Kevin Joseph (center) during Bike East. Photo by Ian Lyn Photography, Courtesy Purelements

Why This Brooklyn Dance Company Is Putting on a Bike Tour

What does cycling have to do with dancing?

For Purelements: An Evolution in Dance co-founder Kevin Joseph, it's all about freedom: "That freedom of moving through space on a bike is the same freedom I feel when I'm dancing," he says. And that sense of freedom—whether it's in the studio or in the streets—is something that Purelements is determined to give to its East Brooklyn community.


Joseph got into competitive cycling late into his dance career. "I guess it was part of my midlife crisis," he jokes.

He'd always loved riding bikes, and when he noticed how few black men rode competitively, he decided to start entering local duathlon races (the sprint distance, which includes four miles of running and 10 miles of cycling). He took to it naturally—and ended up placing second in his age category more than once.

Part of his success was due to his dance background. He was already used to treating his body like an athlete, giving it the fuel it needs, pushing its limits to grow stronger and taking care of it to prevent injury.

"The other cyclists would see me stretching sometimes in the grass and be like, How do you know how to do that?" he says. "I'd tell them I was a dancer for 25 years. And then they would join me on the grass."

Bike East

Ian Lyn Photography

Back at his day job as co-executive artistic director of Purelements, Joseph and his business partner Lakai Worrell were always looking for ways that the company could provide opportunities for their historically neglected East Brooklyn community "to see life in a different way," says Joseph.

For the past 13 years, that's mostly meant providing access to dance and arts in schools. But as Joseph began to get more into riding, he realized that while not everyone is a dancer or artist, we can all find a sense of freedom through being active.

So six years ago Purelements launched the Bike East Bike Tour & Active Lifestyle Fair, a free 20-mile community bike tour paired with a day of free group fitness classes. This year's edition takes place on August 19, starting in Linden Park, Brooklyn.

"I don't think communities like ours have been afforded the opportunity of emotional healing," says Joseph. "We've been stricken by a lack of resources for decades. People have been convinced that the only things that matter are that you go to work, put food on the table, make sure you're grinding."

He and Worrell are ready to see that change. "Whether it be dance, which is our sense of freedom and healing, or biking, if we can provide that access for our community, and give them a chance to pay attention to their physical and emotional health, that's our goal."

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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