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Bronx Dance Theatre marks 35 years, performs own twist on Nutcracker

Bronx Times

Bronx Dance Theatre co-founder Neil Goldstein has seen many positive changes in the 35 years since he and his wife founded the dance program, and he would like to believe he effected some of that change.

“We’ve seen thousands of kids, and worked in hundreds of schools,” Goldstein said. “We feel that we’ve helped develop an atmosphere that allows culture to thrive.”

The dance company is celebrating three and half decades of serving the borough’s aspiring dancers with a performance of its original show the Not’Cracker at Lehman High School on Saturday, December 18.

The group started performing the Nutcracker in 1987, but put its own twist on the show in 2008 by incorporating other dance styles besides ballet.

The Not’Cracker also features hip hop, jazz and belly dance.

“I like the idea of making some changes and trying to modernize it and give it a different twist,” Goldstein said, “It is based on the Nutcracker, it is ballet based. But the Nutcracker is totally ballet, this is not.”

And while Goldstein, who lives in Pelham Gardens, enjoys seeing the group develop original productions, he also loves the fact that some of the show’s stars are the offspring of the Bronx Dance Theatre’s original students.

“One of the things I’m very proud of is not only do we have generations of alumni bringing their children but we also have several generations of alumni on staff,” he said.

Yvette Williams is one of those alums. She now teaches at the Bronx Dance Theatre.

“We wanted to open it up to our other students who don’t take ballet,” she said of the motivation behind the Not’Cracker.

When Williams, 35, was a student, she danced in eight Nutcracker performances each year. The Not’Cracker is only done once.

“Including dress rehearsals it was a longer process,” she said. “It was tiring.”

Williams went on to dance professionally, participating in tours of Europe and the United States before settling back down in the Bronx.

Bronx Dance Theatre serves about 1200 students each year. Students practice out of its Belmont-area studio, and the group also visits borough public schools for workshops.

Goldstein and his wife Barbara Klein, a former professional ballet dancer, founded the company in 1976. Its first location was on Grand Concourse across from the Paradise Theater.

Klein now serves as director of artistic development.

Tickets for the Not’Cracker are $20 and can be purchased online at www.bronxdancetheatre.com or by calling (718) 364-2725.

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at wweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394. Follow him on Twitter @bweisbrod

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