Nutcracker in the Lower: Taking Ballet to the Streets

Photo credit: Urban Ballet Theater.

Editor’s note: Today we’re pleased to welcome New York writer Royal Young as a regular columnist on The Lo-Down. Royal contributes literary coverage to Interview Magazine and the new web site Holy Diver. Young recently completed “Fame Shark,” his memoir.  After six years living in exile (in Brooklyn), this Lower East Side native is back in his natural habitat, rediscovering the old neighborhood.

As a kid in the early ‘90s, I spent my time haunting the halls of Henry Street Settlement and the backstage at the Abrons Arts Center, chasing the creative energy that pulsed through those corridors.  Now that energy has exploded on the Abrons’ stage with the Urban Ballet Theatre presenting its 10th anniversary run of “Nutcracker in the Lower.”  A modern, Lower East Side take on the classic Christmas tale, this urban Nutcracker is bursting with life and longing.  Following Clara, a lonely young girl whose father has disappeared, leaving her only a collection of soldier style dolls, the colorful production whirls into fantasy when she falls asleep beneath a patchwork, glittering pine tree.

Nutcracker in the Lower Celebrates 9th Year at Abrons

Urban Ballet Theater‘s hip-hop/African dance/flamenco-infused/krumping version of The Nutcracker returns to Abrons Arts Center on Saturday for it’s ninth year. The production keeps Tchaikovsky’s original score largely intact but enhances it with contemporary, inner city beats from the Lower East Side, creating a unique take on the classic.

(Sponsored) Abrons Arts Center’s Fall Classes Offer Something For Everyone

The sun-drenched dance studio at the Abrons Arts Center is one of Anna Courter’s favorite places. For one thing, you can almost feel the rich history in this room, perched on the top floor of the Henry Street Settlement’s historic theater.  Since 1893, the organization has offered people on the Lower East Side instruction in dance, musical theater and the visual arts. Dance legend Martha Graham once taught classes at Abrons.

Anna, who’s the center’s performing arts training manager, loves being part of this legacy.  But what really makes her light up is talking about the kids who will fill this space when Abrons’ Fall Semester begins next week.  Anna teaches creative movement (for 3-5 year old children), jazz and tap for older kids and oversees the Abrons Arts Center Dance Ensemble, a program for advanced students.

One of the things that distinguishes all of the classes is that each instructor is an accomplished professional. Anna, for example, is a dancer in the acclaimed Urban Ballet Theater.  She began taking dance classes at the age of five.  There are, of course, many different reasons students enroll.  Some aspire to be professional artists.

For a lot of other kids, Abrons classes are simply an enriching weekend or after school activity.   Anna says it’s incredibly rewarding seeing how children blossom, as they learn new skills and discover new ways of expressing themselves.  Her favorite day of the week is Saturday, when classes are in full swing, and the building comes alive with creative energy.

Registration for the fall semester is now open. There are classes available for all ages (from toddlers to seniors) and all skill levels.  You can look over the many course offerings on the Abrons Arts Center’s web site.  Register online or call 212-598-0400, ext. 200.