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.

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.

Summer Newsletter

This summer at the Harbor has already been action packed, and it’s not even half over yet!  To kick the summer off, more than 175 people gathered on June 15th at the Ailey Citigroup Theater at the Joan Weill Center for Dance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Harbor Conservatory’s GESTURES Dance Ensemble, established by Artistic Director Nina Klyvert-Lawson. Both GESTURES and Klyvert-Lawson received official letters from New York’s Governor David Paterson, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, congratulating Klyvert-Lawson and the company on 20 years of enriching New York’s cultural life. This was followed by the ensemble receiving “glowing” reviews by both Dance Teacher Magazine Associate Editor Tracy Krisanits and METRO US noted Dance journalist, Elizabeth Zimmer.

This summer the Harbor has provided several camps for aspiring musicians and actors. Our classical music summer camp, run by classical music director Martin Soderberg, was held from July 6th to the 17th.  Daily classes were held in Piano, Violin, Voice, Duets, Music Appreciation, Rhythm and Theory.  There was also a special visit from Ubaldo Diaz Acosta (Professor at the Manhattan School of Music and Director of the Juliet Music Center), who offered a master class to camp students.  Students who performed for Mr. Diaz Acosta included Mia Stevens, Aida Ortega, Jeremiah Castro, Quitze Eguigure, Concepcion Arellano and Antonio Lee.  A final concert took place on Friday, July 17th, 2009.

Our most recent camp was the Musical Theater Summer Intensive, which ran from July 13-24.  The camp was a crash course for students new to Musical Theater, and concluded with a performance by the students on July 24.  This year the instructors were Darrell Moultrie (Director/Voice), Natrea Blake (Hip Hop/Dance), Amy Hall (Tap/Dance), and Michael Awusie (Acting/Stage Manager).  Each day consisted of a rigorous regimen of acting instruction, voice instruction, dance instruction, and rehearsal for the end of camp performance.

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