From Lincoln Center to Lincoln — Stars of American Ballet at the Lied Center on Saturday | Arts and theater

Daniel Ulbricht calls Saturday’s performance of the Stars of the American Ballet “Lincoln to Lincoln.”

It would be Lincoln Center, where the 10 dancers of New York City Ballet do their work at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, where they will present four short pieces that showcase their talents among the best in the world.

“Not everyone will travel to New York and see these great dancers,” said Ulbricht, artistic director of Stars. “My goal is to get them into their own backyard. … (The dancers) have all just come out of the winter season. They say “no” to holidays. They say “no” to rest. They say “yes” to bring the show to Lincoln. It means a lot to them. They want to bring the ballet they dance to the stage at Lincoln Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In doing so, said Ulbricht, Stars of the American Ballet also hopes to introduce those who don’t know ballet, say they don’t understand it, and are put off by the high cost of most ballet performances to this form of art.

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“There’s an assumption with the art form that you have to know so much about it and it can be prohibitively expensive,” Ulbricht said. “Our goal is to turn him to the side. We bring in jazz and ballroom, there are musicians on stage. Dance can be very visual, but I think we forget that we do it to music. It’s exciting and accessible.

Accessibility is key to Saturday’s program. Two pieces – “In The Night” and “A Suite of Dances” were choreographed by Jerome Robbins, who did “West Side Story” and are performed to Chopin’s Nocturnes and Bach’s Cello Suites.

“Tres Hombres” is a fusion of jazz, ballet and ballroom dancing, performed by three male dancers. “Someone who doesn’t have a clue what ‘Swan Lake’ is can say ‘I liked it,'” Ulbricht said.

The finale, “Who Cares?” has choreography by George Balanchine, one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century, to music by George Gershwin.

These pieces, Ulricht pointed out, allow dancers to demonstrate that in addition to being artists, they are athletes, although they repeatedly perform the same actions.

“There’s a series of steps we have to do, yes,” Ulbricht said. “We do them in the moment, like other athletes. And don’t forget that basketball players and football players don’t play to music. And, by the way, you have to smile. Yes, we do this amazing physical feat. But it’s not a football game. It’s not who won and who lost. Goal. It’s what you do and how you do it. That’s what makes it an art form.

Ulbricht has been a principal dancer with New York City Ballet since 2007. A Florida native who started dancing at age 11, Ulbricht started in the corps de ballet two decades ago and became a soloist in 2005.

He started what became Stars of American Ballet a few years after becoming a principal dancer.

“I started this about 10 years ago,” Ulbricht said. “My mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the time. Not being able to come to New York was difficult. I thought ‘why not bring him the show (in Florida)?’

“I thought we would do it once and that would be it. I fell in love with it, found happy and fun people and had a sense of community and took them out. It has benefited me personally and I think it benefits where we are going.

Ulbricht, who will dance three of the four pieces, solo in “A Suite of Dances”, also runs the company, buying plane tickets and organizing other tours such as holding rehearsals while dancing and teaching.

“I’m 38, a seasoned veteran in our field,” he said. “But looking at Tom Brady and Roger Federer, those guys are amazing athletes. I want to do what they did. I want to do it. I want to bring it with all the energy of New York. It’s not a transition for me. That’s what I do.”

And, says Ulbricht, he, the other dancers and musicians love doing what they do in places like Lincoln.

“What I feel in the smaller places is that everyone clings to performance a lot more,” Ulbricht said. “It’s like there’s a special exhibit, they can experience it and we can bring it to them.

Contact the writer at 402-473-7244 or [email protected] On Twitter @KentWolgamott

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