By Carol Tannenhauser
Water that gushed from a broken water main flooded Ballet Hispanico at 167 West 89th Street on Monday night, rising six feet in the building’s basement and causing the first floor to buckle. Computers, costumes and the structure itself sustained severe damage. They had just completed a renovation to the building.
“When the water main burst on Amsterdam Avenue, it put pressure on one of our mains, near the school office, and it just burst,” said Eduardo Vilaro, CEO and artistic director of Ballet Hispanico, the dance school and professional dance company. For 46 years, it has been supporting, teaching, creating, and sharing, as Vilaro put it, “Latino-ness through the vehicle of dance.”
“We provide classes and scholarships for mostly Latino and neighborhood kids,” said Vilaro, pictured at left. “We also have extensive educational programs throughout the NYC public school system. And we have a professional company, which supports young Latino choreographers.” The company received a strong review in the Times this April.
The school year is slated to begin on Saturday, and the company is preparing to tour.
“Our entire office is ruined, so, no computers,” Vilaro said. “Somehow or other, we’re going to have to figure out how to get up and running again. It’s incredible. The building was renovated just a year ago. Now, we need new computers, and temporary office and studio space. We have an after-school program and adult classes at night.”
Not just in ballet. “It’s all things dance,” Vilaro said. “We have classes in Salsa and Flamenco. This is one of the few places that a young person can learn Flamenco from six years old.”
A steady line of workers headed down to the basement on Tuesday, coming back up with full garbage bags slung over their shoulders. The basement was off-limits: “too dangerous,” Volari said. There were gaping holes in the walls of the office. Debris was everywhere, as were large industrial vacuum cleaners with thick hoses to suck up the water. A dance studio on the first floor was filled with equipment and discarded computers. The second floor was untouched.
Computers are replaceable. Unfortunately, costumes, some nearly 50 years old, were also lost in the flood. “They’re irreplaceable,” Vilaro said, sadly. “Irreplaceable.” He rallied. “We’ll come back, but it’s going to take a lot.”
Ballet Hispanico says it “will continue to hold as many classes as we can throughout this process of restoration.”
If you want to help go to ballethispanico.org. Ballet Hispanico will remain closed through the Labor Day weekend.
Other businesses that sustained damage included the True Value hardware store on 90th and Amsterdam. The Stephen Gaynor school on 90th also had a small amount of water inside the school.
Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.