Setting the barre high

Mike Sciacca

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

said.

"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

perform.

"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

learn."

* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports and features. He can be reached at

(714) 966-4611 or by e-mail at michael.sciacca @latimes.com.

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