Tuesday, December 11, 2012

St. Petersburg native returns to Tampa Bay for two special performances

St. Petersburg native Daniel Ulbricht returns to the Tampa area for two special performances this season.

Ulbricht, now a principal with the New York City Ballet, will appear in The Nutcracker, the Great Imperial Ballet on Dec. 22, and in Ballet’s Greatest Hits on Jan 5, 2013, both at the Straz Center.

Daniel Ulbricht, of the New York City Ballet, is coming
to Tampa for two shows.
“It’s always nice to come back home to see my family who were my support, my safety net, my coach,” said Ulbricht. “They watch you from a much deeper level. They know how hard you worked, the injuries, blood, sweat and tears.”

Ulbricht grew up in Pinellas Park in St. Petersburg and didn’t start dancing until he was eleven years old.

“I was always an active kid. I did karate and gymnastics,” said Ulbricht. But his sister danced. Waiting around for his sister at the Judith Lee Johnson Studio of Dance, the seed was planted.

He took his first ballet class in socks, sweats and a t-shirt.

“That was effective in terms of making me feel like (ballet) was for everyone,” he said.

His early mentors were Lenny Holmes, of the Judith Lee Johnson Studio of Dance and Javier Dubrocq, who danced with the Bay Ballet Theatre at the time.

Between the two of them, they “taught me how to love dance, and how to love dancing.”

At the age of 15, Ulbricht was accepted to the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of the New York City Ballet, and he moved to New York to train full-time. At first, his goal was to eventually dance with American Ballet Theatre.

But after spending some time at SAB, “I started to fall in love with the company. I started seeing the connection between SAB and the New York City Ballet.”

Just a year later, as a student, he got his first opportunity to perform with the NYC Ballet  as a Jester in Peter Martins' The Sleeping Beauty.

He’d danced at Ruth Eckerd Hall and Mahaffey Theater here in the area, but nothing could prepare him for that first real performance in front of a New York City audience.

“I got that high of being on stage and working with the company,” said Ulbrict.

In December, 2000, he became an apprentice with the company, and in November, 2001, he joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet. In January, 2005, Ulbricht was promoted to the rank of soloist, and promoted to principal dancer in May, 2007.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have followed my dreams, I can’t even begin to count the opportunities I’ve had,” said Ulbricht. 

In addition to performing with the NYC Ballet and as a sought-after guest artist, Ulbricht is also a teacher and the founder and director of Daniel Ulbricht and Friends, a touring group focusing on high art, education and outreach.

“My personal goal is to be an ambassador of the arts, I want people to be excited about dance and learn about dance,” he said.

The upcoming production of Ballet’s Greatest Hits is a wonderful opportunity for both Tampa Bay audiences to appreciate dance culture, and for dancers to see some of the most prominent dancers in the world.

“When I come home, I hope the impact goes much further than the performance,” said Ulbricht. Perhaps some dancer watching might think, “This guy started in Florida and he made it. I can make it, too.”

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