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.

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Réjean Brandt Photography, Courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet

After growing up in Florida, how did you adjust to the climate when you moved to Winnipeg, Canada?

It was shocking. The winter is brutal! Now I know what to expect, but it's still a bit of a shock. I think the first day of snow was September 26th.

Do you have a go-to anecdote about company life?

Once we were on tour in Arkansas for Nutcracker. We got to the finale, and the music cut out. There was a womp-womp moment, the curtain came down, and we had to restart from the top of the coda. But the audience was excited they saw it twice—they felt like they got double their money!

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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