Betty Pendler New York League’s Program B (NYL-B) rang in the holidays with a festival of music and dance on Monday, December 16. The celebration of the season was held at the historic Nuyorican Poets Café in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The performance fused the efforts of three outstanding staff members at NYL-B—Community Support Professional, Adina McKoy’s gospel group, the singing and dancing exploits of Cheryl Nelson, CSP, and hip-hop choreography provided by William Rhem, CSP.
“We want to this to be a love combination of music, drama, dancing, Christmas, and the holidays,” Cheryl said at the start of the performance.
Uplift and Inspire
Rehearsals for the show began months ago, with the intention being a more general talent show that has been held in the past. When those plans fell through, the group shifted towards making the performance holiday-themed.
“We started preparing for the show in September,” Adina said. “The show was intended to be a celebration of gospel hip-hop and musical numbers off of the stages of Broadway. Rehearsals consisted of bi-weekly meetings between staff and the people we support.”
The rehearsals did not pass without challenges. “Preparation for the show was taxing yet rewarding. Seeing people improve in their ability to take constructive criticism was uplifting and inspiring just like the theme of our show,” said Adina. “The biggest challenge for the directors of the show was constantly fueling performers with energy and positive reinforcement to keep their spirits light and full of the Christmas spirit.”
The setlist was a combination of traditional holiday hymns such as “Silent Night,” Broadway/movie musical numbers including “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “This Is Me,” and gospel classics like “Oh Happy Day.” The performance closed with a huge group dance number set to one of the hits of 2019, Beyoncé’s cover of the 1980s classic “Before I Let Go.”
By including a number of bilingual elements to the show, Adina, Cheryl, and William made sure to reflect the diverse nature of their performers as well as harken back to the tradition of the Nuyorican Café, which has long been a hub for Latin artists of all stripes to showcase their talents.
“As we dabbled with incorporating some unexpected Christmas numbers for the show, our native Spanish-speaking performers got an opportunity to incorporate their culture in an exciting and festive way,” Adina said. “It was important to us that we incorporated songs that they knew, loved and sang with their families around the holidays. We know that their holiday celebrations are rich with Latin culture and that was important to display on the Nuyorican stage.”
Congratulations to all of these performers and the staff members who helped prepare them!