Diversity in dance: Ballet theater mixes in pop and hip-hop

Graceful as a swan: Rebecca Gore pulls the perfect jump at ballet practice.
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The contagious rhythms of Michael Jackson will meet the delicate grace of the Russian ballet to tell a story of diversity and friendship at a special program in this year’s “The World of Dance” festival hosted by the Brighton Ballet Theater.

The theater itself is a testament to cultural diversity and the immigrant story that characterizes Brooklyn — founded 28 years ago by a dancer from Lvov, Ukraine, who has since opened her studio doors to a wide breadth of cultures and dance traditions.

“When I came to the U.S., I had a dream to have a school and to teach dance in this country, so this is my dream come true,” said Irina Roizin. “I also had a dream to have an international school, not just for the Russian community, but the community of Brooklyn.”

Roizin’s dream comes to life with the premiere of “Black and White,” a contemporary dance production that infuses Russian ballet with a mixture of hip-hop, jazz and African and Indian folk tradition. The iconic Michael Jackson song of the same name is the inspiration of the production, and the choreographer said his work reflects the king of pop’s message of inclusion.

“It doesn’t matter what color you are or where you come from — everyone can relate to dance,” said James Huggins. “Every culture has their own style of dance, so we’re bringing that all together with this Michael Jackson song that typically you wouldn’t expect to see with these dance styles.”

The special performance will take place on June 18, followed by the theater’s regular programming, which will also incorporate a variety of dance styles. Classical performances will include music from Chopin, Minkus, Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens.

“This year we tried to focus on friendship, diversity, and citizens of the world,” said Roizin. “We decided the whole performance is going to be specially focused on friendship and diversity.”

City officials have recognized the theater as a local bastion of culture and arts education, with awards and grants that have gone on to fund programs such as “Black and White,” as well as an after-school dance program for public school children.

“Brighton Ballet Theater is a shining gem in Brooklyn’s brilliant and diverse cultural landscape,” said Borough President Adams. “It is a great open window into the rich culture of our Russian-American community, one that uses dance as a tool to educate, enrich, and empower our students.”

The theater will also use the funds to publish a book filled with stories and paintings from ballet students about their unique immigrant experiences. The book, called “Coming to America,” will be presented at the performance on June 18, and copies will be given to the theater students. For Roizin, its publication is the fulfillment of yet another immigrant dream.

“I always had a dream about doing a book, and this year my dream came true,” she said. “Again, we’re talking about coming to America and dreams coming true. We’re telling our stories about our students and our diversity.”

The 28th Annual Children’s Festival “The World of Dance” at the Brighton Ballet Theater [2001 Oriental Blvd. at Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach,, (718) 769–9161]. Regular program on June 17, regular program & “Black and White” production on June 18. 6:30 pm. Tickets ranging from $20 to $40.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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