Monday, January 21, 2008

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

Port Jervis, New York stands at the intersection of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The mountainous town lies on the bank of the Delware River. Since 1966 it has been the last stop on the Metro North Railroad's Port Jervis Line to New York City.

One of its big claims to fame is that a poor Depression-era songwriter, E. Y. Harburg, frequented the New Bauer Inn in Port Jervis, playing for beer and food. While there he saw Erie Railroad workers trying to sell pencils and apples for five cents, and he was inspired to write the song “Brother, can you spare a Dime?”

It is also the home of one of our good friends, musician Will Hoppey. My (Laura Lee) first experience arranging tours, as a matter of fact, was working with Will Hoppey's Bag O Cats Music. I helped him book small tours of coffee houses in Michigan and Illinois. He is a singer-songwriter with thought-provoking lyrics and a wonderful voice and I don't mind putting in a little plug for him. You can hear his CDs on and many other places on the Internet.

But Will and his wife and business partner Lynda Pringle have the good sense to work in the Florida Keys in January and February, so even though we were in their back yard, we missed visiting them. Hopefully we will catch them somewhere on the road.

It was strikingly cold in Port Jervis on January 21. One of the issues you face when touring is that hotels require you to check out at 11. In winter, classes are usually in the evening after school. So you have to find somewhere to go for several hours. We spent quite some time observing Port Jervis from the frosted interior of our Ford Escort.

Valery was surprised to see so many people filing into the Dance Center. To see so much interest in arts in such a small city was a pleasure. It's a big studio with a lot of students, and they put on a full length ballet each year. Most recently they have been working on Paquita.

What stands out most about the class is that Valery had prepared for an hour technique class followed by a short pointe class. When he arrived the teacher mentioned that they had a lot of boys (about five) and if Valery wanted to, he could do a partnering class. So he had a short, impromptu partnering class instead of pointe.

They encourage male students by giving them a class for free if they take ballet, but making them pay if they do not. So it was the first partnering class we've had an opportunity to do that actually had boys. Unfortunately the partnering class was unavoidably short. Hopefully we'll have an opportunity to return for a more in depth partnering class.