The Edge School of the Arts (ESOTA), which has been an integral part of the fabric of Queens for 25 years, has found a new home at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), where it will serve the community of South East Queens . .
Before the school’s doors opened, community leaders gathered to show their support at an opening celebration, welcoming ESOTA to downtown Jamaica.
The event was hosted by former ESOTA staff member Melva Miller, who was the founding Executive Director of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District (BID) and who was previously Deputy Borough President from Queens. She is now CEO of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY).
“As New York City reopens its doors to patrons of the arts, I am delighted that ESOTA has found a new home in downtown Jamaica,” Miller said. “South East Queens has a long tradition of cultivating the arts and culture, and the artists who create them, and today marks a milestone in that tradition as ESOTA continues this legacy.”
Like many other arts organizations, the longtime dance studio was forced to close in March 2020 when the city was closed due to COVID.
The organization survived by offering virtual classes and celebrated its 25th anniversary with a virtual video performance. As the city continues to emerge from the pandemic and return to normalcy, ESOTA has reopened at JCAL, located at 161-04 Jamaica Ave.
“We have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with JCAL and its leaders for many, many years. We have provided workshops and cultural programming for JCAL, and in turn, they have been generous in allowing us to use their incredible space for performances and events, ”said Kerri Edge, Artistic Director of ESOTA.
JCAL Acting Executive Director Leonard Jacobs said the organization is excited to advance ESOTA’s long-standing ties with JCAL through the new agreement on studio space, office space and a space for the ESOTA store.
“A legendary art provider in South East Queens, ESOTA’s presence within our institution will raise the bar in the community for more than teaching dance, but through a myriad of other opportunities. cultures that ESOTA can uniquely offer, ”said Jacobs.
Acting Artistic Director Courtney Ffrench said the deal comes at the right time for JCAL.
“ESOTA’s reputation will complement our growing list of performing and visual arts courses and programs that JCAL will be offering in 2022, our 50th anniversary. Together, JCAL and ESOTA proudly share a core value – that the right to an incredible arts education belongs to everyone, ”said Ffrench.
When JCAL was in its infancy on Jamaica Avenue, the Edge sisters (Donna, Wendy and Kerri) were young students at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center run by the dance legend affectionately known as “BJ”.
The iconic institution in which their mother Beverly was an early student was located just outside the bus terminal on Merrick Boulevard.
“We basically lived in a dance school so we spent our lives on ‘the avenue’,” said Donna Edge. “The library, Blimpies, Margherita’s Pizza, The Colosseum, VIM, Gertz Mall were our favorite courses. Jamaica downtown has great memories with us and we are excited to come home.
ESOTA has been a staple in Laurelton for its first 25 years of existence. Now, says Donna Edge, they enter a new quarter century in a new but familiar home.
“ESOTA is getting underway, forging relationships with the 103rd arrondissement, the Jamaica Center BID and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation led by President and CEO Hope Knight. It is important to Kerri that people understand, we are not just moving in to teach dance. We are here to contribute and collaborate with our community, ”said Donna Edge.
Jennifer Furioli, director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, said the BID is delighted that the Edge School of the Arts is coming to Jamaica Avenue.
“As BID, we have participated in many community events with Kerri and her team and we look forward to ESOTA being our neighbor to JCAL, bringing its history of dance and culture to downtown Jamaica,” Furioli said.
According to Wendy, a customer service manager, she is grateful for the unwavering loyalty of their students, parents, staff, alumni and supporters as they journeyed through the pandemic.
“The kids missed each other, we were mourning one of our dance moms, Sharon Green Garrett, and the income was nonexistent. But we made it work, ”said Wendy Edge.
ESOTA staff and students took online courses and filmed their virtual presentations. They also continued ESOTA’s unique tradition of engaging their students in social activism in the community in their ongoing efforts to raise a generation of “artivists”.
The students took part in a lonely protest march to join the social movement for justice with Edge and Erica Ford, community activist and founder of Life Camp. When City Councilor I. Daneek Miller asked ESOTA to participate in the Black Lives Matter mural reveal on Jamaica Avenue, the school came out in force to perform, participate and paint.
“We used our time well. But now it’s time to go back to class! said Wendy Edge.
ESOTA kicks off the season with performances of “Free to Be, You and Me” which will be presented at the Laurelton West Playground as part of the Green / Arts Live NYC and Corps of artists of the city initiatives. Ashanti Creative Director Brice D. Vick, “Bring in Da Noise” tapper Omar Edwards, acclaimed choreographer David “Sincere” Aiken and HBO’s “Legendary” season 2 winner Max Arturo Miyaki-Mugler Lyons are just a few of ESOTA’s impressive list of teachers who are ready to get back to work.
ESOTA started classes in their new home on Saturday October 2nd. This will be ESOTA’s 26th season. Registration took place Friday, October 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the JCAL and will continue every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until classes reach their maximum capacity.
Class sizes will be limited to accommodate strict COVID guidelines which include adherence to the mayor’s decree that all dance schools require staff, students and visitors over the age of 12 to be vaccinated in order to operate.
For tickets to “Free to Be, You and Me” and more information about ESOTA, visit edgeschoolofthearts.com.