(Photo by Ray Johnson)
Since 1987, Covenant Dance Studio, now operating as the non-profit Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn taught dancing to local area students. Recently, they have had to replace their Bay dancing shoes with Midwood ones. Lucie Santoro, Project Manager, said that the move was a welcome one, adding that the school is thriving in their new ground floor location at 2085 Coney Island Avenue. While they were not happy having to uproot themselves from the Bay, it helped them to face the fact that the face of the Bay had changed for the worse over the years. Aside from the building being in disrepair, the streets were dirty and they attracted vagrants who often found a place to rest at the school’s entrance. Santoro said,
Management didn’t give us very long to move and we were, kind of, on the ‘hot seat’. While we did look for a place in Sheepshead Bay, the rent was too high and what we did find needed so much work, with the building owners not willing to help us out with any renovation.
Amongst the locations they looked at, Joanne’s Discount Center at 2209 Ave X and a location above a former sweatshop at Gravesend Neck Road and East 17 St, were unsuitable. Santoro feels that local businesses are being squeezed out of Sheepshead Bay to make way for huge developments, for which there aren’t enough tenants; and, as a result, community connections to the arts are being lost. She adds that while other dance schools, such as, Nika Ballet Studio and Atlantic Ballroom, Inc., still operate on Sheepshead Bay Road, the CBTB’s vision and purpose in encouraging dance as a community art of performance and expression is unsurpassed. For Covenant Dance, the bay will always be home, since its founder and Artistic Director, Marla Hirokawa, still resides there. Now that the re-opening announcements and celebrations are cleared out of the way, the dancers are ready to grow in leaps and bounds–so, who knows if they won’t be needing to grow right back into the bay.