Allison Ulrich says she'll never forget the phone call she received
in early May.
It was one that left her in a brief state of disbelief. It also
made her cry.
Most importantly, it allowed her to continue the pursuit of her
dream, to dance professionally.
That call came from the admissions department at the Juilliard
School, and it went to Ulrich's cellphone, to let her know she had
been accepted to the prestigious academy.
Juilliard's mission is to educate talented performing musicians,
dancers and actors so they may achieve the highest artistic
standards. It is at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, in
the heart of New York City.
Ulrich, an 18-year-old resident of Huntington Harbour, graduates
today from the Orange County High School of the Arts, a place where
she has honed her skills and technique through the school's
commercial dance department.
She is one of two OCHSA students, and one of 12 girls
internationally, to be accepted to Juilliard for the 2005-06 academic
year. She is also the first OCHSA commercial dance student to be
accepted at Juilliard.
Soon it will be time for her to make the big move to the Big Apple
to pursue her big dream.
For 15 years Ulrich said she has been involved with "every style"
of dance, but her focus has been in modern, ballet and jazz, which
she will continue to study at Juilliard.
While a student at Marine View Middle School, Ulrich said she
researched the Juilliard School to find out what it was about.
"I knew after reading up on it, that I wanted to go there one
day," she said. Helping her move toward that goal was the
instruction she received at OCHSA, which is in Santa Ana.
Ulrich admits to being nervous the first day of school her
freshman year, but she blossomed into one of the school's most
respected and talented students.
"Even as a freshman, we placed her in our most advanced groups,"
said Cindy Peca-Dolan, assistant director of the commercial dance
department at the school. "She had been featured in nearly every
number choreographed for and at the school."
Peca-Dolan has worked with Ulrich for the past 10 years.
"Working with Allison is always a pleasure and very creatively
stimulating," Peca-Dolan said. "She is exceptionally talented and a
risk-taker who is not afraid to take a new approach to her movement.
"She's just so focused and well-rounded. She's always prepared and
there's such a sense of energy and dynamics to her dancing. She'll do
just great at Juilliard."
As a highly featured dancer at the school, Ulrich was nominated
this year for a Cappie Award for best dancer in a musical. She won a
scholarship from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the
Arts, a $4,000 scholarship from the House of Blues and is a
semifinalist for several other arts scholarship awards.
She performed two dances at the school's performance finale at the
Orange County of the Performing Arts on May 29 and is featured in a
school film dealing with the accomplishments of its students.
Ulrich survived several rounds of an audition process at the
Juilliard School right after the first of the year. She started in a
field of more than 130 male and female dance prospects, and survived
an initial cut of 100 dancers. She next had to perform a solo, for
which she danced a modern piece to "Valhalla" by Sarah Fimm, and made
that cut too.
The final part to the audition was the interview.
A few weeks later came the phone call she had hoped for.
Her high school's loss is the Juilliard School's gain, Peca-Dolan
"I've known Allison for such a long time now, and she has a
special place in my heart. But it's time for her to move on, to keep
growing. That's how she'll realize her dream."
Ulrich, who has visited New York City twice and has seen several
shows on Broadway, aspires to graduate from Juilliard and go on to a
major dance company.
She'll also be at Juilliard during a special time for the school,
which will celebrate its 100th birthday Oct. 11.
"The stage is my favorite place in the world to be," said Ulrich,
who also is a Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Junior member. "The
lights, the costumes, the live audience. It's just a thrill to
"I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to New York City,
to studying with talented people every day. There's so much more to
* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports and features. He can be reached at
(714) 966-4611 or by e-mail at michael.sciacca @latimes.com.