Six years ago, New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht and Erin Fogarty, director of programming at Manhattan Youth Ballet, teamed up to create Dance Against Cancer. The annual benefit for the American Cancer Society brings together ballet, modern and Broadway dancers, with every performer donating their own time. Pointe spoke with Ulbricht before this year’s event, Apr. 25 at the AXA Equitable Theater in New York City.
How do the dancers get involved?
This year we have 18 pieces–5 are premieres–and there are still dancers who want to perform. As their own family or friends or mentors suffer, I think they feel compelled to ask, “What can I do?” And we have many artists, like Tiler Peck, Robbie Fairchild, Craig Hall and Gillian Murphy, who have been so gracious to work with us year after year. In one night, you can see dancers from companies like Ailey, Parsons Dance, Noche Flamenca, ABT and City Ballet. It’s incredible.
Earl Mosley choreographed a solo for you to Nina Simone’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” in honor of your mother who passed away from cancer last year. What’s it like?
It’s not a double tour. It’s not a ménage. It’s a little more internal. Sometimes, I don’t have the ability to do that at City Ballet. But here, I’m looking inside for inspiration. How can I pay tribute with my own story? It stretches me not just physically but emotionally. That’s something I hope to bring back to the City Ballet stage.
There’s also a special tribute to actor Alan Rickman. How did that come about?
Wendy Whelan has been a really permanent facet of the Dance Against Cancer family, and she and Alan were friends. She wanted to do something, so Brian Reeder made a piece for Craig Hall and her. Wendy’s one of the busiest people I know and yet she’s made time for this. I find that really extraordinary.