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Urban Ballet Theater

by Robert Abrams
October 9, 2003
Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement
Harry du Jur Playhouse
466 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002
212-598-0400

Urban Ballet Theater

Presented at the Henry Abrons Performing Arts Center, NYC

www.urbanballettheater.com

Robert Abrams
October 9, 2003

You can depend on Daniel Catanach, choreographer and artistic director, to present an interesting mix of dance styles danced well. The opening performance of the Urban Ballet Theater's New York season was no exception. The choreography juxtaposed the melodic movement of ballet against rhythmic Latin beats, quiet sections framing a full stage of energetic Mambo, a Flamenco number and even a little Capoeira. The implementation of this choreography was well done too. I liked the way that dancers would slow to a halt at the end of a 360 degree spin. There was a section with humorous interplay between two preening ballerinas. There were nice leaps. Overall, the dancing showed grace tempered by strength.

The works presented included Mambo, El Hambre and Disillusioned.

As good as the choreography and the dancing of the Urban Ballet Theater is, what is most appealing about the company and their work is their dedication to their mission. Mr. Catanach and company are dedicated to bringing dance to at risk kids. Whether they are doing so on the Lower East Side of New York City or on tour in New Orleans, they are succeeding. Many students at the Abrons Arts Center have been inspired by the classes taught by Mr. Catanach and his instructors. The students looked good during their recent student performance (See review and photos). A large crew of them danced Mambo during tonight's performance, and held their own with enthusiasm, both as an ensemble, individually, and alongside the professionals. The company tries to transmit the passion of dance through the forms of classical ballet as well as earthy Salsa, among other styles. This is a good strategy because it uses both what the kids are likely to be familiar with, and what they are unlikely to have been exposed to otherwise, to give them an opportunity to share in the full range of the rich cultural tradition that is dance. From the expressions on the students' faces, I could tell that the passion of dance is getting through.

The finale of the evening repeated elements seen earlier and then the dancers formed a unit with their hands reaching together in a circle of bodies. It seemed an apt image to represent the Urban Ballet Theater's mission.

The company included Jay Barrett, Robert Brown, Vanessa Dunn, Ocean, Jessica Perez, Chloe Reynolds and Nicholas Wright III. The company's apprentices include Mary Casey, Albert Blaise Cattafi and Kory Powell. Special guest artists performing with the Urban Ballet Theater included Carla Korbes and Amar Ramasar of the New York City Ballet, Danny Tidwell of the American Ballet Theater, and Yvonne Gutierrez, an extremely talented Flamenco and Salsa performer. The Abrons Arts Center Dance Ensemble (the student dancers) included Nikary Acosta, John Burgos, Yanery Cooper, Zachary Cruz, Alexander Espinal, Arianda Fernandez, Naomi Fernandez, Andres Gonzalez, Izizla Gutierrez, Jeremiah Johnson, Randy Luna, Zachary Pressley, Natasha Torres, Emily Vasquez and Shawnia White. The managing director of the Urban Ballet Theater is Alex Erikson. Lighting design was by Vincent Miller. Stage management was by Richard Calvache. The rehearsal directors were Jay Barrett and Vanessa Dunn.

The Urban Ballet Theater will be performing at the Abrons Arts Center through October 18, 2003. Call 212-598-0400 for tickets or go to www.TheaterMania.com. Tickets are $5 for children and $10 for adults, so this may be the best deal in dance in the city. The Abrons Arts Center is located at 466 Grand Street at Pitt Street in Manhattan. The performance takes place in the Harry De Jur Playhouse, which is a gem of a theater. Make the trip to the Lower East Side. You'll be glad you did. More information on the Urban Ballet Theater is available at www.urbanballettheatre.org.


Photo courtesy of Lisa Allen

Urban Ballet Theater Reviews and Photos

  • Urban Ballet Theater - 10/17/2003 - by Mila Gorokhovich. - Article sponsored by Danskin.

  • Urban Ballet Theater - 10/9/2003 - by Robert Abrams. - Article sponsored by Danskin.

  • Urban Ballet Theater - Photos 1 - 10/9/2003 - by Lisa Allen. - Article sponsored by Danskin.

  • Urban Ballet Theater - Photos 2 - 10/9/2003 - by Lisa Allen. - Article sponsored by Danskin.

  • Urban Ballet Theater - Photos 3 - 10/9/2003 - by Lisa Allen. - Article sponsored by Danskin.

  • Urban Ballet Theater - Photos 4 - 10/9/2003 - by Lisa Allen. - Article sponsored by Danskin.

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