By James Maher
Name: Bryan Alejandro Scott
Occupation: Speech Pathologist, Dancer / Dance Teacher
Location: Matilda, 11th Street between Ave B and C
Time: 5 on Wednesday, April 17
I’ve been in the neighborhood for 29 years. I’ve lived in the same place on 12th and C the whole time. I’m a creature of habit. I was born in London and I used to live in Queens, where I went to high school. Part of my life was in London and part of it was in Queens.
We got to the city and I felt that this was one of the greatest neighborhoods. It was slightly unexplored. Most people didn’t even know that anything existed past 3rd Avenue, but we did. Plus it was affordable for us. I feel like some people made it out to be like it was so bad and dangerous, Alphabet City, but I don’t think it was unlike any other community. If you were looking for trouble you could easily find it, but if you were careful about what you did you were safe. There was a lot of respect for neighbors. People worked; people had families; people did their thing. There wasn’t a lot of activity on Avenue C. It was very quiet.
I feel like I’ve always been a jack of many trades. I’ve worked all kinds of jobs. I went to school for speech and language pathology and communication disorders and when I got out of college I worked for the International Paper Company in business as a marketing sales rep.
Now they were very conservative and I think you can tell from the Liberace vest that I’m not. I did the best I could. I was an in-style conservative, but selling paper, for me, I’m not putting it down, but I couldn’t see myself doing it for 20 or 30 years. I also worked in Paris for a year as a makeup artist, I worked for the city as a health coordinator, and eventually I got back into school at NYU and got my masters in speech pathology.
I started late with dancing. I was a gymnast when I was young but it got expensive. I was in high school and I was doing fairly well and I went to gymnastic camps where everybody was into it. But then my coach thought I might benefit if I took ballet class. So I did and from there I developed a love of dance. So I pursued it.
I did some auditions for some plays and through a play I got involved in a workshop for dance and that’s really how I became a Dunham technique, which is a type of modern technique from Katherine Dunham, and eventually got into a Dunham based dance company and performed in Theatre Row from around the 90s through around 2002. I stopped, not because I got too old, but because the director died.
The Dunham technique is a combination of ballet, African and Caribbean movement. It’s a modern technique usually done to drums. Katherine Dunham was the first black female to have a dance company in the United States and she was a person that led the way for many others. People like Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and Eartha Kitt took classes at the Dunham School.
I’ve parlayed my career from being a dancer to a more of a choreographer and mentor. I started teaching dance out of the lobby of my building. Those kids are probably 25 years old now. I started teaching straight out of college and I progressed to the school system. I now work at the Children’s Workshop School on East 12th street as a speech and language therapist during the day and one day I went to the principal and I said, “Hey I have this idea, I would like to start a dance company.”
It started as a small experiment, working with special-ed kids. I thought that the kids who had emotional or behavioral problems, if they learned dance and found something that they liked, then their academics would approve. And it did. I do think the arts needs to be back in the schools. I think it will help many children embrace the educational process.
Now we’ve got an after-school program and we meet once a week for two and a half hours and we are ready. The kids are ages 7 to 11. I teach them the Dunham technique, jazz, and other modern techniques. They have to do reports on different people. I want them to know a little bit of everything. We’re called the Experimental Dance Group, EDG.
This year, I’m doing my first fundraiser, which is going to be [tonight, April 24] here at Matilda. It’s a really good family restaurant and the owner’s daughter is actually part of my dance company. This affair is to raise money for costumes and the cost that’s involved with doing what I do because I’m not funded by the school. And it’s a way of giving young people something positive to feel about themselves.
The fundraiser is a disco theme. I love disco; disco was a great time. People don’t realize that disco brought a lot of people together. All races, sexuality, all levels of income. It was a fun, fun period. I don’t know why people got into hating disco. That’s not for this interview, but if you ever want to go into that with me, I can talk to you about that.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.
Note: Matilda Restaurant hosts Disco With EDG, a disco-themed fundraiser for the Experimental Dance Group tonight at 5. Matilda is located at 647 E. 11th Street at Avenue C. With a $20 donation, guests will receive two drinks and samples of the restaurant's Tuscan-Mexican menu.