I have visited quite a few dance companies on the side streets of Manhattan, offering a variety of classes from ballet to modern; however, East Side Dance Company is the first studio where I found hip hop to be the primary focus. Meeting the inspirational founder, Trammell Logan - whose enthusiasm for both dance and his students was contagious - I recognized how special both he and his program are.
I stopped by during an optional open hour where children ranging from eleven to fifteen were working on moves and routines prior to class. I was impressed by each of the students, one of whom was a one young boy. Trammell then highlighted that boys make up a significant contingent of the school - about twenty are boys out of two hundred students. In fact, he has two all-boy classes. Trammell pointed out that it is a lot easier for young kids to commit to hip hop than ballet: where more traditional dance forms like ballet and tap require discipline from children, hip hop allows them to express their creativity. "You throw yourself on the floor, that's a dance move. You jump in the air, it's the same thing," Trammell said.
During his childhood, Trammell had the incredible experience of touring the country with a group of talented singers, actors and dancers from the Harlem Boys Choir, as did the co-owner of East Side Dance Company, Darron Singleton. Though dancing is not the emphasis of the Boys Choir, following this rare opportunity, Trammell was able to transition into the New York City professional dancing world. He also became skilled in boxing and martial arts and even joined Soul Cycle as an instructor. Darron similarly used his experience in the Boys Choir as a launching board into dancing, modeling, and personal training.
Though Trammell is still active in each of the above pursuits, he has discovered that his main passion is for teaching. "Teaching's my thing," he declared with a broad grin. Before branching off and founding East Side Dance Company in 2014, Trammell worked at a musical theater dance company on the Upper East Side. It came as no surprise to me when Trammell said that two instructors and many of his students followed him to his new studio. He is also tremendously grateful to many of the parents who helped him with the transition.
When I visited the space in 2016, I was in awe of what Trammell had created. The shiny floors and mirrors set off the fun graffiti mural that announced "East Side Dance Company" to the street. Trammell informed me that his friend Angelo had designed the mural in five hours. Trammell wants to continue decorating the space: his plan is to allow the kids to draw on the blank white wall.
East Side Dance Company accepts students from preschool age up through high school. "We're open seven days a week," Trammell told me, proudly. There are three to four classes each weekday afternoon and more classes on the weekends. The studio follows the pattern of school semesters, with culminating performances in January and June at prestigious performance centers, including the Alvin Ailey Theater. Trammell appreciates how dedicated his students are, calling them "super loyal and super committed," but he is equally proud of his staff, with whom he is very close. Every teacher makes sure to train their classes in the history and culture of hip hop, but they also each bring something different to the team. Desteny, for example, used to be a student of East Side Dance Company, and as an instructor can really relate to her pupils. Nova is the breakdancer of the group, whereas Haley, who is trained in ballet, teaches more lyrical styles. Dina and Trammell probably have the most similar styles, though Trammell admits that his style is slightly more raw and aggressive and tends heavily towards "krumping." Trammell prefers not to put too much importance on difference in styles. "Dance is dance," he said to me. "No matter who you are, you feel it."
On a separate occasion, Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, had been walking down 83rd Street at night and noticed a stream of people exiting the studio, seemingly from a festive final performance. When we asked Trammell about it, he answered that
Olivia had probably witnessed one of his "freestyle nights," where he invites a large group of dancers from the New York area to have a dance party, while also including his students.
When I asked Trammell what he is most proud of in building East Side Dance Company, his answer warmed my heart. "Our kids love each other," he said with a smile. "What brought us success in such a short amount of time is the loving environment." He explained how the students never feel judged and that the instructors attempt to create a close-knit community in their classes. The kids form strong friendships with each other, choosing to take group classes together, going on play dates, and even traveling on vacation with each other's families. "It's all love," Trammell said. "And that's the most important part."
All parents throughout New York, locals and tourists alike, should know about the educational and transformative experience of the Children's Museum of Manhattan. The 83rd Street institution, although it opened in 1973, has been at its current location since 1989. It is an extraordinary (not to mention really fun! ) resource for both kids and adults. I happened to visit during the week that constitutes winter break for New York schools, and so I witnessed an incredible amount of excitement and enthusiasm on each of the floors. Children as young as a few weeks old were in their mother's arms or being pushed in a stroller while their siblings were running around, checking out the interactive exhibits. Almost every aspect of the museum had something to push, touch, or listen to, giving children a tactile way of learning and remembering. I received an eye-opening tour from David Rios, the Director of Public Programs, who guided me from the fifth floor back to ground level. An exhibit called Playworks, designed for early learning, is located upstairs. For more than ten years, the museum's team worked side by side with child development experts to create a space where little ones can enhance their motor skills and problem-solving abilities. I enjoyed standing on the sidelines and observing children climbing in and out of a large wooden FDNY truck, a NYC bus, and a deli with plastic foods. As David explained, "Some museums have a supermarket, but we're in New York, so we have a deli. "I was amazed by how often the museum catered to varying age levels within the same space. For example, in the Movers and Shakers section, older children could learn math and physics by building mini roller coasters while younger siblings could crawl through tunnels and slide down slides. I was delighted to see parents participating with their children: this is definitely a museum where entire families can enjoy themselves, and children's learning is enhanced by parental guidance. Though there are plenty of buttons that encourage children to learn on their own, there is also signage so that parents can provide a further explanation to their kids. The museum is designed so that parents and older children do not feel intimidated or shy about trying out the different exhibits. As David stated so nicely, "This is a fun, non-judgmental environment for all ages to learn. "Continuing on, I entered The Lab, where children can read stories, sing songs, and learn more about art and science. All of the writing and sound bites are bilingual, since Spanish-speaking families make up such a significant portion of New York City's population. David told me that The Lab sometimes holds special events, such as a visit from members of Alvin Ailey, who danced with the children in an effort to teach them about movement. The next room took Peek-a-Boo to a whole new level with a digital version of the game and in the following room, I had to laugh out loud as I explored the digestive system, complete with a talking toilet. The grand finale of the tour was the America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far special exhibit that is running from February 2016 - February 2017. The visually compelling exhibit is a multimedia exploration of the diversity of Muslim cultures within the United States and abroad. It is a collaboration between the museum's staff and members of the Muslim community and is an ingenious way of introducing children to topical cultural differences in an age-appropriate way. For example, there is a section where kids can press buttons to smell a variety of fruits and spices, as well as a collection of "Objects and Stories from American Muslim Homes. " Some other highlights included a life-size camel, musical instruments, and a virtual reality room that allows visitors to explore the architectural styles of different mosques. I was pleased to find out Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the exhibit. He has stated, "With America to Zanzibar, children will have the chance to learn about Muslim cultures in an engaging and thoughtful way. We only grow stronger when we embrace and celebrate the multitude of cultural backgrounds that make up New York. "
The Metropolitan Republican’s Club began its life in 1902 as the Republican Club of the 29th District. It originally met on Madison Avenue before moving to the Croyden Hotel in 1929. The current clubhouse was built in 1930. Past and present members include Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Michael R. Bloomberg, and Rudolph Giuliani.
Taka Tokuyama came to the US from Tokyo in 2004. He began his career in New York working not only in salons, but also as a hair stylist for fashion shows and some leading magazines. In 2011, he decided that it was time to launch his own brand. The first business that he opened was on 83rd Street. He immediately drew customers from the neighborhood, and he is proud to say that many of the celebrities he worked with over the years also frequent the salon. In 2013, he opened another space in the East Village, followed more recently in 2016, with one in Tribeca. Each week, Taka divides his time as evenly as possible, accommodating his clients at all three of his salons.
When I knocked on the door to Engine Company 74, two firemen sprinted to the door and opened it with big grins on their faces. It was quite a welcome, and another example of how New York's firemen are consistently friendly and kind. The disposition of the two men clashed with the ominous dinosaur skull that marks their doors, but I soon learned the reason for the design: the doors to the firehouse used to be painted black, and so other firemen would often accidentally miss the building while looking for it, earning the company the nickname "The Lost World. " It also helps that the Museum of Natural History, home to a vast collection of dinosaur bones, is a few blocks away. The company started on 77th Street, with Hook and Ladder 25. Engine Company 56 occupied the 83rd Street building, which had been donated to the FDNY by Harry M. Archer, doctor and Deputy Chief of the fire department. His donation, however, came with a special stipulation: the building had to always house a fire truck, or else the property would revert back to his family. Engine Company 56 was disbanded in 1960 and replaced, in the same firehouse, with Squad Company 6. According to James Riordan, a former member of Squad Company 6, their initial apparatus was a hose wagon, then a van, and eventually a pumper before they, too, were disbanded in 1972. The Squad 6 firefighters were assigned to the then newly formed Ladder 59 in the Bronx, and Engine 74 moved in. In addition to its interesting origin story, Engine Company 74 has another element that makes it stand out from other companies: A Dalmatian. We met Yogi, the twelve year old dog who is the firehouse's mascot. He has also become a neighborhood icon, to the extent that when Yogi got sick, the community raised $7, 000 for his medical bills. I learned that Dalmatians are associated with fire departments because back when there were horses and buggies, rather than fire trucks, Dalmatians were discovered to be the best at keeping the horses on course. Sadly, not many firehouses still have Dalmatians, which is all the more reason why Engine Company 74 shows Yogi so much love. They raised him from a pup, and the fireman admitted that the canine has spent more time in the house on 83rd Street than any of men. As I said my goodbyes to the firemen, I mentioned that firemen were consistently the friendliest, most optimistic people on the side streets. One of the firemen nodded, "Of course – it's the best job in the world. You get to help people. "