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Daniel Ulbricht and Friends Rally to Fight Cancer

Violinist Karl Nikkanen with Daniel Ulbricht in Johan Kobborg's Les Lutin. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy DAC.

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.
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Ma Cong in the studio with Tulsa Ballet. Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Without him we wouldn't have The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But how much do you know about Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the man behind classical ballet's most recognizable music? Did you know that the Russian composer hid his homosexuality for much of his life? He also struggled with depression; there's been speculation that his death in 1893 was in fact a suicide.

Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong dramatically recounts his life in a new full-length ballet titled Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music, premiering March 29-31. If you think a story ballet about the most renowned composer of story ballets set to, yes, a Tchaikovsky score, is a bit meta, you wouldn't be wrong. But considering the renewed importance of LGBTQ rights in society, it's a ballet perfectly timed to our era. In Russia, censorship still asserts that Tchaikovsky was not gay. The subject also calls to mind backlash surrounding an LGBTQ-themed work at Louisville Ballet just last month.

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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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