What better way to introduce children to the ballet than to take them to see ORPHAN TRAIN which is being performed as part of FringeNYC – a production of The Present Company and The Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn at The New School for Drama Theatre on Bank Street.
Director and choreographer Marla A. Hirokawa must be congratulated for presenting such an inspirational, educational and fitting tribute to the Rev. Charles Loring Brace (Matthew Westerby), founder of the New York Children’s Aid Society who came to New York in 1849 and was horrified to witness the abandoned, neglected and impoverished street urchins of New York begging, stealing and trying to escape abusive parents.
Attempting to offer them a better alternative he created the Orphan Trains (1853- 1929) which would transport thousands of children out to the Mid-West to be adopted by welcoming farm families giving them an opportunity for a new life.
In eight beautiful scenes, lasting a little more than an hour Ms. Hirokawa’s 1997 narrative ballet tells this moving and heartbreaking story with a nod to Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham.
Stark reality is wonderfully conveyed by this fine company of actor/dancers who with a look or a gesture augment the excellent choreography. There are no Sugar Plum Fairies here but real, honest to goodness people that are hard to forget, especially when siblings are separated.
In case you think that the subject matter too strong or adult as I did, I can only say that sitting in front of me was a couple with their baby on mama’s lap and three other children of various ages who sat fascinated at everything that was happening on the stage, which included their sister’s dancing.
The pre-recorded score is a “quilt” of five 20th century composers: Peter Sculthorpe, David Diamond, Alberto Ginastera, Hector Villa-Lobos and Peggy Stuart Coolidge which somehow works perfectly to enhance the various shifts in mood of this gut wrenching 19th century story.
Dylan Baker as the chief pick pocket and then head of one of the Mid-Western families is a fantastic dancer who would fit in nicely in the Broadway musical NEWSIES. Everyone in the company is excellent which includes thirteen students of CBT Dance Academy. They give their all as a tribute to this fine Reverend who gave his all to help so many children find a better life. 1997? Why? It’s important, that’s why.
For a clip of the “Midwest Opening Scene” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ai5QRkf1sY
For a clip of “Pickpocket Gang”
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