62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
The Neighborhood Playhouse is both a great community resource and an old-fashioned reminder of the timelessness of great theater. Virtually invisible from the street, the only clue to its existence is a red, unmarked door and a modest sign. Once inside, however, I discovered that this almost one hundred year old building holds within it a proscenium theater, a full-size dance studio, and plenty of dressing rooms and classrooms. What a fascinating tour I was treated to by Emily Duncan, the admissions administrator, where I learned about their history and mission. The lobby, with its shabby elegance, features photos of famous graduates, as well as scenes from plays over the course of the school's history. The top two floors of the building are devoted to a beautiful dance studio with wood floors and soaring ceilings. A lover of dance, I was particularly moved when Emily announced that I was standing in the former domain of dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, who taught at the Neighborhood Playhouse alongside actor and teacher, Sanford Meisner. I was also enrapt by Christine Cirker, the librarian, who proudly discussed their vast collection of plays and theatre criticism. Incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the world of theater, she told me that she also teaches classes on script interpretation. Christine went on to explain the playhouse's claim to fame: the Meisner Technique, a method of acting that emphasizes that one should "live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances. " Sanford Meisner developed his famous improvisation-based technique at the Playhouse in the mid-1940s, which continues to train actors to this day. It counts among its list of prominent alumni names: Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall and Steve McQueen; and more recently, it has added to its roster, Allison Janney and Chris Noth. The playhouse trains about one hundred students at any given time, seventy-five first-years and twenty-five second-years who have been invited back as a result of a unanimous faculty vote. According to Emily, graduates have an easier time finding work than most aspiring actors due to their alma mater's extensive network of influential writers, directors, and actors. Much of the faculty is closely involved in the theater world, and as Pamela Moller Kareman, the playhouse's executive director, shared, "It's a big leap to become a professional actor; we want people to know that you can do this with your life. " And from the time that I spent here, it became apparent that the staff at Neighborhood Playhouse is there to guide and support students every step of the way.
Having been raised in New York, and involved in the performing arts since childhood, Rose Caiola went on to graduate from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and fantasized about establishing her own pre-professional ballet program. It was always her desire to provide top-tier instruction in a nurturing environment that discouraged unhealthy competition. In 1994, Rose's dream became a reality when she opened Studio Maestro on 68th Street as a non-profit organization and began Manhattan Youth Ballet. Her program has been recognized the world over with students moving on to dance professionally here in New York with both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, as well as companies around the country and abroad. While spending time with Rose, she recounted that when the program outgrew its studio on 68th, she had difficulty finding a new space. She turned to her Italian immigrant, real estate mogul father, in the hopes that he could help her secure an appropriate location. After much negotiation, Rose and her father eventually found a beautiful space on 60th Street, and following three years of construction, the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center opened in 2008. Today, it is a multi-functional facility with bright dance studios streaming with sunlight and a 199 seat off-Broadway theater that efficiently transforms into two studios when not in use. Rose proudly told me that with enrollment reaching over 200 students, the center not only houses Ellison Ballet and Rose's Manhattan Youth Ballet, but that many consider MMAC as "home away from home. "Throughout the year, MMAC offers a number of workshops for adults including yoga classes, dance intensives by the Jerome Robbins Foundation, and martial arts training. The center also hosts an alternative preschool and offers children's dance classes. Rose told me that after a chance meeting with actress and author Julianne Moore, Rose wrote and workshopped a production of "Freckleface Strawberry the Musical" in one of the MMAC children's summer camps. The musical went on to premier off-Broadway at New World Stages and has now been performed around the world, launching Rose into a career as a Broadway producer. (Four shows that she recently produced, including "The Elephant Man" and "You Can't Take it With You, " are 2015 Tony Award hopefuls. )As new residential buildings are rising at an incredibly fast pace and surrounding the Center, Rose is looking forward to families and other artistic people finding a haven in MMAC. Rose's ultimate goal is to have more dance companies and Broadway productions utilize the space, which in turn could provide more scholarships to Manhattan Youth Ballet. Already there are organizations recognizing this oasis as Rose told me that Dodgers Theatrical, Alvin Ailey and Cirque du Soleil have been taking advantage of their remarkable facilities for auditions, castings, readings, and rehearsals.
The multiple theaters inside this center are stunning and the list of performances impressive. Mikhail Baryshnikov had his dream become a reality in 2005 when he was able to provide a state of the art space for people in the dance, music and theater world to rehearse and perform.
I have discovered many fascinating places while walking on the side streets of Manhattan. I am sorry to say that I did not look up to see Belly Dance America when I initially walked on West 37th Street. It was not until a few years later that I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Hanna and Jehan, the wonderful couple behind the place that has been hailed as the center for all belly dance needs. As it is the first and only store of its kind in New York City, located on the second floor, it has definitely cornered the market. For anyone passionate about the art of belly dance, or for those who are only getting started, there is just about anything that one could want in this shop. It is more than just a belly dance store. Belly Dance America is a love letter to the passion and culture of the Middle East, paying homage to the richness of history and music that so often gets overlooked these days. As I walked into their shop, I was greeted by the sound of a breeze sneaking its way through an open window to rustle the costumes within, announcing its entrance with the soft jingling of the coins on the bottoms of the skirts. Every costume is made with a unique attention to detail. Some are imported and some are made right there in the shop, designed and assembled by Jehan’s husband and co-owner, Hanna. The costumes that are imported are made especially with the diverseness of the human body in mind, made by designers who know how to fit it perfectly. Even still, Jehan and Hanna take an honest approach to the sale of each item. “If something doesn’t look good, I’m going to tell you, ” said Hanna, “It’s not about making a sale. I’d rather have a loyal customer who comes back and is always happy. ”I found there to be a strong sense of community among the dancers and instructors. Everyone is welcome, whether they are a professional dancer or a hobbyist who is just starting out. It is never about competition, just the mutual enjoyment of a beautiful art. “The good thing about belly dance is that it welcomes all sizes, all body types, and all ages. ” In the studio, I watched a group of dancers go through a routine as the instructor, Layla, led. While standing there, I listened to the coins jingling in time with the music and the sound of beads swinging side to side. The ghazal of the singer’s voice wailed from the stereo system in the corner of the studio and the dancers looked very much at peace, some of them smiling, some staring at themselves in the mirror, all feeling the passion and richness of the music down to their very core. Returning to the shop, down the hallway, where Hanna and Jehan were, I commented on what an incredible experience it was for me to witness these women dancing. They smiled and responded, “It makes people happy, ” “the music, the colors, the dance. ”
Members of the Manhattan Sideways team stood in awe when we entered the New York City Center and realized that the extraordinary exterior matched the majestic interior. One of the most beautiful facades on the side streets is here on 55th, but behind its doors is a restored treasure trove. Hawley Abelow and Stanford Makishi, two passionate personnel from the marketing and programming departments, greeted us as we arrived and proceeded to give us a behind-the-scenes tour of what they termed to be “The family business of performing arts centers of New York. ” Stanford called it the “most ‘un-corporate’ large venue” he has witnessed, and he and Hawley both have the credentials to make that judgment, having worked at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Both went on to say that even though they have to book acts with a certain amount of popularity in order to be financially viable, they are mainly concerned with what they put on the stage, rather than the profits. City Center also displays a refreshing lack of competitive spirit: “Other philanthropic programs are our colleagues, not competitors, ” Stanford explained, while detailing his amicable dealings with some of the big theaters in the city. We started out walking on the center stage itself, where we could stare out at the breathtaking view of the tiers of seating. Each level was an intricately carved masterpiece, reminiscent of a Russian cathedral. Stanford said that dancers, actors and musicians love performing at City Center because the theater is built so that every seat feels close to the stage. He told us that their left wing is legendary, as there is a wall only a few feet from the edge of the stage. Apparently every ballerina knows not to make extravagant leaps off the left side unless they have someone waiting to prevent them from smashing into the wall. Stanford is qualified to speak about the performer’s experience, since he was a dancer for many years, and City Center was the first New York location at which he danced. On our particular visit, the stage was getting set up for that evening's performance by Bjork. Though Hawley is not a dancer, her career has similarly come full circle: when we explored the downstairs theater spaces, used by the Women’s Project and Manhattan Theater Company, she relayed that she started in the Production department at Manhattan Theater Company. Though not as grand as the main performance space, the downstairs theaters are more versatile. Stage 2 appears to be a “black box” theater, in which producers have more freedom with how they decide to set up the audience seating and set. Stage 1, on the day we saw it, was completely bare. This is not to say it was empty: cords and lights and ladders filled the stage, showing us a surgical biopsy of the theater. “This is as raw as it gets, ” Hawley commented. We also had the privilege to peek into one of the City Center’s dance studios, where we observed men and women twisting like tilted windmills. Stanford and Hawley told us that the spaces, which are rented out to different companies, are heavily sought after because they are much larger than many studios in New York. Broadway casts covet them, but they often go to not-for-profit groups. “Broadway is not our priority, ” Hawley stated. There was a "throne" at the back of the room, which was originally built as an auditorium for the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, an appendant body to the Freemasons. Stanford told us that they used to hold their secret meetings in the spaces that are now studios, and the man presiding would sit on the throne. It was when Stanford and Hawley began speaking about “Fall for Dance, ” an event that aims to bring the “highest quality dance to the largest possible audience, ” that they became especially animated. As Holly declared, “You can’t come to this show and not fall in love with dance. ” The performances take place in the early fall, and apparently people line up in the middle of the night to be first to purchase tickets when they go on sale the following morning. Our tour continued to the lobby, which reminded us of a receiving hall in a palace. The design is neo-Moorish with murals depicting desert scenes. Hawley remarked that the colorful, intricate designs had been painted over in white during the 1970s due to a misguided sense of aestheticism, but in the recent renovations, they hired specialists who uncovered the original design. At the same time, screens were installed that display rainbow rivulets. Stanford informed us that the video was specially curated by the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. Another dazzling piece of art was a mural that stretched across an entire wall of the Patron’s Lobby. It was created by a Cuban artist, and had been borrowed to complement his country's dance troupe’s performance. “We try to make performances meaningful for the audiences, ” Sanford commented. Every element of the theater is in place to enhance what is on the stage.
Gabi, a dancer herself, and a 2016 Manhattan Sideways summer intern, had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Triangulo’s advanced tango classes. She told me that she spent some time admiring the studio, which was a small, cozy space unlike other dance studios she had seen before. Lacking the usual harsh lighting and starkness of dance studios, Triangulo had lovely chandeliers that created an intimate atmosphere. There were also ornate mirrors, a wine bar in the corner, and a mural painted along the back wall depicting the owner and founder, Carina Moeller, as well as assorted current and former students of Triangulo. Gabi later learned that the beautiful mural had been a student’s gift to Carina, who explained to me that much of her success has come about thanks to the generosity of people in the tango community who have lent her their support and friendship over the years. Triangulo first opened in 1997 on 14th Street within a triangular studio that inspired the business’ name, which means “triangle” in Spanish - a clever choice, given that the studio focuses on teaching Argentinian tango to students of all levels, from novices to experienced dancers. Carina said that she opened the studio without much of a plan, having been urged to teach tango by a friend of hers despite her primary focus on modern dance. Much to Carina’s delight and surprise, the business soon took off, garnering a loyal base of students. In 2007, Carina searched for an alternate location, eventually finding her current studio on 20th Street. The wooden floors, the mural, and even the chandeliers were all able to be installed thanks to the donations and support of Triangulo’s students, a considerably diverse community. Even though everyone was dressed quite elegantly - and Gabi freely admitted her awe at the women’s superhuman ability to dance so gracefully in stilettos - the ambiance was relaxed and friendly, with everyone cheerfully helping one another as they learned the new steps. Carina shared with Gabi that they are a varied bunch, with students’ ages ranging from twenty to seventy, and nationalities from across the globe. Of the eighteen or so people who were there on this particular night, only one of them was a couple; the rest were people who had previous tango experience, either with Triangulo or elsewhere, and were paired up in class. Since it was an advanced class, the pairs were already familiar with basic moves and were therefore being guided through more complex steps by Carina and Dante, another instructor. After the evening’s class ended, they had a Milonga, which they hold every Tuesday and Friday. This is not a class, but rather a time for “social tango, ” where anyone can join in, pick a partner, and dance some tango while enjoying drinks from the bar. Carina and Dante highlighted the importance of these events, and of tango in general, as they encourage connection and human touch. In this way, they are able to bring a small slice of Latin America, complete with its flamboyance and vigor, to life.
Peridance Capezio Center is a mecca for dance in NYC, fostering the arts in the local and international dance communities, for over 30 years. Peridance offers multiple platforms for dancers and non-dancers alike, including more than 250 weekly open classes, a Professional Training Programs, an F-1 Visa Program for International Students, and The School at Peridance - a comprehensive children and teen program. Their adult open classes are offered in all styles and levels, from Absolute Beginner to Advanced. Peridance Capezio Center is also home to the professional dance company, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and its affiliated Peridance Youth Ensemble. In conjunction with their renowned faculty and partners (Capezio, Djoniba Dance Centre, Limón Dance Company, Baila Society, and Dance Informa), Peridance has gained an international reputation for the programs it offers. The Center is housed in a beautiful landmark building featuring six spacious studios, The Salvatore Capezio Theater, the Peridance Coffee Shop, and the Capezio dance-wear Boutique. One afternoon, I had the privilege of stopping by the Peridance Capezio Center to observe their students training. I witnessed the explosive athleticism and technical discipline at play in Shannon Gillen’s Advanced Contemporary class, as students tested the strength of their bodies in an array of conditioning and floor exercises. Later, in the large upstairs Studio 1, bathed in the sun’s rays from the skylights above, I watched as dancers chasséd and pirouetted across the room in Breton Tyner-Bryan’s Advanced-Intermediate Ballet class. I would not be surprised to find any one of these talented performers on stage someday.
A wonderful story of dance lay in our wake on West 55th Street, and how exciting for the Manhattan Sideways team to be able to enter inside and have a firsthand experience. The studio is named after Mr. Alvin Ailey, who began his immersion in dance while in high school in California where he went on to study with Lester Horton. In a style that later came to be known as the Horton technique, rooted in Native American Folk Dance elements and the idea of building strength by using the whole body, Mr. Ailey thrived. After moving to New York in 1954 while in his early twenties, Ailey danced on Broadway in "House of Flowers, " while continuing to study modern dance as well as ballet. In 1958, Ailey founded his own dance company made up of seven dancers. Their first performance was at the 92nd Street Y. Completely redefining dance in America, the Alvin Ailey company, initially comprised solely of African-Americans, sought to interpret and express their experiences through a style based as much in spirituality, soul, and social commentary as it was in technique and innovative movement. Ailey's most prominent work with this group, entitled "Revelations, " quickly established them as the one of the most creative set of dancers in the country. Ailey went on to choreograph works for the American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the London Festival Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet. He received numerous honors and awards, as he became recognized internationally, and in 1969, Ailey took his devotion to dance and the African-American experience to a new level by founding the Ailey School. Although Ailey died in 1989 while only in his fifties, the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation continues his legacy and serves as the "umbrella organization. " Though Alvin died while only in his fifties, the institution continues his legacy of “using the arts for activism, ” said Sarita Allen. Taken under Alvin’s wing as a scholarship student in the 1970s, Sarita is now a longtime instructor at the Ailey Extension. “He was a champion of integration. Even more than his choreography, he demonstrated how people could dance together. They could be beautiful and harmonious, ” Sarita said. Sarita had the privilege of working closely with Alvin, and he personally selected her to join his company. “It was so vibrant compared to the classical ballet world. People of so many different colors and nationalities were given the opportunity to perform. ” This had an enduring impact on Sarita and countless others who were inspired by this portrayal of the grace, elegance, and power of the Black body. With Alvin’s unwavering support, Sarita was able to take a sabbatical from the company to embark on separate projects and work with Judith Jamison — an-other one of Alvin’s protégés who then succeeded him as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. In 1988, Alvin asked Sarita to return and help mentor the next generation of dancers, enabling her to spend the last year of Alvin’s life teaching alongside him. “It wasn’t that long that we knew one another, but it was very rich. He was an extraordinary man. ” Today, not only is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater the home for members of its company and school to rehearse and take classes, but they have an Extension Program that allows for anyone at any level of expertise to take a class taught by one of Ailey's incredible teachers. The stunning views of the surrounding area from the upper floors of the building serve as quite the backdrop for the dancing that takes place within. There are a wide range of classes offered including Salsa, Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, Latin Jazz Fusion, Horton, Zumba, Samba and Afro-Brazilian. The Ailey Arts in Education and Community Programs works to offer the gift of dance to schools, communities, and the world. In addition, there is the Ailey Camp, a summer program that teaches dance to inner-city children in middle school, as well as Ailey Dance Kids, which emphasizes teamwork, self-discipline and creativity with school-aged children and teens. Together, the Extension program and the Education and Community programs serve to bring Ailey's core belief to life: that dance is for everyone, and it has the power to use "the beauty and humanity of the African-American heritage and other cultures to unite people of all races, ages and backgrounds.
What began as a grassroots dance school that emphasized performances for the community has since grown into a world-class institution, acclaimed for its facilities and programs. Ballet Hispanico was founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez, a Venezuelan dancer with Puerto Rican and Mexican parentage. Her career included performing in the Federico Rey Dance Company as well as in Broadway productions of Kismet and Lute Song. Eduardo Vilaro took over from Tina Ramirez as Artistic Director in 2009. Eduardo, who grew up in the Bronx, has been part of the Ballet Hispanico family since 1985 and spent many years helping to expand the company and to create new programming. In chatting with Eduardo, I was able to learn more of the company's origin, beginning with the purpose for its inception: to provide a place where Latinos could “follow a dream in the performing arts. ” Before the company, there were no places in the city that truly embraced Latino dancers and enabled them to practice their talents and excel in the arts. Initially, students from the school danced everywhere, including at street fairs and in parks, to expose the community to Latino dances and choreography and to show that there was “more than just West Side Story. ” They took the folkloric roots of dance and ran with them, creating modern, carefully honed dance forms. In Eduardo’s words, “We are not a folkloric company. We take culture and investigate it through the lens of artists in contemporary culture. ” Where folkloric dance can tend to feel like a museum piece, Ballet Hispanico is “relevant forever. ”Though students at Ballet Hispanico are trained in ballet, what sets the school apart is that by enrolling in the various programs, dancers are expected to become proficient in three main forms: flamenco, Cuban classical, and contemporary. Eduardo explained that Ballet Hispanico is “one of the few places in New York City where a child can train in flamenco. ” Though Ballet Hispanico offers classes to both children and adults, Eduardo especially appreciates his interactions with young people. “These programs keep me fresh - working with youth is so refreshing. ”I was able to witness a class full of those young students. On one of their upper floors, children age ten to twelve were arrayed around the room, holding onto the ballet barres as they rehearsed for their spring production. The teacher walked through the space, meticulously correcting their stances and declaring ballet terminology that the very serious dancers recognized and followed. The class was incredibly diverse, including three young boys. At the end, most of the children excitedly headed upstairs for a second class, this one focusing on flamenco. As I chatted with a few of these precious children, I found the difference between the concentrated, disciplined faces in the class and the excited, eager expressions in the hallway both heart-warming and impressive. A few told me that they had been dancing since they were two years old. An unexpected, yet exciting moment was when I was invited to step inside Ballet Hispanico’s costume room where Diana, known to everyone as “D, ” has worked for eight years, creating the outfits that the students and company members wear for performances. The room was filled with a variety of costumes in all shapes and sizes. As I stood in awe, D pointed to a flamenco outfit hanging on a high shelf, sharing with me that it was one of Tina Ramirez’s original costumes. When I looked at her and said what an amazing job she has, she simply responded, “I love designing for the company. ”In addition to the school and the company, Ballet Hispanico is involved in "social justice, " of which Eduardo is very proud. They work with youths in shelters, providing the children both with a creative outlet and food. Eduardo also mentioned that the company has worked with incarcerated youth, saying “It changes us more than it changes them. ” Additionally, after the travel ban was lifted in 2014, Ballet Hispanico was the first Latino company to travel to Cuba. On a more personal level, Ballet Hispanico helps Latinos to find their place in the world. “When you are a ‘ripped from my land’ immigrant, it changes you, ” Eduardo said, asking, “Who are we as Latinos in America? ” The arts, Eduardo insisted, are the best way to create a dialogue about “who we are. ” If dance is, as Eduardo suggests, a language all to itself, Ballet Hispanico is proficient in many different dialects. Like the Latino cultures that it aims to represent in the dance world, Ballet Hispanico’s programs are incredibly varied and far-reaching. As Eduardo so nicely phrased it, “Ballet Hispanico is a metaphor for culture. ”
“I want to see ballet change in a lot of ways, ” Anne Easterling Freifelder told me as we sat in the cheery Ballet Club studio. She explained that many little girls are told by their ballet teachers that they are not suited for ballet and that they should try another form of dance. Anne believes ballet should be accessible to everyone, not just those who have been deemed to have the right shape feet or the correct body type. After years as a professional dancer and as a ballet instructor, Anne began to successfully build her own school, one student at a time, beginning in 2007. She quickly learned, however, “You can’t build a serious program without your own space. ” In 2011, Anne stumbled upon her current location. The Ballet Club is split into three divisions: the “Dance Together” group for ages eighteen months to three years, the regular children’s classes for ages three to nine, and the advanced Performing Arts Division. The only requirements that Anne has for her students are that they work really hard and that they love ballet. The Ballet Club puts on two major performances throughout the year, often at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center: The Nutcracker ballet in December, and the spring show. Anne prides herself on the fact that her curriculum is unique and that the spring show is often a lesser-known - or original – work of choreography. Her brother is a composer, so she often collaborates with him in order to write a brand-new piece for the dancers to perform. When I visited in June 2016, the summer camp kids had just finished up for the day. The Ballet Club summer camp involves a variety of activities on top of normal ballet classes, including yoga, creative dance, theater, and arts and crafts (the results of a tiara-building workshop were scattered around the front room). I was pleased to learn that The Ballet Club has a partnership with Little Picasso, where many students go across the street to the art school for part of the day. Anne loves the summer camp because she often gets to interact with kids from all over the world, whose parents choose to spend these months in New York and want to put their kids in camp. I met Anne’s assistant, Olivia, who pointed out that at the Ballet Club, the children (and parents) always know who their teachers are. The Club is a tight-knit community with devoted, talented instructors who provide consistency to the studio. Along with being especially welcoming to children who are willing to put in the effort, the program stands out from other schools because it focuses solely on ballet. Anne believes that when other studios offer classes in multiple dance forms, “the ballet training suffers. ” She wanted to experiment with what would happen if she guided her students’ attention towards ballet. The result has been “amazing discipline” and the chance to explore “the untapped aspects of ballet. ” The curriculum has an added component in that students are taught the history of dance, starting with Louis XIV. Anne encourages the children to improvise to the music of classic ballets, thereby introducing them not just to the techniques, but the history and passion behind the art.
Dance at Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company is a community as well as an art, according to Donna and Enrique who opened the studio on the same street where it was first founded forty-five years ago. They were displaced for a short time, explained Enrique, but now, they have found themselves “back on the block. "Nowadays, they teach the young and old in classes from Argentine Tango to Salsa and Yoga as well as organizing community and school performances. “It is for us to pass along as it was passed along to us, ” Donna said, thoughtfully. Donna and Enrique believe that Alpha Omega - despite being a smaller organization than some of their competitors - has been around for so long because of their strong commitment to growing organically, allowing their voices to be heard through their art. “It doesn’t matter if you have the best technique in the world if you can’t say anything, ” Enrique stated. Though they organize many performances in the community, their main objective is to teach. They do this through classes as well as the Choreographer Showcase Series, which aims to teach young choreographers how to add marketing skills to their creativity. I was most impressed to learn that there is a group of about twenty-five senior citizens that performs at quite a few events. The class began with the aim to get them moving, but it soon became clear that it was a mental workout as well. “It was as if they returned to what they were like when they were young, ” Enrique shared, and then continued while laughing, “They’re dirtier than the young people. They talk like they’re in a bar. ”At Alpha Omega, the couple has a unique commitment to not following trends. The way they see it, doing "older work" does not mean that you are dated. Rather, it is an admission that truth can also be found in the past. Even if it does not follow the path that everyone else is taking, according to Enrique, “you have to be true to who you are. " This kind of outlook allows them the ability to ‘“rock the boat, ” the space to grow organically, and the freedom to make their voices heard. “We are an ongoing book that is still being written, ” added Donna.