Ballet Careers

Avant Chamber Ballet Nurtures Women Choreographers

Michelle Thompson Ulerich. Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood, Courtesy Avant Chamber Ballet.

Founded in 2012, Dallas-based Avant Chamber Ballet (ACB) has made a name for itself by presenting works by Christopher Wheeldon, George Balanchine and other major choreographers. Yet its Women's Choreography Project, now in its fourth year, makes ACB a company to watch in Texas and beyond. The Project's capstone is the annual choreography contest; the winner receives a stipend and the chance to set a new work on ACB's outstanding 18-member troupe. Nurturing the careers of women dancemakers is a central part of the company's mission. "As an independent choreographer, I found it almost impossible to get a professional commission," says ACB founder and artistic director Katie Cooper. "One of the reasons I started ACB was to make my own opportunities for creating new works."



This year's contest winner, chosen from over 50 applicants, is New York City–based choreographer Michelle Thompson Ulerich, a former Ballet Austin dancer who is currently on faculty at SUNY Purchase. "Michelle has a musical and organic vocabulary that isn't cluttered, but is more gestural," says Cooper. Ulerich's piece for ACB will be for 10 dancers on pointe and will feature live music. "I am inspired by the perseverance of the human spirit and the ability to continue," says Ulerich. "The piece will be an exploration of what is lost at the end of each day and the ability to look forward to the next day."

Ulerich will present her premiere April 21–22 at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas alongside pieces by Balanchine, Wheeldon and Paul Mejia as part of an evening titled Moving Music. Kimi Nikaidoh, artistic director of Dallas' Bruce Wood Dance, will also present a new work. The 2018 Women's Choreography Project application opened on March 15.

Ballet Stars
From left: Douane Gosa, Gianni Goffredo, James Whiteside, Maxfield Haynes and Matthew Poppe in WTF. Yo Poosh, Courtesy Kimberly Giannelli PR.

We've always known that Madonna loves dance. After all, the "Queen of Pop" studied at the Martha Graham School in the 1970s. Nevertheless, we were still surprised (and thrilled) to see that she invited James Whiteside to perform at her 61st birthday party in The Hamptons last weekend.

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Giveaways
Modeled by Daria Ionova. Darian Volkova, Courtesy Elevé Dancewear.
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News
Boston Ballet's Kathleen Breen Combes, María Álvarez and Dawn Atkins. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Ballet Stars
Alexandra MacDonald (front row, third from left) didn't win a medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition, but says she came home inspired and newly motivated by the people she met there. Photo Courtesy Genée IBC.

Ballet competitions are an exciting part of any dancer's career. Yet while scholarships, prize money, job offers and the prestige that comes with winning a medal are compelling incentives to participate in one, they're not the only benefits. In fact, many dancers who go home empty-handed still look fondly on the experience and go on to become successful professionals.

This week, the 2019 Genée International Ballet Competition kicks off in Toronto. From August 20-29, over 50 dancers, ages 15–19 and trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus, will perform three solos in the hopes of winning a medal and a $10,000 cash prize. Many past medalists have gone on to illustrious careers—but so have those who didn't win anything. We spoke with three Genée alumni now dancing professionally who know what it's like not to place. Read on to find out why they deem their comp experiences a success, and how you can make the most of yours—whether you win or not.

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