Dance Through by Graham Corrigan
Growing up, Damani couldn’t ride his bike past a silver streetlight halfway down the block. The gangs hung out past that streetlight, the same gangs that stabbed a man in front of Damani when he was young. But despite the tumult, it’s hard to find Damani in anything besides a good mood, especially when he’s dancing.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they dance. I seek dance to be moved by dance. It’s vivid, it’s real, it’s happening.
“7, 8, 1, 2, 3, 4…”
This was the safe block, I wasn’t allowed to go past the corner store. I’ve seen some things. I saw someone get stabbed and bleed out, I heard gunshots in the middle of the day.
“If you hang with the bad boys, you’re gonna end up a bad boy. The dancing come from me, I’m a good dancer. I did all that. I guess there’s something in the blood.”
This neighborhood was kinda crazy, but still a beautiful neighborhood. This place…I met so many people, we did block parties, we did everything.
I auditioned for the fame school, La Guardia High School, on a whim. It changed my life completely. I never saw myself here, back then. And it was fun, and it came easy to me. The people there really loved each other in a way, we felt special.
I had the opportunity to go back to my high school and choreograph for their senior dance concert. I didn’t see myself choreographing this soon, I thought I’d have something more stable and secure.
I’m working with 24 dancers. I think it will be an experience for me and them. I want every student to feel like they have an equal experience and so that everyone’s tapped into and dedicated to the image we’re trying to put forth together.
My main thing is to make people feel. Or to make them think about actions, past actions. That’s what I want for my audience. Dance comes for me as second nature. It’s movement. I think we just found each other.
When he auditioned for La Guardia High School (the “fame” school of performing arts), Damani showed up in sweatpants. But his infectious energy and lithe movements gained him access to the school. Five years later he’s a freelance dancer who just got a big break.
For the next few months, Damani is a teacher and choreographer. He’s leading 24 of LaGuardia’s students for their senior dance recital, beckoned into a leadership role at just 23. We follow Damani through rehearsals and revisit his old Crown Heights neighborhood that laid the foundation for success.
One Woman Army: Crafting the Ideal Vermouth by Oresti Tsonopoulos
Bianca Miraglia is a one woman vermouth-making machine. She forages for many of her ingredients, only uses local products and refuses financial assistance. Her start-up, Uncouth Vermouth, only produces a few hundred cases of product every year, and that’s how Miraglia likes it.
I’m a one woman army in Red Hook, Brooklyn… not far from here at all.
We’re in, people are saying all the time, a golden age right now, where people are really taking liberties and expressing themselves creatively in liquid form and this is one way that I’m doing it.
I’ve experimented at this point with close to 300 different vermouths and a lot of them don’t work. You know I tried to make a seaweed vermouth but it was so disgusting, it was so fucking bad, I didn’t even want to cook with it. It was just awful.
All ingredients that I find within 40 miles from here, that’s something that’s very important to me.
So the vermouth that I brought for you guys today, it’s one that has 17 plants in it and I did a double infusion so i strained it after first infusion with 16 different plants and I re-infused it with cascade and nugget hops… So kind of an unusual combination of worlds, so to speak.
It’s been kind of a mission of mine, I stand on a soap box as often as possible. The way that people have understood that what I’m doing isn’t the poser crap is because I’m the person at every single public tasting, every industry tasting it’s me, you can ask me where every ingredient comes from.
You can ask me what’s in everything that I’m doing and I’ll tell you. I have absolutely nothing to hide and I’ve always been that way. I think that transparency is really key.
Bianca Miraglia, 30, decided to join the trend in craft liquor creation that started a few years ago but is taking it on all on her own. She started a one woman vermouth-making company called Uncouth Vermouth boasting a variety of seasonal, locally-sourced flavors ranging from beets and squash to chile and lavender.
Miraglia was tired of the mass-produced vermouth people are used to seeing in their parents’ liquor cabinets that has in all likelihood expired a decade ago and wanted to bring something fresh, all-natural and stubbornly idealist to the table. Uncouth Vermouth recently found its home in a former billiards hall in Red Hook and is due to have a tasting room open in the summer of 2014.
For now, it’s Miraglia’s flavor laboratory where she spends twelve or more hours a day slaving away on her immaculate fortified wine creations. Miraglia can rattle off just about any chemical, flavoring agent or preservative that finds its way into industrial or mass produced alcohol products, and proves to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in learning a few things about vermouth and then some.
Before starting Uncouth Vermouth, Miraglia worked at wineries, as a beverage consultant and as a sommelier on both coasts. That’s where she gained an encyclopedic knowledge of flavor profiles and grape varieties, but she also learned a great deal about edible plants from her mother, which has allowed her to forage for many of her ingredients, which she only allows herself to do within a 40-mile radius of New York City.
One Track Mind: Life as a Subway Dancer by Jake Naughton
Chris Gonzalez is a subway dancer who dances to free himself from the bad he’s done. Because of his criminal record, every day he goes underground is a risk, but he’s determined to leave that behind and make a new future for himself.
I don’t care about the money. To me, I don’t care. Dancing is dancing. I love to dance this is what I do. I get up with my heart doing a dance beat (beats). You know that’s my heart beat. For that quick 30 seconds of my life, I feel like I’m known. I feel like I’m the best dancer in the world. I feel like I’m on top of the world.
At 19, I ended getting in trouble with the law. They gave me ten years probation. It just changed my whole life around. Like, it, it just killed me. There were times that I just thought about like, I didn’t want to be here no more. Be honest, like I just didn’t want to be here.
The risk of getting on that train every day is, what if you don’t come back home? Maybe you know, me getting arrested and they using me being on probation against me and I get violated. Let let’s put him away for the remainder of his probation. Damn. That’s three that’s three to two years of my life gone.
I put everything that I went through since I was a child to now, in my dance. It cleanses all the bad things that I have done in my life. It makes me forget everything I ever done, that I wasn’t supposed to do and I still hold on to. So when I dance, I’m free from everything.
While in high school, Chris began dating a young woman and they had a child together. Chris discovered that the woman was much younger than she had told him and after a minor dispute involving the police and the newborn child, at 19, he was convicted of statutory rape in the second degree. As a result, each day he goes to dance is a risk.
A few years later, he met a woman who lives upstate, and together they had a son named Julian. As a result of a falling out between the two, Chris has not seen Julian, whom he calls, “my world, my heartbeat…who I get up for” in more than two years.
Now, Chris is throwing all that negativity into his dance, in the hopes that he can make his mark. With the increased attention to urban dance movies and television shows have brought to the art, it’s rare to hear the voice behind the moves.
Angela Murdock: The Starter by Kiratiana Freelon
Angela Murdock has four world records… under her gun. As a starter official in track and field, she is the person who says, “Ready, Set” and shoots the gun at the beginning of sprint races.
IF YOU EVER JUMP OUT THE AIRPLANE AND YOU ARE NOT AFRAID THEN BE VERY AFRAID. I WAS AN AIRBORNE IN THE MILITARY. EVERY TIME YOU DID JUMPS YOU WERE ALWAYS AFRAID BECAUSE IF YOU WEREN’T THEY SAID IT WAS YOUR LAST JUMP.
I STILL GET NERVOUS AT MEETS, ESPECIALLY BIG MEETS.IT’S ON YOUR MARK. SET. AND THEN THE GUN.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AT A MAJOR MEET WAS IN ALBERQUERQUE NEW MEXICO. I WAS WORKING THE INDOOR NATIONALS.
AND I WAS PUT TO DO THE VERY FIRST RACE. SCAREY.
IT’S ALOT OF PRESSURE BECAUSE YOU CONTROL THE RACE.
YOU DON’T REALLY GET COMPENSATION. SOME MEETS YOU DON’T GET ANYTHING. I WORK SO HARD FOR VERY LITTLE BECAUSE I LOVE THE SPORT.
IT JUST LIKE GUYS LIKE BASKETBALL. GUYS LIKE FOOTBALL. I LOVE TRACK AND FIELD.
I FOLLOW IT. I FOLLOW THE KIDS. I FOLLOW THE COLLEGE. I FOLLOW THE HIGH SCHOOL. I FOLLOW THE PROS.
I DON’T KNOW WHERE I GET THE STRENGTH FROM AND I JUST GET UP AND GO. SOMETIMES I’M JUST TIRED. I JUST KEEP TELLING MYSELF THAT WE GOTTA GO. WE GOTTA GO GOTTA GO.
She calls herself a track head – someone whose life revolves around track and field. She’s been one since the age of 5, when she started running in potato sack races at her catholic elementary school. As a teenager, she helped her Bishop Loughlin School win several New York city championships. Her track and field exploits helped her to receive a scholarship to attend Mount Mary College.
After college she found a way to remain involved in track and field—through her daughters. She was a track mom always shuttling her daughters back and forth to meets. She did what track moms always do—set up hurdles, time athletes and officiate track and field events. One responsibility led to another and she discovered that she had a knack for being a starter official.
Today Angela spends 30 to 40 hours at the Armory track in New York City during the indoor season. She has six guns and four world records underneath them. She’s started national elite and college races. But being a starter official isn’t her main gig. She works at a Vice President of Accounting for a hospital during the week, and takes care of her large family of five girls and a husband. Sometimes she gets tired but she always finds the strength to do what she has to do.
The Art of Plumbing by María Villaseñor
A plumber from Long Island City, by way of Argentina, takes a creative approach with the pipes, wrenches, nuts and bolts that he uses. Cristian Torres finds a new meaning in his work.
Plumbing work is very creative you have to design all the time the way you get around the pipe
It’s like doing exercise all day long. It’s physical work you’re moving all over, tightening pipes, loosen pipes, welding pipes.
When I was 16 years old, she was 15 years old. She was pregnant. My ex father in law was a plumber, so no choice I have to go to work with him as a punishment.
I’m a plumber.
Then, an artist.
I started first with a lamp.
Just was a moment that I realized that I could do that.
Sometime I change thing like three, four times and I still don’t like it. And then in the end I do a tiny moment and I say, whoa, that’s the way. Once I feel happy, I say this is the one.
I don’t feel connected to the world when I make things, I don’t feel connected to the world. I feel connected to myself and to the thing that I am making.
Since I was a little kid I was always trying to make something. I grew up in a really rough and poor neighborhood, on the suburbs of Buenos Aires. You have to create something to learn to have fun. Back then in Argentina was a huge crash. I decided to go away. My daughter, I didn’t see her for about eight years. Was a huge trauma that I still have it because I miss all those years. No way to get them back.
It’s weird, it’s weird to be a father again.
I see life dark, but I trying to be positive.
Art is what will save us.
As a plumber, Cristian Torres struggles with flooding toilets, leaking faucets and dripping pipes. But the tools of his trade have transformed from drudgery to artistry when Torres uses them to create sculptures, paintings and lamps.
Torres has been a plumber since he was a teenager. He now lives in Long Island City and left his home country during economic crisis in 2000. The Argentine said he flipped a coin to decide whether to travel to the United States or Spain. The coin toss set him toward Miami, where he later boarded a bus to Harlem with only $300 in his pocket. Torres said he often worked long hours for little pay as a plumber, alongside immigrants from other countries. They would communicate with tools and gestures to get the job done. Because of his immigration status, Torres was unable to return to Argentina until eight years after leaving. In that time, his 10-year-old daughter became a young woman, his mother grew old and his father passed away. He spent time in Spain before returning to New York City.
He has been a tinkerer since his young days in the poorer suburbs of Buenos Aires, where he and his siblings would fashion toys, like yo-yos, out of wood. About seven years ago, he began making art again. Now Torres is taking a break from working with companies and is a freelance plumber so he can focus on his art.
You can learn more about Torres on his website, plumbingart.com.
Still Life: Divya Does Taxidermy by Dominique Lemoine
Somewhere between life and death, preservation and decay, lies a subtle space where science meets art and the morbid can become beautiful. This is where Divya Anantharaman, a young rogue taxidermist, operates. Through unsettling but whimsical pieces, Divya gives a whole new meaning to life –and death.
I remember seeing this Lizard crawling to our bug zapper and it died.
I felt so bad for this poor lizard; I felt just this need to commemorate him.
So after dinner I took that lizard and put it in that tin and I thought just like my plants and seashells and stuff that he would just you know dry out and be there with them and sort of live on.
When I was really young I always thought of where death and life meet and how much death is around us and how much it is a part of life.
All I’m doing is skinning the animal right now.
I sprayed a little bit of water to sort of mat down the hair.
I think my favorite animals to work with are the young animals like stillborn animals or like babies that didn’t make it or ones that were sick.
They’re the most emotional ones to work on because, you know, they were young and to us, like, a baby of any kind that doesn’t make it is really touching.
I use a lot of flowers and crystals and really like, I guess, quote un-quote girly type of things. But that’s just cause I aesthetically like them.
Birds are especially fascinating because just the really simple fact that they fly and that’s always sort of captures our imagination.
I would say with birds it’s probably really challenging to deal with missing feathers or pinned feathers.
Sometimes, you know, they’re just not in the greatest condition.
Most taxidermists don’t want those things. They want something perfect that will be this perfect mount.
So I guess my work is really driven by taking things that are imperfect and seeing like a way to commemorate them and really honoring them.
For me the feeling I get when I do taxidermy is intimacy and I’m really always in awe by anything I see on my table or on my workbench.
I feel like this is how I can connect to nature and sort of come to terms with mortality.
From quails and chickens to pigs and rabbits, I’ve done my best to turn their carcasses into food. I wasn’t just cooking or just eating; I was honoring them by making a memorable meal. But as the past couple of weeks have taught me, food isn’t the only way to give a dead animal a kind of immortality. Divya Anantharaman, a 30-year-old taxidermist, does it in her own special way.
Unlike traditional taxidermists (a male-dominated profession), Divya isn’t interested in taking a well-preserved exotic pelt and mounting it so it appears alive. Instead, she turns road kill or animals that have been discarded by the food industry, pet food factories or bird enthusiasts (whatever she can fit in her freezer) into works of art. And she does everything herself, from skinning to mounting. The end result is something whimsical and unsettling (imagine a duck skull with little ducklings and bright, pink feathers sticking out of each eye socket, or a pigeon studded with pearls), an intersection between art and science.
It was her mother, a biology teacher, who first got her hooked on anatomy. But it was her interest in our complex relationships with animals (the ones we pet, the ones we eat and the ones we throw away) that led her to the world of rogue taxidermy. The specimens she works with are rarely in perfect condition, but it is precisely in the imperfections — missing feathers or rough patches of fur — that her art comes to life.
If you thought taxidermy was a dying art, think again. Artists like Divya are breathing new life into the craft, and they’ve found a mainstream audience that shares their fascination with the beautiful and the macabre.
The Stargazer by Kristen Clark
Angel Eyedealism, an East Village astrologer, looks to the stars to help the lost, lovesick and curious of New York to better understand their lives. But as much as she can reveal about others, it’s a rare soul who truly understands Angel.
I’ve always wanted help people. OK, when I was a little kid a really wanted to be a nun. (Chuckles) Forget it, no being a nun.
I got into astrology for one of the most superficial reasons, actually. It was over some guy. He was acting a bit strange, so I decided to look up his sign and look up various things. I was like, “Oh my god, he has a demented Venus position, this explains everything. ”
My job as an astrologer is to answer people’s questions, to help them understand themselves better, their lives better, to understand their difficulties.
Everybody’s got at least one brick wall.
You think about others a little bit too much. You need to be a little bit more of a selfish cunt. You know what a cunt is. It’s worse than a bitch. Like if there was a cuntometer, ok, this is mother Theresa and this is Madonna.
It’s the most basic human desire is to be understood by others.
I was a very quiet child. I was very quiet and, yeah, I was very introverted actually.
I had a very repressive childhood I suppose, so I just exploded on the New York scene.
(Singing) He got a pitbull dog, he love me all night long. I want an East Village boyfriend. He rent stabilized
Pluto was squaring my sun that year. Pluto is death, Pluto is hardship. Pluto is a bad motherfucker.
Honestly my first few years in New York were absolutely brutal. I do not know how I survived. I do not know.
Yeah I just wanted to live, fuck I just wanted to live. Goddammit I wanted to live.
I didn’t give a fuck if people liked it or if they didn’t like it.
I got a chance finally to be loud. And to be angry. And to be crazy and wild.
I guess when I first came to New York I was dying, but I really started to live.
No there are not a lot of people who know the real me.
I suppose I’m not the easiest person to get close to.
It’s on purpose. Self-preservation I suppose.
I wish that was not the case but it’s the curse of being a strong person.
For example as a singer, like I can belt out, you know, big notes, you know and do octave jumping. But sotto voce, soft voice is the hardest thing for me.
I want to be so kind. Want to blow your mind. If I could only find you. Cause I’m a cutter. (Dog barks) I spread butter on the wound. Cause I’m a cutter. (Dog growls) I spread butter on the wound.
I don’t try to stand out, I just don’t know how else to be. I don’t know how to blend in.
Conformity is just not my cup of tea.
If the world’s earliest astrologers had peered into the heavens hundreds of years ago, they could never have predicted a character like Angel Eyedealism carrying on their tradition. New York City’s #1 Astrologer, according to Yelp and Google, has earned herself a devoted following among the city’s lost, lovesick and just plain curious, with the help of a post-modern corseted getup and a bawdy bedside manner. Angel sees it as her calling to help clients navigate the difficult transitions of their lives, carefully measuring their squares of Pluto and degrees of Jupiter on computer printouts from her 7th Street apartment.
Transitions might be considered Angel’s specialty. Born the seventh sister in a conservative, small-town Ohio family, Angel describes her younger self as an introverted brainiac and high school valedictorian. But a serious illness brought her to New York City for medical treatment in 1983—and in the midst of her recovery, Angel found her own voice amid the explosion of culture in the East Village underground scene. She quickly began to see the entire world as her canvas. In gay discos downtown, her classically trained opera voice morphed into improvised performance art.
Angel’s music career has since carried her to Berlin, Budapest, Prague and beyond. But along the way, knowledge of her own Aquarian nature helped her understand her place in the world as a colorful and unconventional rule-breaker. Now back in the “mothership” of the East Village, she shares what she’s learned—helping people “dick slap” their lives into submission with the insight sealed in their stars.