas de Deux by P I Tchaikovsky; After the Rain by Arvo Part; Who Cares? to music by George Gershwin; and Sing, Sing Sing, which has music by Benny Goodman and choreographed by Ulbricht.
Dance for everyone
“Sing, Sing, Sing is really a very light-hearted piece, a very familiar tune and I really wanted something for people who are very familiar with dance and some who are not familiar with dance. It’s a piece that allows somebody in the audience to tap their foot because they can appreciate the rhythm; it’s something about seeing the personality of these dancers that gets to come through in those pieces,” says Ulbricht.
The stage veteran, however, is clear about his passion: it’s to glide not guide on stage.
“My passion is to dance and sometimes, along the way, someone will say, ‘is there a piece that you’d like to do, or piece that you’d showcase in a very special way?’ and so in particular with this piece it was somebody needed an extra piece and I was able to put this together. But my passion, first and foremost is as a dancer. When I have a free week, I’m not looking to make [a] new dance; I’m looking to dance,” he says.
He compares what he does to the task of an Olympian. His advice to those looking to follow his lead: “Take care of yourself; you have to be healthy; eat healthy, eat right. You have to have discipline to be able to take the correction in the front of the room, or remember choreography or be able to pick up things very quickly and you have to be inspired”.
He’s been dancing professionally for about 20 years, he says, and that just sparks for him a greater love for his art.
Ulbricht seems most at home on the stage; and he’s looking forward to welcoming you to it. Get ready for some fancy footwork.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to see Stars of Ballet on March 8 at the Dubai Opera at 2pm and 8pm start at Dh175.