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.