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

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.


Dance and Theater Auditions

Dear Friends,

With registration underway, auditions for our Pre-Professional Programs in dance and theater are right around the corner. These programs develop teenage talent with a curriculum including individual lessons, a variety of technique classes and special ensembles, workshops and public performances.  In addition, the Harbor faculty of professional teaching artists provides students with one-on-one counseling, professional management and direction, advice about and preparations for auditions and competitions.

The goal of the Pre-Professional program is to prepare students for entry into specialized performing arts high schools and colleges and ultimately professional careers in the performing arts. Students in the Pre-Professional Program are all on partial scholarship. Program acceptance is based on audition. Auditions are held at our home site located on One East 104th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Audition Schedule

LEAP Dance Training Program: Friday, September, 17, 4:00 pm.  Calling all high school bound students, male and female, preparing for entry into dance programs of specialized high schools! Students ages 11 to 13 with at least three years of consistent dance training are interviewed, and audition to participate in this unique training program. To arrange an audition please call Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570, or Naomi Shimashita at extension 553.

GESTURES Dance Ensemble: Friday, October 1, 4:30 pm.  GESTURES, the pre-professional resident dance company of Harbor Conservatory is a performance workshop for students, ages 13 to 19.  Five years of technical training required in order to audition. Acceptance into the Gestures Dance Ensemble gives a serious dance student the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a professional company. From challenging rehearsals to fully produced performances that are open to the public. This is an intense, accelerated program. Only those with strong commitment and desire to pursue rigorous dance training need apply. To arrange to audition please call Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570 or Naomi Shimashita at extension 553.

Theater Repertory Production: Saturday, September 25, 4:00 pm. Theater Repertory Production class is for students ages 12- 19 who have at least two years of formal theater training. There will be two full-scale end-of-semester Classical, Contemporary, or original productions, in which students will collectively analyze a script, create characters, and perform before a live audience! This class is meant for the serious-minded student who is interested in pursuing a career in the Theater. To arrange an audition please call Michael Awusie at 212/427-2244 ext. 558.

Musical Theater Kids: Friday, September 17, 4:30 pm. This intensive class for students ages 12 – 19 expands on the union of voice, dance, and theater to weave stories with the objective of preparing students for the demands and expectations of the professional world of Musical Theater. Students will be taught numerous dance numbers and vocal arrangements, all while putting scenes on their feet for an audience! To arrange an audition please call Michael Awusie at 212/427-2244 ext. 558.

Nina Gale Olson
Director of External Affairs

Updates and News

Dear Friends,

The fall semester is quickly approaching, with registration taking place September 7th and classes beginning September 20th.  As always, there has been lots of activity at the Conservatory, and much exciting news to report.

We are proud to announce Conservatory Director Ramon Rodriguez has been awarded a 2010 Bobby Capo Lifetime Achievement Award. The Bobby Capó Lifetime Achievement Award was created by Battery Park City Authority in 1997 in honor of ‘Hispanic Heritage Month’.  There will be an awards ceremony on September 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm  followed by a concert at 7:00 pm featuring the California based Central American group, Opa Opa. The ceremony and concert will be held at the Battery Park City, Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, and are free and open to the general public.

The award honors Hispanics within the State of New York who have distinguished themselves in the public, cultural, social sectors and in the arts. Joining Mr. Rodriguez in receiving this prestigious award are Susana Tubert, Co- Founder and Executive Director of the Latino International Theater Festival of New York, Shirley Rodriguez Remeneski, Founder and Executive Director of 100 Hispanic Women and Inspector David Colon, Community Affairs, New York City Police Department.

Serving as a testament to Rodriguez’ gifts as an educator, the Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble has been invited by Jazz at Lincoln Center to participate in their October 22nd and 23rd Afro-Cuban Jazz Celebration entitled, “Jazz Meets Clave.” The weekend celebration features Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the Rose Theater, and Chucho Valdes performing in The Allen Room.  This is an exciting opportunity for Harbor students to share billing with such major figures in the world of Jazz.

Keeping the music playing, on November 6th, the New York Historical Society will present the Harbor Conservatory Latin Big Band under the musical direction of Louis Bauzo in a tribute concert honoring the great King of Latin Music – Tito Puente. Produced by Puente’s right hand man—Joe Conzo, and featuring Ronnie Puente, the concert is part of the society’s programming in conjunction with the historic exhibition, Nueva York which opens this fall at El Museo del Barrio and examines Spanish speaking New York from the 1600s to 1940s.

The year ends with the December 26th Kwanza Celebration at the Museum of Natural History produced by Communityworks featuring Harbor Conservatory’s GESTURES Dance Ensemble. Joining GESTURES for this program is the world renowned Dance Theater of Harlem and other outstanding New York arts groups.

Nina Gale Olson
Director of External Affairs

GESTURES Save the Date

Mark Your Calendars Now!

GESTURES Dance Ensemble
Two evenings of Dance
June 18 and 19, 7:30 PM
The Ailey Citigroup Theater
Joan Weill Center for Dance

“If you’re interested in checking out stars of the next generation, Gestures is a good place to start.” – Elizabeth Zimmer, METRO

Class Review Series: GESTURES and LEAP

Dear Friends,

This post marks the beginning of my “Class Review Series”.  I will be attending a variety of our classes here at the Conservatory, and giving you my opinions on them.  As Special Projects Coordinator here at the Harbor, I have no professional arts training, and know little about dance or theater.  I am hoping these reviews give you an “everyman’s” idea of how the classes are run, especially for parents interested in learning about our classes here.  The reviews will occasionally be supplemented with an interview from the teachers, students, or whatever else we believe gives you the most accurate picture of what our classes are like.

Last Friday, I attended a LEAP class and a GESTURES class.  Lets begin with LEAP, a dance program for students 11-14 who are focused on gaining acceptance into specialized dance programs.  The class I attended was taught by Blanca Alonso, and focused on the ballet aspect of dance.  The class started with the students warming up on bars, which I found out from Naomi (Assistant to the Dance Director and another one of our instructors) is a typical ballet warm up.  Blanca quickly went through instructions, then turned on music for the students to do specific movements to, which seemed geared towards strengthening the lower body and developing better technique.  The students showed great focus, particularly for their age, while Blanca is strict but upbeat.  She gets her point across to the students very clearly, and her passion is palpable.  Blanca is fully aware of everything going on in her classroom, making general instructions to the class while correcting specific mistakes by individual students.  Overall, the class seemed like a great building block for these young dance students .

GESTURES, the conservatory’s pre-professional dance company, was completely different.  The skill level of these older, experienced students is breathtaking.  The pure physicality of their motions struck me immediately.  These students are strong physically and very, very talented dancers.  Their movements are fast and the choreography is complex, requiring incredible body control and focus.  I found myself wishing I could have that sort of body control for just one day.  Nina Klyvert Lawson (Artistic and Dance Director) is the teacher for this particular class.  Nina is a vocal leader, and immediately assumes respect from the class.  The students all know what to do, the instructions focus on how to do it.  While Nina is clearly a stickler for perfection, she has the rare ability to keep the mood in the classroom light, but serious.  There are lots of jokes and laughter, but a loss of focus is not tolerated.  I saw the group perform two very different pieces.  The group was able to channel intensity and drama to a classical piece (in the first piece) just as well as fun and energy to a Latin song (the second piece).  After each run through, the students discussed what they could improve amongst themselves before being critiqued by Nina.

I really enjoyed attending these classes because it gave me some insight into the world of dance at the conservatory.  While I knew we had many talented dancers here, it was fascinating to see exactly what goes into nurturing that talent.  The students are driven, and the teachers know how to get the most out of the dancers.

Upcoming Events and Summer Programs

Hello Friends,

Here is a list of the upcoming events here at the Harbor Conservatory, along with a description of our summer programs:

May 7, 2010                   Mother’s Day Vocal Concert                                                              Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 5, 2010                 Theater Repertory Co. Performance                                      Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 7, 2010                  Musical Theater Workshop                                                                       Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 9, 2010                  The All Jazz Ensemble                                                                             Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 11, 2010                 Annual Vocal Recital                                                                                Third Floor Theater, Heckscher Building

June 12, 2010                 Footworks Dance Recital                                                                          HOSTOS Center for Arts

June 14, 2010                 Salute to Achievement                                                                             Featuring Harbor Conservatory’s 40 Anniversary                                         Mandarin Oriental

June 18, 19, 2010            GESTURES Dance Ensemble                                                                     Ailey Citigroup Theater

June 20, 2010                 Awards Music Recital                                                                               TBA

Registration Begins on June 28, 2010

July 6 – August 13: Summer Semester for Music students only.

July 6th – to July 17th: CLASSICAL MUSIC INTENSIVE for children ages 7-14, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Appropriate for both beginners and intermediate students. * All interested students or parents should contact the specific program director at 212-427- 2244, Dr. Martin Soderberg, Classical Music: ext. 557

July 2nd – to July 16th: MUSICAL THEATER INTENSIVE for youngsters’ ages 12-17, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm For beginners and intermediate students who love to perform and would like to learn more about musical theater. *All interested students or parents should contact the specific program director at 212-427- 2244 *Musical Theater: ext. 570/558, Nina Klyvert-Lawson/Michael Awusie

Conservatory Founder Sandy Owen Interview

Dear Friends,

Several weeks ago I interviewed Conservatory Founder Sandy Owen.  I found our conversation mesmerizing, as I learned both her individual story and how the conservatory grew into the arts education mecca it is today.  Read on to see our discussion…

(D: Daniel, S: Sandy)

D: Sandy, when did you begin working at Boys Harbor, as it was then called, and what were you originally hired to do?

S: I began working in the summer of 1970, and I was hired to teach piano.  That was the start of things.  And then because I had been trained in several other areas, as things progressed, we expanded.  I had started a class… kind of a little kids’ music appreciation thing with all kinds of different symbols and ways of teaching music and notes and things like that, which was fun.  Then we started the chorus, and that grew to about 60 voices at one point.  We played at the Apollo, then we did a gig at Carnegie Hall.  We were backed up by the Harbor’s own Jazz band, which was great.  That was the era of Vista Volunteers.  Jutta von Tiesenhausen came as a Vista Volunteer and, because she was musically trained, she began working with the chorus.  I had hired Ramon away from Third Street Music School by then; he and Jutta took over the chorus, Ramon started teaching band, while I continued teaching piano.  So that was sort of how it grew, as we got more kids wanting to do more things, we gradually started getting some money to hire other people to do things.

D: What’s a Vista Volunteer?

S: That was the internal counterpart of the Peace Corps.  If you wanted to do work of that sort, you joined the vista volunteers. It was a two-year stint where you worked in the United States in communities such as East Harlem.

D: When you originally began teaching piano and dance, were these classes just a part of Boys Harbor?

S: Yes… and then it grew.

D:  As more programs developed over time, when did you consciously begin focusing your efforts towards building a comprehensive performing arts program separate from Boys Harbor?

S: You know, I don’t think, at least for the first five or ten years, there was really a conscious thought of saying “Let’s make this a separate conservatory”.  We were too busy just doing what we were doing.  Plus, we were always integral to the rest of the place.  Several of us were on the daycare budget.  You found ways of paying people because we were serving day care kids and were legitimately part of the Boys Harbor Program.  I think probably after I left and became part of the development department was when they first started.  That was when Ramon, Nina Klyvert,  Nina Olson, Rob Blumenthal and Bertin Rowser really started thinking of it as being the Conservatory.  The leaping man logo, that was Bertin’s, that was the first real logo for the Conservatory, as it was named.  It wasn’t like “ok we’re putting out our shingle today”; it was very generic and just basically happened.  But we realized and they realized that the training our students were getting was really… superb.  So, since we really were a conservatory, let’s think of ourselves that way.  It’s a little bit like behaviorist thinking; if you do it, it becomes so.

D:  When you first started here, what were the original classes offered?

S:  Well, when I was by myself it was just piano lessons and the music appreciation course for kids.  Oh, and the chorus.  We used to do chorus on Saturday morning.  Then Vince Henry, you might have heard of him, he’s pretty well-known in the jazz circles; he and his best friend “Bumpy” and John Adams (not the composer), started a group and that became the Harbor Band, or the Harbor Ensemble.  Vince was and is a reed player, plays all the reeds.  Actually he taught himself just about everything else, including sitar I would imagine by this point.  Bumpy was on drums and John was on piano.  So they started doing arrangements for the music we were already doing with piano, and it was fun!  Then Ramon came and we expanded; we’d even have the band tour with the children.  We’d get the van and go to different places, and then we’d take the kids home at night, walk them up the stairs.  Then there was camp… it was more or less 24/7, 365 in those days.  In the summer you finished teaching on Friday, went out to camp and taught, came back Sunday night at midnight and started over again.  But it was a very idealistic time, it was the ‘70’s.  Everybody was out in the community and it was wonderful.  There was always something more to do, to be done, to build.  It was fabulous.

D: That’s fantastic.  What was your background before you came to the Harbor?

S: Well I graduated from Julliard, I was a piano major and a voice minor.  I had been on stage as a dancer since I was four.  I got to use just about everything I had ever been trained in here, which was fun.  That was the beginning of the dance company. It wasn’t GESTURES then, but I had a dance company.  We had some outside choreographers come in, Diane Macintyre for instance.  It isn’t like GESTURES today, what Nina has done is unbelievable, but they were pretty good!  Some of them actually performed with Pearl Primus when she reset “The Wedding” at City Center.  They danced on stage with the Ailey II Company and held their own.  They were really good.  Now at that time, I had already started the Harbor Junior High School on 109th Street, the Harbor School for the Performing Arts, so those students also performed.  There was always something going on over here!  That was the time when Tony Alvarado was superintendent of District 4, and he was very supportive of small schools.  His wife started the first one, also a performing arts school, but hers used an arts and education model; she merged the arts with everything they did.  Ours was more of a conservatory style, you did your academics, and then you did your arts.  So ours was the second mini school in the district actually, started in 1973 or 1974.  And it lasted until maybe four or five years ago.

D: Changing gears a bit, I wanted to ask you about Ramon.  Ramon Rodriguez has been the Executive Director here for over 25 years.  I doubt this place would still exist if you had never hired him.  How did you meet him, what was your initial impression of him, and why did you decide to hire him?

S: I’m trying to think of how I met him.  I don’t remember!  I remember hearing a lot about him, but I honestly don’t remember how I met him.  Well, this is what happens when you’re over sixty.  Anyway, I had heard that he was a really good teacher, that he taught several different instruments, bass, percussion, piano; that he was into Latin music.  I needed somebody who could do things that I couldn’t do and share the load.  We were getting a lot of kids who were into different things.  I remember working at it for a while.  He didn’t want to leave his previous school, but he finally did, and… that was that.  It just built from there.  He took on his share of things and more, and we started hiring other people, reed people, brass people, percussion people.  Louis Bauzo came at some point… it just… you know… grew!  All the time we were trying to raise money.  That’s how I started, as a fundraiser actually.

D: When the Conservatory was first getting started, could you fathom that it would one day grow to house over 800 students and a large, diverse, international faculty?

S: Well we never thought about it.  Of course I never imagined it, along with the size and importance Raices would play.  As I said, it wasn’t like we had a five-year plan, we never did that, probably should have, but it worked out very well.  But of course it’s an amazing thing to look at now, and when I go to performances it’s… amazing.

D: That must feel incredible.

S: Oh, it feels fabulous.  To know that this wasn’t here before.  The Junior High School is the same way.  You know, these teachers wouldn’t be here, these kids wouldn’t be as happy as they are now. To see something that you started is worth… everything.

D: What was the thinking behind extending the music program to adults?

S: That was probably more Ramon’s thinking than mine.  It also might have been that we thought we could charge, and raise money.  We weren’t charging children at first, they were part of the Harbor Program.  And even when we did bring kids in from outside the Harbor, we charged them a very nominal amount.  It just seemed like the logical next step.  I think it was in large part an aspect of the people we were hiring.  They drew adults.  Louis never in my memory taught kids, except one little one that was so unbelievable you just couldn’t bear it.  His expertise and his fame was through adults.  I think the guitar people, the reed people; those teachers taught adults predominantly and they brought their clientele with them.  That’s my best recollection, but by this time Ramon handled more of the music program, and I had focused on furthering the dance program.

D: Last question: What do you think it is that makes the Conservatory so unique and special?

S: I think it’s a place where people can really find and do what they want to do without hassles, without someone looking over their shoulder, without the unnecessary paper work.  A couple of teachers used to say to me “You know, I have to work elsewhere to support my habit here”.  Because they loved being here despite the fact we couldn’t pay the salary that they deserved, but stayed on because it was such a special place.  The teachers were surrounded by great colleagues, they were able to teach the way they wanted to teach, able to put their students into ensembles.  Rob Blumenthal created the jazz ensemble, Louis started the folkloric ensemble, Ramon had a couple of Latin ensembles…  you just had everything here.  It’s just a group of exceptional people who are still very idealistic, and were never beaten down by academia or bureaucracy.  People believe in this place, and they believe in what they can do for kids, they believe in what they can do for the community.  That’s how we started, that’s what kept us going, and that’s what we – they – still do today.  When you have people like Ramon, Louis, Nina and Bertin… it’s infectious.  The people are so talented and have so many ideas and are doing so much for the kids at such a professional level that it just makes it a… very very special place.  For a while we had a music camp for the summer and… that was fun.  We just sort of went in all kinds of directions… whenever we came up with a new idea that could get funded and benefit children, we’d do it.  It’s just a very special place, it just is.  It doesn’t equate with any other place I can think of.  It’s still very collegial, very low-key in terms of hierarchy, bureaucracy, all those types of things.  It’s a very special place.  The people who are here feel that way and that’s what keeps it going.

GESTURES to Perform with La Roche College Dance Theater

Members of the La Roche College Dance Theatre, in conjunction with the Office of Black Ministry, Archdiocese of New York, are gearing up for their third annual performance in the Big Apple. The dancers will present “A Celebration of the Spirit of Dance – An Evening of Dance Destined to Lift the Spirits” at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 13, at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, The Joan Weill Center for Dance, New York City.

La Roche students and alumni performing this year are: Ashley Barnabei, Emilio Cabrera, Andrea Carik, Angela Cipparone, Camilo Gomez, Holly Kepins, Melanie Modaffari, Liz Munshour, Rachel Rettberg and Danielle Sinnott-Shearer. The GESTURES Dance Ensemble of Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, New York, will be special guest artists during this performance.

Tickets are $35 for adults and $20 for students, seniors and children. Tickets are available through (Special offer for La Roche friends, family and alumni: Enter the code “LRC” at checkout and receive all of your tickets at the special price of $20 each!) For more information, contact Nicole Kubit at or visit

(Optional: Space is reserved for a 6 p.m. pre-fix dinner at Puttanesca Restaurant for $49 inclusive. To reserve your spot at the dinner, please contact e-mail:

Nina Gale Olson
Director of External Affairs

GESTURES on TV at Cross Cultural Youth Festival!

Hello Friends,

This past Tuesday, GESTURES Dance Ensemble participated in the first ever “Cross Cultural Youth Festival” at the Armory in Washington Heights.  The festival was a great success, and will be aired this Sunday and Monday for all to see!  The TV schedule is as follows:

Channel – WLIW 21
Time: Sunday November 1st at 11:30 AM
Time: Monday November 2nd at 11:30 PM

Be sure to check it out!

Heightened 2

Late October Events!

Hello Friends,

The semester is in full swing here at the conservatory!  Beyond the daily excitement of students perfecting their performing art, there are several upcoming events that are sure to pique your interest.

G Pic 1Harbor Conservatory has been invited to participate in a very special event, the Cross Cultural Youth Festival scheduled for October 27, 2009 from 10 am to 12pm at the 168th Street Armory. The event will be headlined by the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, a 130 piece children’s orchestra from the North and South of Ireland. CBOI is returning to NY (4 years ago they sold out Carnegie Hall) to perform at Lincoln Center.

The Conservatory’s GESTURES Dance Ensemble and Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble will be joining the following outstanding NYC arts organizations: Harlem School of the Arts, Dance Theater of Harlem, Pierre Dulaine’s Mad Hot Ballroom, The Keltic Dreams, and The Wendy Hilliard Foundation.

Group with Singer

On Thursday, October 29th Conservatory Director Ramon Rodriguez and Conservatory Artistic Director Nina Klyvert-Lawson will be featured on WHCR 90.3 FM Harlem Radio as a part of “Black Beat New York“, hosted by Flo Whiley at 6:15 PM. This popular arts and entertainment talk show airs on Thursdays from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm. WHCR is a community station providing informative, educational and cultural programming that speaks to the diverse populations of Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and some sections of the Bronx, Queens and New Jersey.

Ramon PicNina headshot

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