From Tippy Tap Shoes to Bay Ridge Ballerinas: J’s New Dance Center gives the neighborhood an extravaganza.

From Tippy Tap Shoes to Bay Ridge Ballerinas
J’s New Dance Center gives the neighborhood an extravaganza.
Review By Lenny Stough

For as long as there was – well – anything, there was art and artists. Maybe it was a cave painting to document a hunt, maybe it was ornate uniforms to strike awe in the hearts of adversaries, maybe it was fire-and-brimstone preachers of any and all faiths… or maybe it was children dancing to celebrate holiday and harvest. Nonetheless, there was always art and the finest came from real people like you and me.

J’s New Dance Center, the little studio that could – and has – for more than 20 years presented its annual dance recital this past weekend to thunderous – and well-deserved – applause.

The J in J’s belongs to Joyce Beck – a theatre and film dancer with credentials including All That Jazz – runs a thriving studio on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street in Bay Ridge Brooklyn that gives – what looked like – 100 students a chance at self-expression, and that is what theatre truly is intended to do.

The production opens with a sweet-voiced announcement regarding what you would expect – “turn off cellular phones, no flash pictures, etc.,” to the clever – “don’t stand up, your head will ruin our video.”

Then the fun began.

Down the aisle came some of Miss Joyce’s adult students in a rendition of the traveling number from Kiss Me Kate. Nice touch having the dancers in the aisle, also a clever beginning, setting the tone of a vaudeville-like presentation. There is a sense of separation once the performer is bathed in the light of the stage but there, neighbor dancing inches from neighbor, the electricity was more evenly shared. The audience then settled back to nearly 50 different dance pieces – from the cutest baby ballerinas and tapers dancing to melt your heart (one little exuberant girl sang the words to the song to which she was dancing at the top of her lungs) to impressive feats of acrobatics mixed with dance moves, to adults executing intricate classical ballet steps with really amazing precision.

The music was eclectic with Broadway standards following 50s ditties then countering with a modern piece, then Mozart, then children’s favorites (even Paddy Cake).  Dance styles also followed this eclectic scheme: tap, jazz, salsa, ballet, Pointe, acrobatics, barre work, etc. And while some studios might boast such a roster, the unique juxtaposition of music with the dance styles made for a lively and interesting evening. To hear a cutting edge modern tune done with barre work, or see tap-dancing cowboys, or listen to a 50s standard while jazz and acrobatic styles cover the stage was a true step above. Several performers seemed to master many styles including one omnipresent young woman whose stature might lend you to think that she is not a dancer but her amazing physical prowess and fleet-footed ease at every style displayed is a standing tribute to her talent and drive – and to the masterful teachers at J’s Dance Center.

Glimpses of other programs appeared in the production as well. Broadway performers Mary & Jay – whose voice and acting program is rapidly gaining ground in Brooklyn – sang a Broadway ditty as a warm up for the grand finale of Act I and Tara, the belly dance teacher wiggled and floated across the entire stage, she was framed nicely against the company’s Sgt Pepper-like psychedelic background. This was a lively portion in Act II. Tara is a professional belly dancer who tours the tri-state area and beyond and Mary and Jay run Genesis Repertory, a Manhattan-based theatre company now opening an office in Bay Ridge. Miss Mary has a long list of Broadway credentials and one of the most powerful natural voices you’re likely to hear in such a setting. She struck a striking presence in a black retro gown.

Each act also featured an appearance by the arbiters of the weekend-long event. Act I featured a power-packed routine laced with modern dance and sharp jazz styling by the agile Miss Joan and the second act solo by Miss Joyce herself, in which the dance veteran brought down the house with a high-steppin’ routine filled with jazz and tap that could have easily been pulled from a Broadway show. It is easy to see why everyone from babies to baby-boomers were able to make everything look easy.

The funniest performers of the evening were the parents and grandparents. They, too, seemed to learn dance from Miss Joyce and Joan. The sight of their children, nieces & nephews, siblings, and grandchildren dancing in stunning costumes acted as an elixir or powerful sermon to these residents of Bay Ridge and the neighboring provinces. Parents became acrobats and bounded from their seats, tap-dancing down the aisle to get a better shot of their baby ballerina; grandparents performed feats of incredible strength and agility carrying massive bouquets and balloons all the way around to the dressing areas; brothers and sisters – thinking they were unnoticed – would attempt to copy a step or two in the corner of the lobby during intermission; and like any red-carpet event, flash bulbs were popping and video cameras rolling from every conceivable corner … totally ignoring the sweet-voiced request at the opening of the show.

I wonder how many heads made it to the video.

J’s New Dance Center boasts a friendly and accepting atmosphere where all you need is a desire to dance and the willingness to have fun doing it.  Dance brilliance comes later … but it does come.

Summer Program starts July 13th.
Fall registration will be held September 1st.
For information call 718-680-6111

Classes include:
BABY RHYTHM (For kids ages 3 & 4) Learn Tap, Ballet, and Tumbling.
KINDERDANCE (for kindergarten & first graders) A great introduction to the world of dance.
TAP 45 (for graduates of Baby Rhythms and Kinderdance) 45 mins. of tap & 15 mins. of jazz.
ACROBATICS An excellent base for gymnastics, exercise, and the elements of a healthy lifestyle.
JAZZ Ethnic rhythms combined with the popular dance styles of today like hip hop.
TAP  A technique of quick footwork & lively rhythms.
BALLET Ballet is a classical form of dance. It is a MUST for any serious dancer.
POINTE  The ultimate progression of ballet. Dance On Your Toes!
BELLY DANCE An exotic form of Middle-Eastern dance excellent for spine & hip alignment.
SALSA Salsa is an exciting and highly popular style of dance.
ACTING Learn how to Audition and work in the professional theatre!
VOCAL TRAINING Do you want to sing in a musical, a choir, or concert? This class is just for you.
THEATRE COMPANY leading students are invited to join Genesis Repertory an off-B’way theatre

ComixCulture Review: Comics on the Green, Scranton, PA

On a recent visit to Scranton – I have family there – I stopped in, once again, to see Dave and his store, Comics on the Green. Nestled on the sunny side of North Washington Street, Comics on the Green is a good old-fashioned comic book store – if comic books stores can be called “old-fashioned.”

Aside from an excellent array of new books (the major names and independents, the mark of a smart dealer) including recent back issues that one might have missed (like EVERY PRINTING of the Obama Spiderman), there is an extensive area for trades, hard covers, and anthologies (I am an EC fan and there was an entire shelf devoted) and a room devoted to action figures, models, and other memorabilia. All being guarded by a breath-taking statue of The Silver Surfer. But for me, the thing that makes Dave’s place all things to all collectors is his terrific back-issue area. Most stores have a section of issues going back maybe a decade with the usual fare in the bargain bins, but not Dave.

Comics on the Green has an extensive amount of Silver and Bronze Age books in great condition for prices that shook my poker-face. To see 12 and 15 cent comics in collectible condition for prices that are highly accessible without having to go to a convention and hope for the best was truly a delight.  My nephew, displaying curiosity for war comics, is now in possession of Sgt Fury Annual #1. There it was, right there, fine condition, affordable!

Dave himself is a gentleman. My first trip, he checked his entire stock for one lone Action Comics I needed and my second trip he went out of his way for just about every customer in the room, remembering names, engaging in relevant conversation, and just plain being a nice guy. Again, Comics Stores oft-times have the stereotypical “comic book guy” (yup, just like the one on The Simpsons) who can make you feel stupid for not knowing when Ditko left Spiderman and can make you feel embarrassed because maybe you go to other places now and again for your collecting. Not here. Once every six months or once every day, you are a valued customer and a fellow collector. I remember calling from my mother-in-law’s home to get directions (I am a stranger in a strange land) and he gave me excellent directions, his phone number, and an offer to “talk me thru” if I get lost.

Comics on the Green is right for any level of collector. Go for the new issues – easy to find; go for a trade or hard cover – all kinds for interesting and engrossing reading; or go to find that treasured book you haven’t seen since you were a kid; or maybe go just for a chat with the owner, but surely go.

Looks like even comics are “Green.”

Comics on the Green

307 N. Washington Ave.

Scranton, PA 18503

570-342-5960

cotgreen@aol.com

Rockin’ Bay Ridge with Zandelle

Brooklyn-based Power/Prog Metal band Zandelle recently signed a new recording contract with Germany’s Pure Steel Records and has released their latest album – “Flames of Rage”

Zandelle features singer/frontman George Tsalikis who is also well known on the local theater community with starring roles in Jekyll & Hyde, Jesus Christ Superstar, and many others.

Zandelle has also released their first ever music video which can be seen on either of their two official websites:  www.zandelle.net www.myspace.com/zandelle

Zandelle, in association with Brooklyn Association of the Performing Arts will be celebrating the release of their new album on Friday June 26, 8PM at Christ Church Auditorium at 7301 Ridge Blvd in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, NY.  This all-age event will feature a 90 minute performance from the band as well as raffles, giveaways and a cash bar (for those 21 and over).

$10 Advanced tickets for this event are available through Brooklyn Association of the Performing Arts.
$15 at the door, the night of the event.

For tickets, email ZandelleTickets@gmail.com or call the B.A.P.A. hotline at 347-370-8973

“Any Dream Will Do” at Christ’s Church Bay Ridge by Mary E. MiCari

I want to first state that seeing ambitious and expansive productions of music in my own neighborhood is a wonderful thing. Being able to stroll to the theater on a nice summer evening to find myself in an old and well-kept church with a great amount of history, buzzing with energy was very nice.

The program only lists an executive producer, Mr. Rocco LoFaro Buonpane. I am guessing that the church itself produced this show along with Mr. Buonpane.

The orchestra led by Jake Lloyd was superb; very small but very talented. I especially was impressed with Daisuke Suzuki the Violinist. He offered me many opportunities to see a fine musician enjoy playing music, added great dimension to Mr. Lloyd’s orchestration and was a delight to watch. The orchestra was situated on the floor center stage. This caused me to watch them (no problem for me) at times much more than the performers on stage. Perhaps next time they ought to be on the side more. Jake Lloyd’s orchestrations were beautiful as well. He also handled the vocal arrangements wonderfully. Congratulations to him. A fine job.

There was A LOT of music. All of it disjointed with no through line. No explanation of the thought behind what songs were chosen for this review, no narrator to help me understand. That all said, in general the show aimed at a high standard. The choreography by Dustin Cross was also top-notch. Fun, fast and exciting. It helped the show come alive!

There were some performances that were standouts. Rocco Buonpane had a great stage presence and wonderful voice. Dustin Cross a triple threat (actor, singer, and dancer), and gorgeous to look at, was a delight to watch in each number. Erica Vasaturo sang gorgeously. William Doyle was funny, with excellent stage presence. Dancer Elizabeth Brocsious was terrific. There was some competent singing by Jessica Unice and Carly Howard’s acting ability brought the music to life.

Understandably when doing local talent-based productions there are some people that are cast that require further training. However, what some lacked in talent and training they seemed to make up for in energy.

Problems arose from technical elements. Lighting was dark and unfocused, sound came in and out, the set…wasn’t — people got trapped in it, on it, and behind it. It made a small stage even more cluttered. The choice of color….melon … unappealing … what did that set have to do with the music? Not sure. Choices of clothing and costume changes were confusing to me. I was not sure what I was looking at. It might have been better to have just concert clothing for the singers and dancewear for the dancers. There were many shiny faces, sweaty and pale… leading me to believe that there was no makeup on many faces…a no-no when there are such strong lights and a warm theater. In addition, if you have tattoos cover them on stage.

Overall, it was a pleasant night filled with energy, good music and an energetic cast. The producers should be proud of brining culture to Bay Ridge in an easy to understand form.

As an aside, the room was very warm. This was a problem for the audience on and off during this show. The show started late, which caused the children in the audience to become agitated and noisy. In addition, when first entering the theater I noticed some of the singers milling around in shorts in the house when I arrived well after the half hour. Some of them were already in their “costumes” as well. This also happened at the end of the show. Most actors and singers know to at least change before greeting their audience. There should be no performers in the house after the half hour. It breaks the illusion.

Just a suggestion for next time.

Review: Any Dream Will Do — Brooklyn Assoc. for the Performing Arts. Reviewed by J. Michaels

Academics and musical theatre mavens talk of the evolution of the American musical. Well, there was similar progress bestowed upon the American musical revue. Today, the revue is a small ensemble-driven analysis of the works of a great composer. Examples are Some Enchanted Evening (Rodgers & Hammerstein), Smokey Joe’s Café (Leiber And Stoller), and, of course, Side by Side by Sondheim (you know who). But the early musical revues were grand nights of music designed to sooth the savage beast that was the Broadway audience. They usually had tiny plots designed to simply hold the music together. Today, aside from memories of Ziegfeld and White, we have Crazy For You and Anything Goes as the more perfect examples.

Rocco L. Buonpane and his Brooklyn Association for the Performing Arts invited us to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear with an old-fashioned musical extravaganza celebrating the works of the composer who – arguably – returned musical extravaganza to Broadway … Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Like the grand musical revues of almost a century ago, we have a more-than two hour night featuring more-than three dozen singers, dancers, and musicians serenading the large audience with ditties from the composer’s popular (Phantom, Cats, Superstar, Evita, JoeATD), cult favorites (Sunset Blvd, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love) and the rare and not-always-well-received (By Jeeves, Song & Dance, Whistle Down The Wind, The Beautiful Game, Woman in White). Like the revues of the days of vaudeville, you had star-turns, great moments, and missteps.

The star-turns were definitely that. Dustin Cross (the production’s choreographer) was the finest voice on the stage. Whether it was a sharp, comedic tilted-brow number like “Let’s Have Lunch” from Sunset Blvd, full-voiced powerhouses like the title song in Starlight Express, or heart-wrenching ballads like “Close Every Door” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cross displayed ease on stage and vocal strength virtually unmatched. As a dancer, he displayed the same vigor; as a choreographer, he created witty moves for a large group on a small stage. Of equal footing is Buonpane himself, who – with the hand-in-pockets ease of an old thespian – captivated his crowd with showstoppers from Woman in White and Evita. Christopher Lee Short, William Doyle, Rob Bradbury, and George Tsalikis also supplied great range, humor & charisma, and a sense of power. Tsalikis – a theatre/rock crossover artist with a new CD out (see related article in OuterStage) – could have had more to do in this show, as he is a recognizable face and voice. Finally, Celine Rosenthal’s rendition of “Tell Me On Sunday” from the original version of Song & Dance was wonderfully sung, deep and emotional, and totally believable. It was a highpoint of the night. And speaking of dance and highpoints, Elizabeth Brocsious – lead dancer in most numbers – was absolutely brilliant. Her face reflected each song’s mood, her acumen as a dancer was obvious in her looks-easy-but-we-know-how-hard-it-is moves, and the joy that radiated from her was infectious.

The night was filled with memorable moments including solos by Carly Howard, Erica Vasaturo, and Nadine Djoury who stepped out of the ensemble to deliver some fine renditions of rare tunes; Jayme Stevens, whose opening piece framed by the entire chorus was delightful, Nadine Jacques especially potent as Evita in “Buenos Aires,” Dawn Barry’s unique rendition of “Memory” – playing the strength not the emotion – and Charlie Eichler hitting the high notes of Whistle Down the Wind and the closing tune of Joseph…

Missteps were few but definitely there as the inevitable couple of performers chose to spend their stage time running for the center mic, over-singing and upstaging, and pulling out shticks and tricks to prove their charm when simply singing what was given to them would have done the trick.

Down in the pit, musical director Jake Lloyd – the third partner in the triumvirate of arbiters of this production led a tight and expert orchestra (including violinist Daisuke Suzuki, whose contribution created true magic), and made dozens of singers sound like a perfect unit in ensemble pieces and each soloists sound angelic. He also wrote the unique orchestrations for this production. Rumor has it Mr. Lloyd is a composer in his own right. If his mastery with the orchestrations is any indication of his own musical prowess, then one could expect this [Jake] Lloyd to prove competition to that Lloyd [Webber].

The technical aspect of the show needed work. There was a hint of curtains and patterns on an interesting amalgam of stairs and platforms – too much. The stairs themselves were fascinating but the curtains kept obscuring singers when they were under them. The lighting was a series of cross fades and spots – too much. With a ton of people and interchanging moments, a simply wash of light would have been sufficient and saved the problem of actors stepping out of a too-small spot. The costumes were OK … then too much. Everyone was dressed in black and looked like they were attending an artistic party or gathering – pretty cool. However, there were moments when suddenly there would an isolated ensemble member with too much jewelry or a bright color or an interesting accessory that would draw the audience’s attention unfairly. One gent was heard to say “nice dress” to his escort in the audience. Considering the soloist was a man at that point proved that the attention was not correct. The mics were a big issue. Body mics were shared oddly, the volume on the three standing mics was uneven, hand-helds were there, sometimes not. Maybe – next time – just the stairs, a wash of light, the orchestra to the side, and no mics might be the way.

There was indeed one negative to speak of – the lack of plot. As mentioned, a thread-bare plot would be employed for shows like this back in the day. A silly “hey, let’s do a show” or declamatory “and our next number…” motif… anything. Even doing the shows in sections might have helped. Going from song to song might not be a problem if this was Cole Porter, where every song was its own entity or Rodgers & Hammerstein, in which 90% of their material is well-known (OK, maybe not Pipe Dream, State Fair, or Me & Juliet) but when you have a composer with productions that did not run long, ran only in England, or were rewritten by the time it arrived on our shores, you run the risk of confusing your crowd. Again, The audience seemed to forgive the lack of story and settled in for a pleasing concert.

Magical Medicinals Part II: The Magic Apothecary mixes new brews.

Robert Greene wrote the following article in Drama-queens last year regarding the new line of herbal products for the skins and what is below. Next week, OuterStage will interview The Apothecary and discuss the new lines of perfumes, lotions, make-up, and other Natural Notions.

The world is starting to see the light – through the grit – but still seeing it. In fits and starts as well as planned change we are now looking to heel our bodies.

Bodies, here, can be euphemistic many times over.

We have polluted the main body – the earth; we have polluted our government with a war and crippling inflation; we have polluted out minds with Internet imagery; and there is no doubt we have polluted our own bodies. Whether it is through the inertia of slothful inactivity or ingesting harmful chemicals or tortured animals (I’ll have my antibiotic-filled hamburgers super-sized, please), we are hurting ourselves and want to stop.

Enter The Magic Apothecary. Creating a line of hand made products that – through herbal properties and aromatherapy – will help you heel.

Heel can be euphemistic many times over.

The Magic Apothecary is a line of soaps, bath products, oils, incense, candles, and meditations designed to empower you to better living. Named after ancient deities long associated with various strengths and powers, these simple handcrafted items, mixed with your own desire for better health and happiness, assist in your body’s natural desires for everything from courage to calm.

Each bar of soap, each candle, each bag of incense is handmade with real ingredients. Real herbs from bay leaves to chickweed and genuine essential oils including the likes of Rose of Damascus (a rare and expensive item in and of itself) are found in each. Each shower or bath opens your senses to the properties in these herbs; each mediation over a candle or incense fills your soul with the temperament of that particular god or goddess.

Make no mistake, The Apothecary’s weight-loss soap bar or her scented love candle will not magically make you thin and popular; the money soap and High-John the Conqueror candle will not get you the job at HBO, but the herbs in them will help strengthen your natural resolve to pull the god or goddess out of you. Sometimes all we need is that special aroma or texture to make us say, “I deserve it.”

Skeptics abound, even within the very community that supports such ideologies, so I asked a few of her clients (without telling them why). I got these comments:
Bob of Brooklyn said he’d been alone for far-too long. He bought a love kit and now he and his girlfriend are very happy (she just met mother); Mitch from The Bronx remarked on how he was living from paycheck to paycheck. He showered with the money soap until he could see the penny in the center of the bar. A loan came through enabling him to move to a better apartment; and even deeper, is Pat from PA – recently diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy – was allergic to most lotions and perfumes, so the burn of her treatment seemed unstoppable. She was able to sooth her chemo-seared skin with The Magic Apothecary’s Moon bar … safely, naturally.

The Magic Apothecary does not have a product that washes away skepticism but at costs below similar chemically made, factory-produced, store-bought items… what’s the harm? And she even supplies certificates of authenticity with her merchandise.

Reprinted by permission of site and author. Originally published July, 2008,