Dance Grand Moultrie

Dear Friends,

Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts  is proud to announce that graduate and one time faculty member DARRELL GRAND MOULTRIE and his company, ‘Dance Grand Moultrie” will be opening for Armitage Gone! Dance at Central Park SummerStage on Friday, July 15th and Saturday, July 16th.  Darrell began his studies at Harbor Conservatory at age 12, he was a member of the GESTURES Dance Ensemble and has created numerous works that remain a valuable part of the ensemble’s permanent  repertoire. After completing his studies at the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, Darrell was accepted to the Juilliard School on full scholarship. Darrell is a 2007/08 recipient of a Princess Grace Foundation Choreography Fellowship Award. The Juilliard Dance Ensemble, Colorado Ballet, Ailey 2, Cincinnati Ballet, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, North Carolina Dance Theater, Milwaukee Ballet, and the dancers of the Broadway musical, The Color Purple, have performed his choreographic works. Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times writes, “Darrell…is obviously someone to watch”.

As a performer, Darrell was seen on Broadway in Aida where he performed the role of Mereb opposite Toni Braxton, Hairspray with Harvey Fierstein, and he served as dance captain for the original mounting of The Color Purple. He was last seen on Broadway in Billy Elliott which elicited a feature article in Backstage highlighting  his dual careers as  both performer and choreographer.  Until this fall, he was Director of the Conservatory’s Musical Theater Program. We are most grateful to his elementary public school teacher, Gwen McCloud who recognized Darrell’s talents and brought him to the Conservatory, where he was nurtured and trained by the late Bertin Roswer, and current Conservatory Artistic Director Nina Klyvert-Lawson.

ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE and special musical guest VIJAY IYER
Friday, July 15 – Saturday, July 16
Mainstage at Central Park, Manhattan
8:00 pm

July 15 – 16 at Mainstage in Central Park, Manhattan

Karole
Armitage, dubbed the “punk ballerina” and her celebrated dance company Armitage Gone! Dance will premiere a special commissioned work featuring an original composition by famed 2010 Grammy-nominated, jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer. Opening for Armitage Gone! Dance will be the world premiere of up and coming choreographer, Darrell Grand Moultrie’s new company,
Dance Grand Moultrie.

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The Making of a Musical Theater Student: Performance

Hello Friends,

For those of you who read part one of “The Making of a Musical Theater Student”, you now know what a day in the rehearsal life of a musical theater student is like.  If you haven’t read it, you can do so here.  Last Friday, following two weeks of rehearsals, the group performed what it had been perfecting behind closed doors…

The show opened with a Medley of Broadway songs, containing On Broadway (from 42nd Street), Greased Lightning (Grease), Ease on Down the Road (The Wiz), Little Shop (Little Shop of Horrors), and Part of Your World (Little Mermaid).  The songs were sharp, and the kids remained un-phased when an audience member began cheering before the piece was over.

Next came a hip-hop dance piece to the song Pump it Up by Joe Budden.  Dance instructor Natrea Blake explained the challenge in choreographing this song to the audience, as the students’ had different levels of dance experience.  The group did a great job, as the choreography worked well and the students were all in sync.

The following piece was a loosely written skit called “Elevator Breakdown”, which  required an audience member and improvisation from both the performers and audience participant.  This scene featured some great individual performing by Ohene Okera, who played a man freaking out on an elevator, requiring very specific, hilarious instructions to bring him back to normalcy.  Ohene shined, as did the very energetic woman brought in from the crowd.

Next was a piece called “Two Lost Souls”, with pianist Michika Fukumori accompanying performers Zoe George and Mylenia Lopez.  This clever, short skit had the girls singing, arguing, praising one another, and eventually angrily parting.  Well executed and very funny, the Zoe and Mylenia also got to showcase their impressive vocal abilities.

“The Kidnapping” followed, starring Bailey Lawson along with instructors Michael Awusie and Amy Hall.  Bailey played the wife of a kidnapped man, while Michael and Amy played interviewers for a major news station.  Bailey realized this interview would be seen by “thousands of people” and laughter ensues.  Her performance was mature and funny, and she did a great job oscillating between genuine emotion and made-for-tv emotional theatrics.

A tap dance piece featuring guest artist and professional tap dancer Marshall Davis Jr. (currently touring with Savion Glover) was next.  This was my first time seeing tap performed, and I was very impressed at the group’s ability to dance and create rhythms simultaneously while remaining in sync.

“My Fellow Cavemen” followed, the satirical caveman skit I mentioned in my rehearsal article.  The class completely embodied these characters, and performed the piece very well.  One of the kids briefly forgot a line, but recovered immediately and the scene continued without a hitch.

In “Tomorrow”, individual monologues were interspersed with the singing of Tomorrow (from the Broadway play Annie).  The ideas for these monologues, based on issues teenagers and young adults face, came from the kids themselves.  I really enjoyed seeing the serious side of the group, as this sad, somber piece gave new meaning to the song.

Another skit, “Landshark”, was performed next.  This comical piece had a killer land shark visiting peoples’ houses, fooling them into opening the door, and murdering them.  Switching between the shark break-ins and commentators covering the phenomenon, this skit was clever, hilarious, and very good.

To finish the show, the group sang and danced to You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray.  I had this song in my head all weekend, and the performers’ infectious energy reached its pinnacle on this song.  This was the perfect way to end the show on a high note.

So there you have it; from rehearsal to performance, the making of a musical theater student.  What this group achieved in two short weeks was nothing short of amazing.  I look forward to next year’s group already, and highly recommend any young teenager with an interest in musical theater check this camp out.

The Making of a Musical Theater Student: Rehearsal

Hello Friends,

Last Friday marked the end of our two-week long Musical Theater Intensive for children ages 11 to 14.  After being wowed by the quality of the final performance last summer, I decided to find out exactly what goes into the making of a musical theater student.  I spent last Wednesday observing the day long rehearsals in order to understand how class introductions turns into a professional production in two weeks.  Here is what I saw:

The first class was run by Theater Arts Program Coordinator Michael Awusie.  I arrived about an hour into the class, and the students were working on a scene about cavemen. This skit asked the students to be forceful and primal while playing a satirical role containing references to leadership and politics in the real world. I can’t imagine this is a role any of the kids have played before, and it certainly wasn’t an easy one.  As I discovered throughout the day, the ability level varies from student to student, but the goal of a successful overall scene regardless of individual talent is paramount.  To reach this goal, Michael prodded the students with plenty of encouragement, but refused to accept anything less than their best.

As the primary acting instructor, much of Michael’s instruction revolved around how best to present a given role. In order to embody a character, it is essential to understand the meaning behind who they are supposed to be.  This skit in particular came across to me as a complex combination of the rawest, most organic human condition (the actors as cavemen), the challenges of politics and leadership, and an understanding that behind it all, this was a comedic scene.  Certainly not an easy concept to grasp. The students are challenged both intellectually and artistically here and in every other piece as the day progressed.  Michael did an excellent job comparing the situations on stage to real life scenarios the young performers could relate to.  Through the struggles that come with developing a difficult scene, Michael and the students showed exceptional patience.  The actors’ themselves did a great job pushing each other, and communicating amongst themselves adjustments that needed to be made.

The next class was hip-hop dance, run by dance faculty member Natrea Blake.  The group worked on a choreographed dance piece to a popular hip-hop song, and was run at an extremely fast pace.  Corrections were made on the fly with only brief pauses, but for the most part everybody kept up and showed a remarkable memory of the dance steps.  Natrea did not tolerate a loss of focus, telling one of the younger students, “you’re a young professional, not just a young person” when her attention began to wander.  Natrea was extremely supportive, and the kids did not get angry at each other after mistakes, instead shouting encouragement and offering advice throughout the session.  It was clear the students really enjoyed this portion of the class.

After lunch, the camp regrouped with pianist Michika Fukumori for a piece that required both singing and acting.  Musical Theater Director Darrell Moultrie and Mr. Awusie were present for this portion of the camp.  This was the first time I’d seen the group do a piece combining singing, dancing, and acting; this combination produced a different type of energy that the class really fed off of.  The students were later joined by guest vocal instructor Maureen Brown.  Maureen instructed the class on what they needed to be aware of while singing in a theatrical setting.  Specifically, Maureen stressed the importance of maintaining proper technique and vocalization while staying in character, along with how best to sing when your role requires an uncomfortable posture.  Maureen told the kids, “I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for participation”, an apt line, particularly for the shyer singers in the group.  There was a major emphasis on “performing” while singing.  A musical theater student needs to be able to sing with enthusiasm and attitude while staying in character.  Even something as simple as smiling while singing adds a lot to a scene in happier pieces.  Maureen fit right in with the rest of the teachers; a professional who wasn’t afraid to push, treated the students like performers, and knew how to get the most out of the group.

The last two rehearsals of the day were a medley of Broadway songs and a tap dance number.  By this time the students were hot and tired, but pushed through and finished strong.  One kid haphazardly said he didn’t like a line, and was criticized for his approach.  He was told expressing opinions is definitely encouraged, but he needs to approach the change in a constructive way. And on this note, a long day ended.

My immediate impression at the end of the day was an awe of the raw talent in the camp. But in reality this ten-day intensive is about so much more.  The talent aspect is obvious; anybody who can simultaneously dance, sing, and act has learned skills most of us will never pick up.  It is the process that makes the students, teachers, and school exceptional.  The classes are set up with an emphasis on professionalism, learning, and encouragement.  At one point during the class Darrell said, “What you do in the last hour, when you’re tired, distinguishes the leaders from the followers.” Forgiving the cliché, this exemplifies how what is learned here applies far beyond the realm of musical theater.  The focus, leadership, creativity, and intellectual challenges required to survive this camp are skills that apply to almost anything in life.  These students are learning to be far more than actors, singers, and dancers.  They are learning to be people.

Early October Newsletter

Dear Friends,

It’s beginning to cool off outside, and it appears summer is finally over.  The action is still hot here at the Conservatory however, with lots of exciting events coming up.

The Harbor Conservatory is pleased to announce the establishment of a new theater initiative, The Young Aspiring Artists Program designed for young adults ages 18-21 with professional theater aspirations.  Interested students may participate on Saturdays, in either MUSICAL THEATER PRODUCTION or THEATER REPERTORY PRODUCTION COMPANY.   All classes are taught by vitally active theater professionals, whose resumes include having performed in such leading Broadway productions as Fosse, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Chita Rivera’s: A Dancer’s Life, The Producers, Aida, Hairspray, Bombay Dreams, The Color Purple, The Little Mermaid, and Billy Elliot.

Tuition for a 16 week semester is $200 with an additional $50 annual registration fee.  For additional program information and an interview, please call Michael Awusie at 212-427-2244 ext. 558

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On October 14th at 7:00 PM the Harbor Conservatory will present a special lecture/demonstration featuring Cuban composer and educator, Yosvanny Terry, produced by Jazzmobile.  In this FREE lecture/demonstration, Mr. Terry, joined by five musicians will engage audiences in thinking about and understanding the shared traditions found in today’s music and explore the enduring legacy of the culture that came from West Africa and continues to thrive in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean.  He will demonstrate how these influences are also felt in the United States, as its folkloric traditions trickled into the early music of New Orleans, which eventually developed into Jazz.

Born in Cuba, saxophonist, composer, arranger Yosvany Terry received his early musical training from his father, Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry. He is a graduate of the National School of Art and Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Cuba. He has performed with Chucho Valdes, Sylvio Rodriguez, Jesus Alemany y Cubanismo, Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana, Dafnis Prieto, Avishai Cohen, the International Vamp Band, Eric Revis, Steve Coleman, Los Terry and Columna B. Since his arrival in New York in 1999, Terry has been absorbing American jazz traditions and combining them with his Afro-Cuban roots to produce compositions and solo work that flow from sweet sounding lyricism to wild-eyed avant garde. He is part of a new generation of musicians who is redefining the way jazz is perceived.

yosvanny terry flyer pdf

Lastly, on Saturday, October 17th the Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble will be performing at 3:00 pm in El Museo del Barrio’s Teatro Heckscher as part of the museum’s re-opening celebration.  The all-day open house festivities celebrating El Museo’s 40th anniversary year will be packed with fun events taking place throughout its whole beautifully renovated building, Latin music shows by children and adults in the brand-new courtyard and the theater, children book readings and art-making workshops at El Taller, a preview of Soledad O’Brien‘s upcoming documentary Latinos in America, and walking tours around el Barrio will be only part of the fun.

Activities will run from 11:00 am until 9:00 pm and admission is free.  El Museo del Barrio is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street, downstairs from Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Admission is FREE.

The Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble, under the direction of Conservatory director Ramon Rodriguez, is comprised of the most advanced students ages 12-19 enrolled in the Harbor Conservatory’s Pre-Professional Latin Music Program.  In addition to ensemble work, students study theory, harmony and sight-reading along with private instruction in their instrument.  These young musicians study a variety of musical forms such as danzon, son, cha cha cha and mambo, as they learn music illustrating different periods and artists in Latin music history. At the Conservatory students enjoy the unique opportunity to learn while playing classic music made popular by artists such as Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco and others.

In 2006, the ensemble was the subject of the PBS documentary, “Mi Mambo”, which aired nationally during Hispanic Heritage month as part of Cantos Latinos programming. The ensemble was also featured in a special video on Latino arts and culture in New York filmed specifically for the 2006 Latin GRAMMYs held at Madison Square Garden. In 2007, the Ensemble appeared as special guests for the Columbia University Harlem Jazz Project’s, “Here Comes the Latin Sun,” Eddie Palmieri and his Afro-Caribbean Jazz Septet featuring the great Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch. The Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble has performed at the Americas Society, Museum Mile Festival, El Museo del Barrio with Jimmy Bosch, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Celebrate Brooklyn.  The ensemble has been featured on Univision’s Despierta America as well as in People Magazine.

Check back for more updates on all of our exciting programs and events in the coming months!

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