Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn is keeping a poignant piece of our New York and American history alive!
In the 1850’s, Rev. Charles Loring Brace, founder of the New York Children’s Aid Society (CAS) established his solution to the scores of impoverished children living on the streets of Manhattan. Considered the first placing out, foster care system in America, from 1854 to 1929 Brace boarded his abandoned and neglected children onto trains bound for the new West in search of a HOME. Over 150,000 children were affected by Brace’s compassion and action.
In 1996, Artistic Director and choreographer Marla Hirokawa's accountant returned from a trip down south and mentioned a song that she had heard about the Orphan Trains plunked on a banjo. Intrigued, Marla’s investigation uncovered this little known piece of our NY history and in 1997 the Orphan Train ballet was born.
Marla has a penchant for telling stories and in her Orphan Train ballet she takes you on a journey with Rev. Brace as he crafts a future for four young street urchins: little Bessie, Mamie and sisters Susie and Dorothy. This dance drama has a stark and abstract look that is propelled by a linear storyline and evocative music from five composers: David Diamond, Peter Sculthorpe, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Alberto Ginastera, Peggy Stuart Coolidge. The youth performers that are blended with her professional dance artists from Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn provides the right amount of unrefined exuberance to retell this New York City story. It is a timeless portrayal of love, loss, sacrifice and acceptance—a reminder of the vast love and compassion of the human heart.
Since its premiere, the ballet has been performed numerous times in Brooklyn and twice in Athens, Georgia. In 1999, Marla and her cast met the late Arthur Smith, an Orphan Train Rider (OTR) who became a dear friend. Art was abandoned as an infant in 1917 at Gimbels Department Store and was cared for by the CAS. He rode the train when he was 5 yrs. old and found his way into a loving family in Iowa who eventually adopted him. After WWII, he settled in New Jersey with his wife, Georgiana. In 2000, Marla and company had the amazing privilege and emotional experience of performing excerpts of this ballet to Orphan Train Riders and their descendants at a reunion held at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square.
The oldest known Orphan Train Rider is 102 years old and the youngest is 97! It is vital that we keep this extraordinary and inspiring Orphan Train history alive for the millions of descendants of the Orphan Train Riders, for New Yorkers, for our younger generations and for all Americans. Support Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn (CBT) as it performs its Orphan Train ballet at the New School for Drama Theatre during the prestigious New York International Fringe Festival- FringeNYC, August 10-26, 2012. Your gift to our Kickstarter campaign will help to raise the $5000 needed for the nine CBT professional dance artists performing.
It is a BIG honor and a great opportunity for the company. A radio interview about the Orphan Train ballet has been scheduled with Marla and WVOX for August 6th. CBT is hoping to bring young audiences to the show and initial contacts with the NY Children’s Aid Society and the NY Historical Society’s Children’s Museum have been received with enthusiasm.
Read more about the Orphan Train ballet at www.orphantrainballet.com
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