Kids’ Night Out: Ballet Tech Kids Dance at The Joyce Theater

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Ballet Tech in "Jig". Photo Whitney Browne.

Ballet Tech in “Jig”. Photo Whitney Browne.

Ballet Tech Kids Dance
The Joyce Theater
June 9. 2018

Kids’ Night Out

The young dancers of Ballet Tech are a remarkable bunch—poised, fluid, comfortable in sneakers or pointe shoes and full of joy in movement. As wonderful as I found the dancers, I was not delighted with Elliot Feld’s choreography finding it highly repetitive with the same steps repeated one dancer after another. Perhaps this is deliberate, to allow each dancer a shot at the identical move or does it stem from the misguided idea that these students can’t handle more complex steps? The music selections were almost as annoying—by the third “Irish jig” my ears went on hold.

But the dancers from Ballet Tech, a cooperative endeavor of the New York City Department of Education and the Ballet Tech Foundation, are terrific. I’ve seen many adult companies with less musicality than these eleven- to eighteen-year olds.

Some works included duets and trios; the final piece, The Jig is Up, included solos by lovely, flexible, Megan Eng and Jacky Zhen who pulled off some wonderful jumps—both have good technique and can clearly handle more intricate steps than what was provided. Before them, during a section with the entire company, a step included bringing a turned out leg up while angling the foot towards the hip. It was interesting the first four or five times but numbing as it kept happening. Jig has bright costumes by Michael Kress that riff on workout clothes with rips, holes and colorfully mismatched socks and features music by The Bothy Band and John Cunningham. 

Pointing 3 with Megan Eng, Joyce Ha, Tobi Lee and Asia Yiu includes a lot twirling feet across the stage and advances in demi-plié; Pointing 2, with the same dancers as well as Jaya Collins and  Kyunghee Hori, is also a series of steps on pointe. Apple Pie, the opening number, is a Virginia Reel/ballet mashup set to hoedown music by Bela Fleck and Joe McCracken, performed in front of a stretched white backdrop. It’s delightful until it gets wearing which is no fault of the energetic dancers who move with beautiful synchronization and great style.

Elliot Feld founded Ballet Tech, known then as the Eliot Feld Ballet, in 1974. Three years later, sharing a crowded subway car teeming with exuberant school children, he had an aha! moment, and was struck by the realization that countless NYC school children had an inborn gift for dance but little or no opportunity to receive training. In 1978, Feld established Ballet Tech that integrates intensive dance training with a full academic curriculum for approximately 175 students in grades 4-12. 

Since 1978, almost 900,000 kids have auditioned for the program which is made up of 82 percent minority students and 48 percent male students. Ballet Tech’s annual operating expenses are $3,600,000 and its tuition remains at 0. 

These kids are, literally, dynamite. I wish that every one of them who wants to could go on to a fulfilling career in the dance world.

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at www.marigoldonline.net. She lives in New York City.

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