Bark! in the Park
The newly restored Teatro Heckscher at El Museo Del Barrio was packed with an audience that clearly had impeccable fashion sense. Fancy silk dresses and Burberry three-piece suits occupied every auditorium seat. Granted, a good number of the audience was sitting on their parents' or grandparents' laps.
The New York Theatre Ballet proudly presents their world premiere of "Bark! In The Park," a children's ballet which had its debut at El Museo Del Barrio and will hold two more showings at New York City's Florence Gould Hall on Feb. 23-24.
Diana Byer founded NYTB in 1978. The company is known all across the United States and has been all around the world in the past 34 years. NYTB is committed to performing contemporary and classic pieces of ballet and is mainly tailored to a child's attention span to create audiences for the future.
"Ballet is used to tell a story through dance without the use of words," stated Byer to the audience before the show began. She then asks all of the children to get up out of their seats and commences through an array of different lessons.
The first shows them the variance between down beat and up beat through clapping and stomping. Another teaches the children different styles of music, from a waltz to the sounds of a march. The audience, whose age range was predominately between one and nine, stomped their little hearts out to every beat they heard.
Grandparents were snapping shots and then Instagraming their photos instantaneously. At least that's what the grandma sitting in the row in front of me did. Since when did grandparents learn how to use the interwebs anyway? Perhaps it's their efforts to keep up with these little ones. Does Martha Stewart have Instagram as well? She was in another row with three little ones of her own.
"Bark! In The Park" is choreographed by the very talented and charming Chase Brock. He is the man behind the moves of the On Broadway show "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark." "Children are the best audience," said Brock, "They can tell you just by reaction what needs to be worked on."
The woman behind the music and story line is Karen Lefrak. She is an author, musician/composer and dog enthusiast. It's no wondering these two made a perfect team in blending together such a wonderfully captivating ballet performance.
The story takes place in Central Park where we meet the Tucker family and their adventurous pooch, Mr. Benjamin, played by Philip King, a gifted NYBT dancer from London. This is his second year with the company.
The children, Kate and Sebastian, played by Izzy Hanson-Johnston and Coco Monroe, enjoy the sights of the park and head for a ride on the carousel. Sebastian is soon bored and Izzy wants to ride again.
Her parents, Sharon and Jon, played by Carmella Lauer and Steven Melendez, allow for her to do so while leaving Sebastian to look after Mr. Benjamin. The two go off to converse with an old friend of Sharon's. A hot dog cart catches the eye and nose of little Sebastian and he ties the family dog to a bench to run off and buy one.
When everyone meets back at the bench, they find that their beloved family dog is gone and the four of them search through the depths of the park to find him. Through their journey, we meet rambunctious monkeys, romantic snow leopards, synchronized and adorably tamed penguins as well as other colorful friends.
After the performance, we are directed into a room complete with white picket benches, balloons shaped like trees, grass, and dogs and colorful lanterns. Waiters carry trays filled with juice boxes for the young ones and red and white wine for the older ones. A station in the corner referred to as the "Pupcake Station" has children decorating their own cupcakes with a variety of different toppings.
At each lunch table children get to color in dog, lion, or monkey masks or they get their faces painted. Also present are a kid-friendly buffet for hungry little bellies and a few balloon artists for entertainment as well.
"The costumes were great. It's very difficult to have a four-year-old pay attention, too," said Leslie, mother to an energetic little pup named Sami who was licking the frosting off her pupcake while exclaiming, "Mommy, Mommy! I'm having sugar!"
Her daughter's favorite character was the young girl, Kate. Leslie informed me that Sami was engaged though out the entire performance. "I highly recommend it," Leslie said. On the other hand, her daughter's sugar intake that night would probably be another story.
"Bark! In The Park" runs through Feb. 24 at the Florence Gould Hall Theatre, 22 East 60th Street. For tickets or info, call 212-355-6160 or visit www.nytb.org