La MaMa in association with Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company presents Once Upon El Barrio, a full-length dance drama, by Enrique Cruz DeJesus. The work is inspired by the writings of Piri Thomas, author of Down These Mean Streets, Seven Long Times, and Savior, Savior, Hold My Hand. During his years of incarceration, a man reflects on his young life in the streets, in gangs, and getting caught up with drugs and crime. Nearly becoming yet another statistic of society in the 1940's, he rehabilitates his life. He discovers love for himself through reflections of time with family, friends, and loved ones, and relives the beauty of the movements, sounds, and rhythms of his beloved neighborhood, Spanish Harlem. A story of resilience, redemption, transformation, and love for community.
Photos by Quincy Scott, Robert Caldarone
Written, conceived, choreographed, and directed by Enrique Cruz DeJesus
Lighting design by Anna Carthart
Set design by Richard Hoover
Visual design by Ridley Walker
Stage Manager: Natalie Marmol
Sound Engineer: Craig Wehringer
Performers: Efosa D. Agbontaen, Donna Clark, Leann Gioia, Siobhan Harvey, Misaki Hayama, Robert Hooks II, Alex Larson, Antone Pagan, Sabrina Petrelli, Rick Reid, William Roberson, Roberto Sanabria, Jr., Ezra Swift
Enrique Crus DeJesus trained at Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company under the artistic direction of co-founder Ronn Pratt and Andy Torres while simultaneously studying at the Darvash School of Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem. As a dancer he worked with several modern dance companies and notable choreographers such as Eleo Pomare, Talley Beatty, Gary DeLoatch, Martial Roumain and George Faison. During this time, he began what became an active career as a choreographer, singer, actor and teacher in theater, film, and concert dance and in 1995 became the artistic director of Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company.
Mr. Cruz DeJesus’ artistic goal is to bring his directing and choreographing styles to concert dance with a liberal take on popular and urban movement along with traditional and theatrical forms. The blend creates contemporary modern dance works that are equally accessible and entertaining to all audiences.
Mr. Cruz DeJesus teaches master classes and workshops locally and nationally and served as choreographer and teacher at Howard University, George Washington University, North Carolina Central State, Durham University, Florida A&M University, DC Arts, and the NYC ArtsConnection. His work as a teaching artist has been recognized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for his dance education work with inner city youth.He was awarded a SPARC grant and Manhattan Borough President‘s grant for his work with seniors 65+ and has been further acknowledged by the New York State Council on the Arts where he served as a grantmaking panelist.
He choreographed and staged The James Merrit production "From Africa to America" starring Award winning actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and was the assistant director and choreographer for the workshop musical "Collapsing Universe" at Theater for the New City. He has choreographed productions of “Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night”, “Linnea”, “Jeremiah”, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” off-Broadway at the Storm Theater in addition to “Satin Slipper” at the Theater of Notre Dame in NYC. Additionally, he choreographed a production of “Carmen” for Teatro Circulo also in NYC. His work has been seen locally in the industrial marketing campaign for Wise snack products throughout NYC and nationally featured on the PBS documentary “Mi Mambo" based on the Harbor Conservatory in East Harlem, NY.
Mr. Cruz DeJesus continues to work in theater, film, and concert dance with theater credits that include national tours of Dreamgirls and Jesus Christ Superstar; the original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem Variations performed at the Opera Omaha Theater, NE; the New York City Shakespeare Festival's Measure for Measure, produced by Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe; the European tour of Evita; the original NYC workshop production of the Tony Award winning musical The Life, in which he was written as himself; Man of La Mancha at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and the Engeman Theater on Long Island; Guys and Dolls performed at the DallasTheater Center, TX; The Who's Tommy at Cherry County Playhouse in Michigan; South Pacific at Barrington Stage Theater in Massachusetts; Camila, Miss Saigon [Barrymore Nomination] and Evita at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, PA; Ragtime and the King and I at Fulton Opera House also in PA; Two Gentlemen of Verona the musical at Centerstage in Baltimore, MD; Aida at Artpark, NY; Black Nativity [Drama Desk Nomination] at the Duke Theater in NYC; Miss Saigon and Smokey Joe’s Café at the Virginia Musical Theatre; and Evita at Arvada Arts Center in Colorado.
Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company was formed in 1972 by Ronn Pratt, Dolores Vanison-Blakely, and Miriam Greaves to provide a platform for dancers and choreographers of color. A creative venue for artists and a haven for inner city youth, Alpha Omega has served thousands for five decades.
Under the artistic direction of Enrique Cruz DeJesus, Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company continues to build audiences through delivering performances that are energetic, uplifting, cultural, passionate, and all-around entertaining experiences. The company serves local communities through outreach programs and performances and educates youth with programs that provide a positive social outlet as well as a forum for those interested in a professional career. The main techniques employed are modern, but the richness in background is such that the audience is treated to many different styles and influences. The dances range from urban life to that of tribal influence and from the abstract to the dramatic.
Alpha Omega’s performance history includes local, national, and international engagements at venues such as Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Series and Alice Tully Hall, Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, the Smithsonian Institute, Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Queens Theater on the Park, City Parks SummerStage, Harlem Stage, Riverside Church Theatre, United Nations, Marymount Manhattan College, Brooklyn Academy ofMusic, Ailey Citigroup Theater, the Interchurch Center, 92nd StreetY, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Here Arts Center, WOW Café, Lehman College, SUNY Sullivan, Florida A&M University, Art and Culture Center for Hollywood Florida, King Arts Complex in Columbus Ohio, a tour of southern Italy under the auspice of dance mobile, and Zagreb, Croatia.
Alpha Omega has also participated in various festivals including Dancer’s Responding to Aids, Women in Dance at DTW, Fiorello Festival Dance Now at LaGuardia Concert Hall, Charlotte Dance Festival, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Dance Theater of Harlem’s street festival and open house series, Fourth Arts Block street festival, DCA’s Midday Series, Nu Dance Now festival and the NY Family Arts Festival at the Theatre of Riverside Church, Brooklyn Dance Festival, Jamaica Dance Festival, Dance Harlem, and the winter and summer dance mobile series.