CONTACT: Alex Smith, Jr.
ALEX SMITH, JR., CHAIRMAN OF
THELMA HILL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (THPAC)
Has Short Story Published In Homage to the Legendary
Paradise Garage Dance Club
The griots in A River Runs Beneath Us tell their stories. Using interviews, memoir, fiction, essays, and poetry we hear about the lives of Afro-American SGL/ LGBTQ elders born before 1960. Through their stories we hear the names of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ashford and Simpson, Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, Hugh Hefner, Prince, Glynn Turman, and others as people who some of these griots have known. A River Runs Beneath Us is available on Amazon.
About Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC)
The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC) was founded 46 years ago to support the creative ideas of choreographers and dance companies of color. Our mission is to preserve and present the artistic vision of dance artists of color.
Over the years, THPAC has supported and attracted emerging and established dance artists of color who seek out the organization’s experimental, yet historically aware environment. THPAC has become a viable institution for communities that have traditionally celebrated and reflected on their social and cultural issues through the rituals of music, dance, literature, and performance.
THPAC’s founder, Larry Phillips, began working as a dance therapist in Brooklyn at a community center that sponsored children's education and support programs for single parents attending New York Technical College. The programs were the forerunner of THPAC. In 1977, he renamed the organization after his renowned and highly influential teacher, the late Thelma Hill. Ms. Hill, who remains a positive force in the dance world of New York City and beyond.
(March 8, 2022 – New York) – Alex Smith, Jr. published his short story A Ramp To Paradise, which is included in the new anthology, A River Runs Beneath Us. The anthology was curated by noted author Doug Cooper Spencer. This short story was used as the foundation for an original dance narrative work of the same name and produced at Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC) in 2010 with choreography by Kyle Abraham. It would be restaged again in 2012 with choreography by Walter Rutledge. It is set to be restaged again in 2023 under the direction of Smith.
Smith designed the story to provide direction to the choreographers as they staged A Ramp To Paradise. He also wanted to use it as a way of documenting the life and times of that historic club and all those that danced, celebrated, and found community there. The Paradise Garage was the groundbreaking and trend setting underground dance club that all others have since been measured by. It was the mecca dance club for a predominately Black SGL/LGBTQ clientele In New York City. Located at 84 King Street the “Garage” reined from 1977-1987.
“As chairman of THPAC, a long-established presenting organization for Black dance artists and others of color, I thought we needed to document the Garage in a dance narrative form. It seemed only natural to me. I just was not sure how. So, I wrote the short story to serve as a foundation to a stage production. The Garage was key to my coming of age and it also greatly shaped my taste in music. I intentionally set out to have THPAC add its voice to the historical account that is now being told about this club of clubs. We must tell our own stories.”
---Alex Smith, Jr.