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
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