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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

FUN HOME, TOAST, and HAMILTON! Not since the mid 90’s have I been this excited about theater.



Not since the mid 90’s have I been this excited about theater. I remember being at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Acting major. Black/Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx feeling not only lucky but accomplished by having been accepted. One of two people of color in my class at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. Eugene Byrd was my partner in crime. We held it down. I was thrilled to be attending my first school of choice. Prestigious. Embarking on my life of artistry. One problem. Lack of diversity. It was real. “The Latin Explosion” had yet to hit, Ricky Martin’s declaration of living the wild life hadn’t been made and the world had yet to become obsessed with Jennifer Lopez’s booty. Scene assignments left me feeling so discouraged because I didn’t feel like I would ever be cast in any of the material we studied. My other p.i.c. Pedro Pascal must have been very aware of this fact as well. It was because of him I was able to work on material that represented people who looked like me. Pedro brought scenes for us to work on from James Baldwin novels and current films like Fearless, starring Rosie Perez and Jeff Bridges. Working on that material brought in some much needed contrast for me in the classroom. 

Something happened my sophomore year in college. Bring in da Noise/Bring in da Funk opened at The Public Theater and Rent opened at New York Theater Workshop totally rocking my world. Daphne Rubin Vega’s face was on posters everywhere in the city and I remember thinking that there was hope for me in a theater community and in this entertainment industry. 

This past week I experienced three shows I’m so freaking excited about. Fun Home, written and composed by Lisa Kron and the amazing Jeanine Tesori, respectively. RUN, DON'T WALK to see this beautiful show.  It has been called "the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian” but that is a surface level description and I challenge everyone to see it and find a theme they can’t relate to. Every relationship in this show is universal.

I am so thrilled and proud to see the multi talented Lemon Andersen’s ToasT, at The Public Theater which opens in late April. I’m inspired to see work by artists who are authentic, intelligent, have great respect for their voices and the medium they choose to express themselves in.  Get your tickets pronto because I am certain this will be sold out, if it isn't already. 

Hamilton. Hamilton. Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda is simply brilliant. The show is worth all the hype it has received. I loved everything about it. To have a Broadway-bound show about American History, American presidents, immigrant founders and contributors to this country created by a young, PUERTO RICAN artist and portrayed by Black and Latino actors makes me feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven…except, once again, I’m so inspired to be alive and an artist living in 2015 and grateful for how far we’ve come since my NYU days. Now I must get to work. The wheels are turning and after a long period of paralyzing fear I'm going along for the ride! See you soon. Wink

-Ayodele Casel




Ayodele Casel is a native New Yorker and began her professional training at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is also a graduate of The William Esper Studio in NYC. Hailed by Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world today ”,  she has earned  commissions from Aaron Davis Hall/Harlem Stage and the Apollo's Salon Series, where she presented "Diary of a Tap Dancer”.  She has been creating and presenting her own works since 1999 in venues that include The Apollo, New York’s City Center’s Fall For Dance, Aaron Davis Hall/The Gatehouse, The Lisner Auditorium, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Joyce SoHo,The Triad Theater and Joe's Pub at The Public Theater. Ms. Casel has appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit, American Theater Magazine, and The Village Voice. Ayodele was most recently seen performing in Savion Glover’s STePz at The Joyce Theater and on tour.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Dancer's Body - Darius Crenshaw on recovering from knee surgery (2 of 6)

Ballet and Theater Dancer, Darius Crenshaw on recovering from knee surgery (pt 2 of 6)





It feels as though going into month two of my recovery had a great start. Since it started with me walking without crutches, there’s a sense that my progress has taken a quantum leap so to speak. I’m also aware that this will feel like the biggest step in my recovery. Going from virtual immobility to walking without assistance is a liberating feeling. That being said, while, in the process of recovery, it’s hard to separate the intellectual from the visceral.

The first week and a half my physical therapist had me sticking with the current exercise regimen. Quad sets, leg curls, wall squats, “Jane Fonda”, plies on the reformer, etc. The exercises were going well, but walking did take a little getting used to. The muscles in that leg were getting stronger in the exercises, but the strength of the muscles working in concert for walking is a completely different story. At first, the objective is to walk normally without limping. That was challenging to achieve because all of the lower body muscles involved start from your hips and end all the way to your toes. In other words your entire lower body. The one thing I noticed right away for the first five days of walking was a moderate to intense tingling in my foot. Those foot muscles had definitely lost strength while I was on crutches. Even though I was training those muscles in the foot to become active again during the no weight bearing/very little weight bearing period, with a litany of exercises with and without a thera-band, the act of walking itself puts a specific type of stress on the body that can’t be simulated one hundred percent. So those first few days I limited my walking distance to six New York blocks a day, not all at once, and diligently remained conscious of my gate. The tingling sensation decreased substantially afterward, and the concerted strength of my leg and foot increased enough where I didn’t have to concentrate so much while ambulating.


After that week and a half my physical therapist started adding on more advanced exercises. One in particular that I love because of its application for technically strengthening my legs esthetically for a dancer is the reformer exercises involving the straps. I was given a series of exercises that included: plies in parallel, plies in first position, lowering/raising both legs in parallel, outside circular movement of both legs, and inside circular movement of both legs. I perform these exercises consecutively with ten repetitions for each exercise in three sets. Needless to say because of the difficulty of the group of exercises strung together I felt like I was going to die by the end of the first set alone. And in a strange way only a dancer or athlete can understand, that was a good feeling. The feeling of pushing your body slightly beyond its limits intrinsically your body feels like its regaining strength and range of motion. It’s pretty much analogous to regaining a superpower where muscle strength catches up to the body’s muscle memory. The next day I was woefully sore in places I hadn’t felt for a while but overall I was glad about it. Of course, I soaked in a warm bath with Epsom Salt for a few days which gave me a reprieve from the soreness that allowed me to continue doing the exercises.


Now I’ve gained enough strength where it feels like I’m flying through them now.
And then there are the exercises that feel counter-intuitive, as far as dance is concerned, but are essential for building strength nonetheless. With squats and heel bumps the objective is to perform the exercise with as much weight in your heels as possible. This allows the quads and the glutes to be targeted for building strength. In my classical training as a dancer, the objective is to keep the majority of your weight in the balls of your feet while dancing, so it took a little bit of time getting used to.

My body is slowly becoming active again with each week. It feels as if my body is reawakening which is a relief. I’m a third of the way into my journey, and so far it’s going swimmingly. It’s full speed ahead for month three!


Darius Crenshaw started dance and musical theater training at School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started his professional career at Cincinnati Ballet at the age of 14 and later as a soloist. After graduating high school, Darius moved to New York to train with School of American Ballet in 1995. In 1997, he was invited to join New York City Ballet where he was a company member for eight years. His Broadway credits include The Color Purple (Broadway and 1st national tour), Phantom of the Opera, and Motown: The Musical. He also performed in the "American Opera Street Scene" with Toulon Opera in Toulon, France in the roles of Dick McGann and The Marshal. 








photos of Darius taken during a Physical Therapy session at NeuroSport Physical Therapy, NY.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Things that made us smile last week

The Hunger Games stage show coming to purpose-built theatre in 2016



This has enough juice to keep us smiling for a long time! Kudos to our friends Brandon Victor Dixon and Warren Adams who will be among the PRODUCERS!




Original post by
 for Variety.com


"Producers are Robin de Levita, co-founder of Imagine Nation, along with U.K. promoter Harvey Goldsmith, Triangular Entertainment’s Warren Adams, Brandon Victor Dixon of WalkRunFly Productions and entertainment executives Robert Harris and R&R Media’s Gary Ricci."


Evidence, A Dance Company at BRIC - Brooklyn

Take it from us, you don't want to miss an opportunity to see this brilliant dance company. If some cruel twist of fate keeps you from BRIC this weekend, all is not lost darling. Evidence will be celebrating it's 30th year anniversary at The Joyce Theater February  24 - March 1, 2015. beat the rush, get your tickets today!




Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Presents Generations November 21-23 

This dance company is near and dear to our hearts. The Chicago-based group is only in New York one time this year so do yourselves a favor and SNAG A SEAT TODAY. Stay tuned for more details. 




Moragn James - Expanded Version of "Hunter" Available Now




Remember how we said we were fans of Morgan James? Well we are and we have been keeping a close eye on her and... the extended version of Hunter is now available. Yep! No need to say more, here are the links, make it happen. 





Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Dancer's Body - Darius Crenshaw on recovering from knee surgery

Ballet and Theater Dancer, Darius Crenshaw on recovering from knee surgery (pt 1 of 6)


thatgirl006 will be doing a series of posts written by professional dancers that offer insights into their lives off the stage. Our first contributor is dear friend and accomplished dancer, Darius Crenshaw. Darius is on a medical leave of absence from Motown: The Musical and recovering from his recent knee surgery to repair ACL and medial meniscus tears. The doctors estimate that it will be a 6-month rehabilitation period, and Darius will be posting monthly updates until he returns to dancing full-time. 




The biggest first-month hurdle with my knee injury was the psychological aspect of trusting my body throughout the recovery process. I suffered the same injury on the right knee two years ago, so I feel confident in my knowledge of what the current recovery of my left knee entails. After I had sustained the ACL and medial meniscus tear this time around, I was prepared for the pain that would accompany the injury post-surgery. Albeit fortunately, I didn’t experience the latter after the previous surgery.  Along with that, I had an expectation of what my recovery time would be and my physical abilities, or lack thereof, during the different matriculating stages. This physical, emotional, and mental roller coaster was one I had ridden before so I knew I was ready for what was about to happen.

With that, I unwittingly set myself up. The initial recovery of my left knee was mostly incomparable to my right knee. This month my left knee’s progression seemed to be moving at light speed in comparison to my previous knee injury. That comparison lead to my skepticism of how quickly my body was progressing in this initial stage of recovery.

After I had gotten over the first week of post-surgical pain, my recovery hit the fast track. In the second week, I started physical therapy. My physical therapist made some assessments of muscle strength and took some knee extension and flexion measurements. Right away I was surprised at his findings. He noticed in my quad sets that my quad muscles hadn’t atrophied as much as we were expecting. When he measured knee extension, it was the same as my right knee, and my knee flexion measured at one hundred fifteen degrees. I was pleasantly surprised. The first group of exercises he gave me were hard to execute for the first few days but became easier and easier as the days went on. Even so, it was still hard for me to trust the progress that my knee was making because mentally I was still holding onto my previous experience, which was an extremely methodical process. I had prepared for a repeat performance with this injury. The fact that this was the contrary took a while for me to accept due to fear of compromising the ACL graph or damaging the meniscal repair. My physical therapist assured me that the rate of progress I was making was a good thing and that I wasn’t overdoing it. My rate of progress was so good that my doctor had to modify my physical therapy prescription to keep up with the rate of progress. Suddenly I realized that if I didn’t change my approach in equating my left knee’s rate of progress with my right I would be complicit in impeding my body’s rate of progress.

Shortly after my first week working with my physical therapist, I started to surrender to the fact that the initial rate of recovery was going to be quicker with this leg than my right leg… and that was okay. My physical therapist started adding more exercises and slightly intensifying the ones he had already given me. The integration of the exercises was pretty seamless. Going with the idea of trusting my body more, I discovered that my leg was strong enough to walk around the house without crutches while still wearing my brace. In the subsequent weeks my rate of recovery has remained consistent which pleased me, my doctor, and my physical therapist. At the end of the four-week period, my doctor ordered my functional brace and modified my physical therapy prescription again because everything was going so well. At this point, I was elated without question.

So far the first month has been a huge learning experience. Because I had been through this injury before I thought that I had it all figured out by expecting the worse for my recovery. It was a fear based protective mechanism that I had to let go of completely to allow this recovery experience be completely independent of the last. I’ve learned that recovery rates vary regardless of whether the injuries are closely similar or completely different. From now on I will be continuing my recovery with an open mind and without expectation.

Darius Crenshaw started dance and musical theater training at School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started his professional career at Cincinnati Ballet at the age of 14 and later as a soloist. After graduating high school, Darius moved to New York to train with School of American Ballet in 1995. In 1997, he was invited to join New York City Ballet where he was a company member for eight years. His Broadway credits include The Color Purple (Broadway and 1st national tour), Phantom of the Opera, and Motown: The Musical. He also performed in the "American Opera Street Scene" with Toulon Opera in Toulon, France in the roles of Dick McGann and The Marshal. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Three Things That Made Us Smile This Week


Morgan James' video for "Call My Name" 

we are huge fans of Morgan and her music. if she's playing live in your town, run don't walk!


The Questions of Practice video interview series 

by The Pew Center for the Arts
we were particularly intrigued by this interview with  flamenco dancer and choreographer,  Israel Galván. When addressing the concept of purity and flamenco,  Galván says: "One has to be pure with yourself and impure with the history that already exists." 


The Best of Netflix

thanks to this article by Refinery29, we (binge) watched and loved The Forsyte Saga 







Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Things that made us smile last week


Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion 
The work was breathtaking. The post-show discussion was a gas, we got a kick out of the lighthearted interactions between the dancers and musicians. Composer Robert Glasper was especially funny and oh so charming!


2nd Striver's Row Home Tour
Learning about the history and architecture of this Historic Harlem, NY neighborhood was a wonderful way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.



 "Turn Up for Tap" 
It was our pleasure to join Marshall Davis, Jr and Savion Glover in hosting this event in honor of 
Tap Legend Steve Condos!