Daniel Ulbricht’s Stars of American Ballet Five-Piece Bill Offers Something for Everyone

Daniel Ulbricht

Stars of American Ballet’s bill is flavorful; there’s something from the classic and the contemporary — and every taste in between.

That variety will be on full display at 8:15 p.m. tonight, June 26, in the Amphitheater, when Stars of American Ballet takes the stage in its Chautauqua debut. Stars is a collaborative company, comprised of top dancers from elite dance institutions across the United States, founded and directed by New York City Ballet dancer and Chautauqua School of Dance alumnus Daniel Ulbricht.

Ulbricht described tonight’s performance as a “menu” with samplings of various dancers, musicalities and genres. 

“As we progress as audience members, … we have to talk about opening up the program; it’s not just tutus anymore,” he said. “You have to offer a different piece of music, you have to offer a different style, you have to offer something that engages audiences differently.”

The five-piece show will open with George Balanchine’s “Apollo.” In sharp contrast, “Irresistible,” an electrifying ballroom number choreographed and performed by Denys Drozdyuk, will encore the “treasured” — in Ulbricht’s words — Balanchine quartet.

Additionally, Ulbricht will be performing Jerome Robbins’ “Suite of Dances,” a 15-minute solo that explores the moods of Bach’s music for cello through Robbins’ signature somersaults and cartwheels; cellist Ann Kim will accompany Ulbricht onstage.

Rounding out the program will be “Change of Heart,” a neoclassical duet, choreographed and performed by NYCB dancer Ask la Cour. Ulbricht said the piece has darker themes and features intricate partnering. Finally, closing the show will be “Tres Hombres,” a fusion of ballet, ballroom and hip-hop.

Featured in tonight’s performance are two soloists and five principal dancers from New York City Ballet.

“(Stars of American Ballet) tries to bring the best of the best dancers from different companies, so that what we’re seeing in one concert is different styles, different genres, different stars,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts. “And when Daniel Ulbricht is both the director of the company and dancing in it, you’re really assured of a certain level of breathtaking excellence.”

The idea for Stars of American Ballet came from darkness: About 10 years ago, Ulbricht’s mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was unable to fly to New York City and see performances, so Ulbricht decided to bring the shows to her.

“Audiences, they all don’t live in New York or major metropolitan areas, so I really feel that ‘Stars’ fills a void,” he said. “We go to people’s backyards and allow them to have that experience and to have access to (ballet). That allows people to know they can have culture wherever they are.”

Prior to the Amp performance, Ulbricht will be holding a “Views on Pointe” lecture at 7 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall, sponsored by the Chautauqua Dance Circle.

Ulbricht first stepped onto the Amp stage in 1997 as a student in the School of Dance. Now an alumnus, Ulbricht is returning to not only perform but to train and engage with the next generation of dancers.

“To be able to come back and bring talented dancers to hopefully inspire the audience, just as I was inspired in those benches at the very back of the (Amp), that’s what we’re looking forward to,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing art and dance and culture stay alive, and Chautauqua is probably one of the most treasured places to do that.”
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The author Maggie Prosser

Maggie Prosser will be covering the dance programs, Institution administration, the board of trustees and the CPOA for her second summer at the Daily. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, she is a rising junior studying journalism at Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. Outside of her studies, she serves as the editor-in-chief of The New Political, an award-winning political publication at OU, and loves eating gluten-free bread.