Leaping To Stardom

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Like ballet icon Mikhail Baryshnikov, Daniel Ulbricht, the shortest male dancer in The New York City Ballet is only 5’7”. But despite his height, Ulbricht is long on stature and has fulfilled his big dreams as a dancer. After switching from karate and gymnastics to ballet at age 11, Ulbricht studied dance at home in Florida and attended summer programs in Chautauqua (NY). At 15, his life changed. He auditioned and got into the School of American Ballet (SAB), a feeder school to the New York City Ballet and moved to New York. At 16, he joined NYCB as a guest and after just one year, he entered the company as a member of the corps de ballet, the chorus. Ulbricht’s success in ballet was not just luck. Armed with a lot of support from his parents made it easy for Ulbricht. “They were behind whatever I wanted to do,” he said. “[And] I just loved being out on stage.” Clearly passion played a huge role in Ulbricht’s success but he faced some obstacles on the way beginning with peer pressure. “You have peer pressure from outside,” he said. “For instance, the crack in school was ‘Oh, you’re in dance’ seems so funny now because these same guys are at home, living in the garage of their parent’s house delivering pizza.”

Another issue was balancing work with school and having a social life. “It was very difficult,” said Ulbricht. “I worked with a tutor for a couple of years because with my schedule I could only take two classes.” Nonetheless, Ulbricht remained positive as he described his 17-hour days where he went from school to rehearsal to a show and then went home to do homework. Making his capability known at 5’7” was yet one other obstacle. “You have to take up as much space as the guy who is 6’4”,” he said. “You have to dance that big. You have to grab as much attention as that person does naturally standing up. You have to jump as high, being the short little guy.”

Even though he has established himself in the company today, still continues to work hard and perform his best. “Anytime you’re onstage, under the spotlight, it is such a thrilling experience,” he said. “You want each performance to be better than the one before it. You have another 3000 eyes to impress.” Featured in roles in The Nutcracker, Mozartiana, Tarantella, Fancy Free and Soiree, amongst others, recently appeared as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For him, there is nothing in the world that compares with what he’s doing. “I’m out here every day dancing my heart out.”

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