BY Sherry Mazzocchi
Special to DNAinfo
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS—The United Palace of Cultural Arts flung open its doors Thursday evening, celebrating its new arts program with an interactive event. Dancers, actors, musicians and performers popped up all over the grand theater, offering a taste of Upper Manhattan’s burgeoning talent.
Xavier Eikerenkoetter, president of UPCA, said creating a community arts program at the Palace Theater, which was founded by his father Rev. Ike Eikerenkoetter II, is the fulfillment of a long-held dream.
Eikerenkoetter said he sees no difference between teaching children about art and creating a spiritual ministry.
“Artists really live a soulful life,” he said. “They connect with a muse and go into realms of the soul, into places of creativity.”
Eikerenkoetter said UPCA is creating arts programs for youth and the greater community with two new El Sistema-based music programs and The People’s Theatre Project. UPCA also welcomes local artists to create and present their work on the stage of the Palace.
That was good news for Edgar Cortes, an uptown-based choreographer who is creating a new dance piece featuring themes and music of Portugal.
“To have it performed here would be amazing,” he said.
Word Up Books, the pop up bookstore that recently lost its temporary lease on a space on Broadway, curated the performances by Washington Heights and Inwood artists.
In the mezzanine, children gathered around a shadow puppet performance by Schattenkabinett. The grand foyer showcased Faces of Hope, a photographic exhibit by Jay Franco. Piano and bandoneon music floated through the air as Tango in the Heights kicked up their glittery heels.
Multimedia works by Art by Dj Boy and Nutcracker Inc. played in the upstairs Ladies’ Lounge. UP Theater Company performed a darkly comic scene from their new play, K Comma Joseph. And Organic Magnetics’ acrobatic dance performance of 2012 from Ghosts of Manhattan ended the night.
But the real star of the evening was the United Palace Theater itself.
Eikerenkoetter's father, better known as Rev. Ike, bought the theater in 1969 when it was run down and dilapidated an hired artisans from Europe to restore it to its former glory.
“He loved the building,” Eikerenkoetter said of his famous father. “It was one of the works of his heart.”