New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht has a history of precocity. At age 15, after a three-day visit to the School of American Ballet as a guest pupil, he was awarded a full scholarship on the spot. NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins then cast him as a spunky, side-straddle-hopping jester in Martins’ production of The Sleeping Beauty while he was still a student. Once in the company, Ulbricht proceeded to set new standards for crowd-pleasing virtuosity in such demi-caractère parts as Puck in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night's Dream and conjure up the power of the great Edward Villella in his signature roles in Tarantella and Prodigal Son.

Given his lightning-fast ascent through the ranks, it’s no surprise that he’s now an in-demand teacher as well—at age 24. His burgeoning parallel career includes serving as a guest professor at Indiana University and a guest faculty member at the Chautauqua Institute, The Rock School for Dance Education and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. In New York City, he teaches at SAB, Ballet Academy East and Studio Maestro. Last summer, he and fellow NYCB principal Jenifer Ringer became associate directors of the New York State Summer School for the Arts in Saratoga, NY.

Dance Teacher: When did you start to teach and where?

Daniel Ulbricht: I started teaching in Saratoga three years ago, when I was a soloist with City Ballet. Saratoga is the company’s summer home, and our dancers are traditionally involved with NYSSSA. Amanda Edge, a [now former] corps member who served as a liaison, called me and said, “Daniel, would you like to come teach?” I said I’d like to try. Little did I know. The class was co-ed for New York state students, ages 14 to 18, who had qualified for the summer program. The first five minutes I was so nervous I stuttered, “P-p-plié.” But then it was smooth sailing. I talked so much, encouraging the students, that I lost my voice. I was mentally as well as physically exhausted, but I was hooked. Teaching was like another kind of performance.

DT: By you?

DU: Not just me. I want students to think of class as a performance. I want steps done at the barre and in the center to be presented as if for an audience, with musicality and personality—and energy. Ask your students to define “energy,” and they always say it means “fast.” Actually, energy is about being alive. An adagio must have energy. Without energy, without musicality, there is no dance. When students come to class with that attitude, they bring extra adrenaline and they pay extra attention. A dancer should look energetic—that is, ready to go—just standing at the barre.

DT: So you start with posture?

DU: Teachers can improve students’ posture just by walking around. Students always straighten up when teachers approach, then slouch after they pass. That’s why I walk around all the time. It’s my job to keep the energy level high. Growing up in St. Petersburg (Florida, I alsways add after a pause), I was fortunate to have had teachers whose classes were so exciting I couldn’t wait to return. [Leonard Holmes, who studied at SAB, and Javier Dubrocq from the Ballet Nacional du Cuba] taught me the proper attitude while giving me a solid foundation in technique.

DT: How large are your classes?

DU: I’ve taught up to 60 in a college class or summer program. My average, I’d say, is 30 students. Last summer I taught up to 25 classes a week.

DT: Can you give students individual attention in a class of 30?

DU: My general corrections apply to everyone, but for specific, personal corrections, I’m a tailor making a custom-tailored suit and keeping everyone’s measurements in my head as I teach. It’s like having 20 or 30 different classes going on at once. That’s a challenge, since my goal is to get to everyone in one way or another, either by demonstration or hands-on training, but I like challenges.

DT: You were notorious for cutting up in company class. One City Ballet teacher said you should be in a cage. How would you have disciplined you?

DU: I’m still a cut-up, but that’s beside the point. I put undisciplined students on the spot by challenging them to do a demanding step or combination. If it’s a gifted student who’s bored because he thinks he knows it all, I make up a really challenging combination for him. You have to keep pushing your best students because they tend to be content with how good they are. Demonstrating is also a good way to build confidence. Some students may score a breakthrough by being put on the spot. They didn’t know they could deliver! I always ask to see an outstanding demonstration done again. Consistency is absolutely essential. A student may be proud of doing seven pirouettes in succession, but wobbling on the third and the fifth means there’s more work to be done.

DT: How bluntly do you put that?

DU: First, I always say something positive, like, “You’re on the right track.” That’s how Lenny and Javier empowered me. Then I get specific about what’s being done wrong. My teachers showed me they were there for me but let me know what I had to keep working on.

DT: What if the student is hopeless?

DU: “Hopeless” is my least favorite word. If students are “unpromising,” let’s say, but really trying, I give them plenty of encouragement. I want every student to develop a love of dancing. Everyone deserves that experience of having worked hard at something they love. Maybe in the future they will support dancing because they remember what it felt like to dance and how much they loved it.

DT: Do you prefer teaching single-sex or mixed classes?

DU: Mixed classes. There are few steps that belong exclusively to one sex. For older students, practicing steps in a mixed class raises the energy level. The gentlemen try harder to impress the women in the room, and the women try harder to impress the gentlemen. Of course, if you’re teaching a class of children, you don’t start little boys out on steps that are done in a tutu; otherwise you’ll lose them.

DT: Do you learn from teaching?

DU: Oh, absolutely. Let’s say I’m correcting a student with balance problems, and as we break the steps down, I realize the solution involves a distribution of weight I’ve never thought of. “Daniel, you’ve got to try this!” I’ll tell myself, and next time when I take class, I do. This happens all the time.

DT: Doesn’t teaching interfere with your career as a dancer?

DU: Dividing my time and energy is a problem I’m always working on, but I’d say the two biggest enhancements of my career as a dancer are teaching and Pilates. Dancing is like a language the best dancers have total command of. Teaching is an analysis of that language and learning its complexity, while dancing is using it competently, securely and correctly with an elegance that makes the audience think it’s easy.

DT: Which career do you enjoy most?

DU: Dancing. I love meeting the challenges and—I admit it—there’s no satisfaction like having 2,500 people roar their approval when you take a bow. But there’s a similar satisfaction when I’m standing with my back to the mirror, facing the class after I’ve given a correction that hits the target. Yes, I have a smaller audience but it’s a great satisfaction to see the light bulbs go on. If you don’t wholeheartedly love it when that happens, you shouldn’t be teaching. DT

 

Harris Green is a writer in New York City.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Kyle Froman

Unlike a usual waltz, in which the lift and dip would come from the legs, this waltz from Paul Taylor's Cloven Kingdom (1976) requires the up-and-down motion to come solely from the torso. The legs remain in plié the entire time, eating space. (When this piece is performed, dancers traverse the length of the stage using one pass of this waltz.)

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Once competition season ends it may be challenging to keep your dancers excited and involved in dance. Don't let the down time between competition seasons drag on. Dance conventions are an easy and effective way to learn new skills, meet inspiring choreographers, and keep your dancers involved all year long. It is also a great opportunity for your dancers to bond and grow together as a team.

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Dance News
Adam Rose/FOX

At the start of last night's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," 41 dancers remained. An hour later, we had a Top 20. And then there was a BIG FAT TWIST. (We'll get to that.)

The 41 still-standing Academy dancers showed up at the Dolby Theater in L.A. ready to tackle three rounds: contemporary choreography with seven-time Emmy nominee and one-time "SYTYCD" contestant Travis Wall; an "epic group routine" with jazz choreographer and La La Land she-ro Mandy Moore; and a last-chance solo showdown. Here's what happened.

The Contemporary Competition

"I'm not looking for robots," SuperTrav immediately explained. He gave the dancers shapes, but from there, each was expected to make the choreography his or her own. Everyone got sweaty and exhausted, and after 90 minutes, it was time to perform in groups of three for Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and Travis.


Allen Genkin

The ballroom babe struggled during hip hop last week, but (naturally) crushed the ballroom choreography. This time around, the judges still couldn't resist Allen's charm, and he got to stay—though, Nigel said, "We need more."

Cole Mills

Cole has stood out during each round of choreography thus far, and not just because of his full-back tattoo. Travis called him absolutely beautiful. "I don't know where you came from or where you've trained, but I am very excited for you," TWall said. And he made it through.

Tessa Dalke

The pressure was on for this early favorite—and the judges weren't feeling her contemporary performance. Vanessa was expecting more, Travis didn't think she commanded the space with her energy, and Nigel said she needed to step up. But they weren't ready to give up on her, so she stayed for jazz.

Sydney Moss

She stood out, Nigel said, simply. She got to stick around, too.

Hannahlei Cabanilla

All the judges agreed that they couldn't take their eyes off her. Hannahlei made it on to jazz as well.

David Greenberg

The ballet dancer didn't totally crush Travis's choreography, so the judges decided to send him home. "I hate this part," Travis said through gritted teach. (We hate it, too.)

Eddie Hoyt

The judges needed to make cuts, and despite Eddie's awesome personality, the tapper's "SYT" journey ended here. Tear!

Evan DeBenedetto

The other tapping standout in the competition killed this choreo. Vanessa said he rose to the occasion, and he made it to the jazz round.

Bridget Derville-Teer

Nigel told Bridget she lost him today, and Mary didn't connect with the performance. Bridget was sent home—but Nigel hopes to see her again. (Season 16, girl! Be ready to crush it!)

Genessy Castillo

Genessy seemed to lose confidence halfway through the performance, but the judges still adored her, so she made it through.

Emily Carr

Emily was totally captivating in this round. Her jumps were the highest, her expression the fullest, her performance the boldest. Travis thought the competition was hers to lose: "Girl, I can't wait for you to get on the show so I can work with you," he said. Holy ultimate compliment, TravMan!

The Group Production Number

With 33 dancers left, it was time to bring in Mandy Moore for the final round of choreography. Her jazzy group routine featured all the dancers shining in their individual styles, plus a grand finale where everyone came together. "If they can't hang in the group routine, then it is cutsville, buh bye," Mandy said. STONE. COLD.



This routine looked so fun. (Was anyone else standing up, trying to learn it at home? No? Just us? OK.) The high-energy choreography was fairly simple, but there was a LOT of it. Each group got just an hour to perfect their portion of the routine—and to choreograph two eight-counts of the performance themselves. Intense much?

There were so many wonderful moments during the enthusiastic performance. Emily Carr was a standout again. The tappers looked awesome, and Jensen Arnold had undeniable presence. (The entire ballroom group is looking super strong this year, TBH.) The exhausting routine earned a standing O from the four judges, whom we were not envying at that point.



But cuts had to be made, and Tessa Dalke, sadly, was one of them. Other favorites—Alexis Gilbert, Jay Jackson, Gaevin Bernales—were sent home, too.

The Last-Chance Solo Round

The remaining 27 dancers got to perform one final solo before the judges chose the Top 20. Jay Jay Dixonbey's number was powerful, precise, and pretty darn perfect. Chelsea Hough rocked heels for hers. Hannahlei Cabanilla earned a "love. her." from Mary. And Allen Genkin wrapped things up with a booty wiggle, a big smile, and a Magic Mike-esque shirt toss that Nigel called "a little desperate." (AGREE TO DISAGREE, NIGEL.)

Without further ado...

The "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 Top 20

THE GUYS

Jay Jay Dixonbey

Cole Mills

Justin Pham

Slavik Pustovoytov

Peyton Albrecht

Dustin Payne

Evan DeBenedetto

Darius Hickman

Kyle Bennett, Jr.

Allen Genkin

THE GIRLS

Genessy Castillo

Magda Fialek

Jensen Arnold

Stephanie Sosa

Dayna Madison

Sydney Moss

Brianna Penrose

Chelsea Hough

Emily Carr

Hannahlei Cabanilla

BUT WAIT. After the reveal, there was another reveal: Turns out only 10 dancers will continue on to the live shows. What is happening?!

Next week, each of the Top 20 dancers will be paired with an All Star and a choreographer. See you then for more madness!

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Ballet Next

In 2011, when former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles departed the company and formed BalletNext, she found an artistic freedom she'd been longing for. Along with new collaborations with choreographers and musicians, she began working with trumpeter Tom Harrell, who introduced her to the multilayered sounds of jazz. "The dancers are another instrument to a jazz musician," says Wiles. Pairing this music genre with her classical foundation has been pivotal in defining her style. "I have this classical facility, but my mind is more contemporary. Jazz is a good intersection for my work," she says.

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Dance News
Photo by Alex Huber, courtesy of YDC

Ballroom dance could be the best form of diplomacy, according to New York City teenagers starring in a new documentary, Taking New Steps—The Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company Goes to Israel.

Saturday, members of the Youth Dance Company and their loved ones watched the premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Produced by SingularDTV, the 18-minute documentary captured individual interviews and sweeping drone shots during the company's 2017 trip to Israel for the Karmiel Dance Festival. Dancers in the audience, now a year older, cheered as they viewed younger versions of themselves on the movie screen.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Favia

After a bad sprain at 19 years old, Talia Favia left L.A. and went home to Phoenix to heal. While she was unable to dance full-out, she began to teach and choreograph. "I realized then that I was meant to be a choreographer and teacher," she says. "When I was auditioning in L.A., I would feel guilty, because I knew there were dancers there who wanted to perform more than I did. It took sitting out for me to realize that I just loved being behind the scenes."

Since then, Favia, 27, has thrived as a choreographer, setting numbers on studios around the country, creating viral dance videos, creating pieces on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars," and receiving the top prize at the 2014 A.C.E. Awards.

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It's just so good. (via YouTube)

Happy Nationals season, everybody! It's that time of year when us lucky editors get to watch so, SO many gorgeous solos by dancers competing for big titles. But even among the insanely gifted artists at the top of the comp circuit, Tate McRae stands out. Just ask anyone who's seen the solo that helped her win Teen Best Dancer at The Dance Awards in Vegas last week.

Choreographed by Travis Wall (naturally), "Woman" is virtuosic both technically and artistically. Are the 180-degree extensions and fluid lyricism that captivated "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" audiences two years ago still there? Of course they are. But Tate also approaches the solo with a commitment and maturity that's rare in industry veterans, let alone 14-year-old students.

Planning to spend the majority of your summer sweating it out in the studio? Don't worry, you're not alone. And while you're definitely going to want to save the warmups for the winter, you can still accessorize your studio look without adding bulk, thanks to the always-in-style ballet skirt. From bright florals to washed out pastels and wild prints, we rounded up our favorite short (and a few long!) ballet skirts for summer.

AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt

via AinslieWear

If you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully). ainsliewear.com, $50

Nationals is a doozy every summer—ESPECIALLY for dance teachers. You spend the whole year gearing up for one week of pure insanity. Nonstop classes, last-minute rehearsals, costume malfunctions, emotional students, stressed parents, endless awards ceremonies and a fancy gala—this week is enough to kill you. Yet somehow you've survived, and now it's time to detox! To help, here are memes that perfectly depict the five phases of Nationals recovery every dance teacher goes through. You'll die over how accurate they are.

Get ready to laugh!

Oh, and you're welcome 💁♀️.

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Studio Owners
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Running a studio is an enormous undertaking that requires you to wear many hats at once (and with expertise): pedagogy, customer service, business management and beyond. Some owners find they're better off doing the work with a trusted partner by their side—someone to share both the responsibilities and the rewards. But finding the right person to work with isn't easy. You need someone whose personality, strengths and weaknesses complement your own. Here, three sets of successful partners get to the heart of how they make it work.

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When Brittany Purtell heard one dancer was repeatedly bad-mouthing another on her eight-person competition team in early 2017, she knew she had to take action. "We got word about bullying among the team members," she says. "It started at their school and then carried over to the studio." A dancer was spreading rumors about her teammate: "Something along the lines of 'So-and-so is not trying; she's not practicing; she doesn't deserve to be on the team,'" says Purtell, who directs the Senior Elite team at Open Space Studio in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Concerned the bad-mouthing could lead to a serious rift among teammates, she planned a camaraderie-building session, where students filled poster boards with dance compliments about one another—and themselves—and decorated the studio with hearts where they'd penned why they love dance. She's heard no complaints since, but statistically speaking, she likely will face some variation of this challenge again.

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