ballet hispanico

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.”

ballet hispanico2“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.”

ballet hispanico3A 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 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.

NEWS | 13 comments | permalink
    1. Scott says:

      I’m actually more saddened by the loss of fresh clean water.

      • Sean says:

        It’s all about you, isn’t it?

      • Connor says:

        I hope your commute to work has been free of impediments and that your cat or dog is not too bored, because these things are of equal relevance to the article as to how you feel about the loss of fresh clean water. While we’re off the topic, why not indulge us in your opinions about helicopter parents, the sales at Barzini’s, crop circles, the Amsterdam bike lane, and the amount of lint and detritus in your navel.

      • Denaliboy says:

        Disgusting comment. Lack of respect for a cultural institution that has added much to life in NYC as well as lack of human decency re a tragedy.

    2. Lois says:

      That’s zero-sum thinking.

    3. HelenD says:

      I realize that they feel the costumes are irreplaceable but they have Fortune 500 supporters who will gladly write a check for a tax deduction and replace everything else for them.

      • EricaC says:

        I hope that you are right, but like most cultural organizations, they run on a shoestring and always need funding. So this will eat into their ability to sustain their programs.

        There are many worthy causes, but if you are able and inclined to contribute to replacing these items, you would be doing a good thing.

        • Jared Newman says:

          Thank you; although I am slightly biased, as both a long time UWSider and an accompanist at Ballet hispanico, this is a unique performing arts organization, with an immensely skilled and dedicated faculty and staff, doing great work for the arts, for young Latinos and non-Latinos alike.

    4. Janet Wasserman says:

      Thank you for this article. I used your link to BH to make a donation. We need to keep all of our cultural institutions on the UWS. The loss of any one is immeasurable.

      “Fresh clean water” comes in bottles; art comes in human form. Scott, why don’t you move somewhere else, a place with the water and the people you like. Start with Mar-A-Lago, Florida.

    5. KB says:

      What she said!!!
      Go Janet!!