Touring Texoma: Leslie & Mel Ulrich

Leslie and Mel Ulrich are raising their two kids in Graham where Leslie grew up, starting around Jr. High.
For them, times could not be better, and neither could their memories of  experiences that helped bring them together.

Leslie: "Now this, this is my best friend."  "I'm Leslie Ulrich, and I've been a Rockette for 9 years." 

"I think I was born to dance."

Before Leslie made it all the way here, on stage with the Radio City Rockettes, she was taking tap and jazz dance classes in Graham, and ballet in Wichita Falls.

"I just could never stop.  I just could never quit.  As busy as I got in high school, I never wanted to stop."

After graduating from SMU, it was that relentless drive that first helped Leslie work and perform on a cruise ship, and then in New York City.

"I'd always seen the Rockettes on television in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and when I saw the audition for them,  I thought that is what I'd really like to do.  So, I auditioned for them, and I ended up getting in that first season, and it really was a dream come true."

That was in 1993.  She'd stay until 2002.

"All I wanted to do was move from Texas to New York City, and try out to be a Rockette."

"When I got the call, I was so excited.  I remember being on the subway and wanting to scream, and of course I couldn't."

Leslie definitely had reason to be excited.
Before she knew it,  she was performing everywhere, with her best friends, while doing that famous kick.

"That is our signature move, and we do so many kicks in each show.  They're all eye high, and that's really the best way.  It's a little bit higher than the eye, and that's the best way for us to get them all together because we can see them right in- front of us."

"There were times I had to pray my way through the kick line because I may have had a hip injury, and I just wasn't sure if it was going to go up the next time, but it always did, and worked out."

It was about 5- years after Leslie became a Rockette, around 1998, that she met Mel while getting off a subway.  What are the chances of that?  Both performers.  Both with a love of the arts.  The rest was history.

"He was playing Figaro, and in the restroom intermission, I asked a lady, which one is Mel Ulrich?  And they said, oh yes it's the one in the green velvet outfit.  And, I thought, wow!  It really impressed me."

Mel:  "Actually, the opera she came to see, Figaro, the baritone got sick.  I was the cover.  I was supposed to come on a month later and do two shows, and he was opening night, and the night before, he was not singing well. I thought, something's going to happen, and sure enough, the director came over and said, you be ready.  He called me after the show and said, you're on."

Then, Mel says because the New York Times was there, and Metropolitan Opera, his career was then catapulted internationally.

"And, I got a girl too!"

"These are all struggling artists in Paris.  So, he just made all this money.  He's the musician in the group.  There's an artist and poet.  And so, he just made the bucks with this thing, and so he's coming in with all this food saying, party time.   So, they're all happy."

Leslie: "My husband is the more talented of the two of us."

Mel:  "No!"

Leslie:  "He is an amazing singer."

Mel:  "I didn't see her dance her stuff 'til later.  She's more of a modern dancer.  That's kind of her love.  But, seeing her as a Rockette first, you know, who's not going to like that?  She was great."

Mel still thinks Leslie's great.

In fact, they moved back home to Graham to get away from all the traveling, especially the European tours, for  family. 

Leslie:  "Yeah, well we'll see if our kids have any talent." (Laughs)

Also,  because they know these memories are everlasting ones, they'll always be able to share together.

Mel:  "I can't tell you how fun it is to be on stage, and just perform for people.  Make them happy.  To put on makeup and become a character, and you look in the mirror, and for that 3- hours, you're someone else.  It's kind of fun to do that, and I love music.  I love music and I love to sing."

Leslie:  "Oh, great memories.  I wouldn't trade them for the world.  A lot of fun."

Today Mel, who's a Grammy winner, has different business ventures going with Leslie's family.
She's doing what she loves,  teaching dance.

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