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Emerging Artists to Perform in “Making Space for Downtown Dreams” Benefit

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All photos by Hale Gurland
All photos by Hale Gurland

The Lower East Side is known for producing artistic greatness. From the Velvet Underground and Basquiat to more modern pop performers like Lady Gaga. Yet, with increasingly high rents, this reputation is in danger of dissipating.

University Settlement on Eldridge Street has been cultivating creative genius for over 125 years. The organization has a history of supporting local talent and connecting them with creative professionals. Eleanor Roosevelt taught a dance class there, Ira Gershwin and Walter Matthau began singing and acting in the Settlement’s gorgeous old halls. All in one of the city’s hottest, most intriguing – and, increasingly, least accessible – neighborhoods.

Now, University Settlement is opening its doors for an exciting evening of explosive dancehall, break dancing, vogue-ing, film, rapping and singing by some of the Lower East Side’s most talented young artists. The performers are neighborhood kids with a raw talent often overlooked by New Yorkers obsessed more with glitz than grit.

Making Space for Downtown Dreams is directed by acclaimed choreographer Anthony Rodriguez (Madonna’s Flamenco dancer soloist on her Drowned World tour) and produced by University Settlement Arts Director, Alison Fleminger.

Downtown Dreams - Photo by Hale Gurland

Hale Gurland, an internationally shown artist working out of a landmark synagogue on New York’s Lower East Side captured the young performers with his camera in all their ecstatic, frenetic, fun energy.

Downtown Dreams - Photo by Hale Gurland

Here’s what the artists themselves have to say about what their creative Lower East Side looks like:

“Dance is my passion and being in the studio helps me release and express emotions. I feel it’s a preparation for my future, it’s good to be versatile.” – Thalia Bujan, age 17

“The dance intensive means everything to me. I am becoming a better dancer and a better individual.” – Coryn Jimenez, age 17

Downtown Dreams - Photo by Hale Gurland

“Being a part of the dance intensive gives me a chance to develop my own skills while sharing what I have learned with others. This is a powerful and encouraging experience. It gives me hope as well as the tools necessary to move forward in the best possible way.” – Wendell Vullen, age 19

Downtown Dreams - Photo by Hale Gurland

“I’m part of a growing, creative, collective, support team. I’ve never been a part of an actual team before, so this experience is new to me. It gives me an opportunity to display commitment.” Alexandra Dixon, age 18

Downtown Dreams - Photo by Hale Gurland

“This means an opportunity to expand my gifts as a lyricist. This group affects my overall attitude about my life and future by actually allowing me to align myself towards how I want my life to turn out. I’ve learned how to be a better listener and a better leader.” – Steven Sparrow, age 21

“It’s a point of clarity. I feel like a person of influence who is inspiring others.” Jacques Jones, age 20

Downtown Dreams - Photo by Hale Gurland

The one-night only event on Thursday, May 15th includes:

6:30 p.m. Champagne Reception

7:00 p.m. Performance in Speyer Hall

8:00 p.m. Exclusive After-Party at Board member’s Hale Gurland’s Art Studio in a landmark Synagogue

Tickets for “Making Space for Downtown Dreams” are available here.

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  1. Alison Fleminger is doing great things at Univ’ Stle. The Lo-D should do a story on her.

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