In 1987, several years after moving to New York, Marla Hirokawa saw a need for a serious ballet school in south Brooklyn and opened Covenant Dance Studio. When faced with giving her students a performance opportunity, she dismissed the idea of the typical recital and formed Covenant Dance Theatre, her dance company, in 1989. Through the company, she created dances that allowed her students to perform alongside professional dancers. Since that first performance, Hirokawa has choreographed ten original dance dramas and many other shorter works—a couple that have been recognized by the New Choreographer’s On Point Ballet Builders Showcase and Choreography Workshop in NYC.
In 1997, Hirokawa left her position as Teaching Artist with the New York City Ballet Education Department to develop and manage her own arts-in-education (AIE) programs. The historic ballets she conceived and which her company performed tied in beautifully with school social studies curriculum.
In 2001, Hirokawa conceived her ballet NISEI , a dance tribute to WWII Japanese American Veterans—a work produced in memory of her father, Lawrence Hirokawa, a 100th Battalion WWII soldier. Soon after, Hirokawa and her sister, Laurie Hamano founded the Nisei Project 2003 . The project brought the Company to Hirokawa’s home state of Hawai’i and over a period of 3 weeks performed her NISEI ballet on O’ahu, Kaua’i, Big Island and Maui.
In 2007, Covenant Dance Studio celebrated its 20th anniversary with a gala performance and dinner produced by Covenant Dance Theatre. Alumni and former company dancers were invited to perform in the Gala performance which included excerpts from company repertory from the last 10 years. The event was commemorated by Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz in an official document proclaiming June 15th as Covenant Dance Studio 20th Anniversary Gala Celebration Day in Brooklyn, USA.
It is from this fertile history that Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn, Inc. is born. In 2007, the time had come to replant Hirokawa’s company and school into a new “field” where this community based professional dance school and company could be nurtured to reach their full potential by a dedicated board of directors. As a non-profit arts corporation, CBT will carry on the mission to provide Brooklynites with a quality, professional dance company and school. CBT Dance Academy will continue to inspire and train young people in the beautiful art of classical ballet and contemporary dance, and provide scholarships to those deserving students. The new company will continue to provide performance opportunities to talented dancers and students, and expand its outreach to the Brooklyn community through quality performances and educational programs.
photos: Robert Ciago