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UPCA to Present DANZA DEBUTS, Featuring Works by Virgil Gadson and Cassie Nordgren

The United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA) presents Danza Debuts, a program that features emerging choreographers who create original works in our new studios and debut it on the United Palace stage.

The two choreographers are Virgil Gadson, a top 4 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance?" Season 12 and an original cast member of UPCA's "The Hip Hop Nutcracker," and Cassie Nordgren, who curated our "Danza Highbridge Festival" last year.

Virgil "Lil O" Gadson is a dancer, actor, choreographer, and educator from Philadelphia. He was a top 4 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance?" (Season 12) and an original cast member of UPCA's "The Hip Hop Nutcracker." Virgil was nominated for a Fred Astaire Award for the Broadway show "After Midnight" (7 Tony nominations) as a principle actor/dancer.

Virgil will present "Daydreamer's Soul," a storytelling musical journey about his life growing up as a dancer. With the help of an authentic, talented cast, Virgil weaves together a piece about overcoming trials and tribulations living in the city and finding the right path.

Dancers: Cory Grimes, Lamont Richardson, Ann-Silvia Clark, Mai Lê, Muata Langley, Melissa Diaz, Angela Wildflower, and Andrew Carter

Cassie Nordgren is the Artistic Director of ThruLines and also serves as the Artistic Director of UPCA's Danza Highbridge Festival. She is a two-time finalist in the Capezio A.C.E. Awards for Choreographic Excellence and was the SDCF Observer for Emmy Award winning and Tony nominated choreographer, Josh Bergasse, in the 2014 Broadway Revival of "On The Town."

Cassie will present "The Last Bite," a comedy centered around two women struggling to define their own journeys amid the pressures of society. As the only two singles at a wedding reception full of couples, Alicia and Katie meet at the bar and become instant friends. When the pressure to justify their "solo" status to their friends and family grows, the women begin to question their own definition of happiness.

"Each of the two woman represents something important to me," said Cassie. "I have been each of them at some point in my life and I think one of them makes the other stronger."

Dancers in "The Last Bite" have performed in multiple Broadway shows, including Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, Newsies, Music Man, Bad Boys of Ballet, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Dancers: Alicia Albright, Katie Drablos, Elliott Mattox, Edward Cuellar, Robbie Nicholson, Scott Shedenhelm, Cajai Fellows Johnson, Mallory Pettee, DeMarius R. Copes, Kory Geller, Melissa Hunt, and Giorgia Vitali.


Friday, June 16

Doors: 7pm; Show: 8:00pm

Tickets: $10 online, $15 at the door

Free for children 12 and under

At 7pm, the public is invited to a sneak peek of the United Palace's new professional dance studios. RSVP required at

Tickets at or here. Pre-show performance by Dance Project of Washington Heights.

UPCA is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2012 as an arts and cultural center at the United Palace, a transformational organization and venue that fuses culture, spirituality, and entertainment. As a community resource, UPCA provides access and exposure to progressive programming, including cultural events, arts education, movie screenings and community space that empowers the individual to nurture the artist within and emboldens children, adults, and families through exploration and open exchange.

With few performance spaces north of 125th Street, the "Danza" series is one of the few opportunities Northern Manhattan audiences have to experience dance in their own community. The goals of Danza is to raise the profile of dance uptown and introduce new audiences to the art form, typically through narrative-based performances. Our four annual events include a free festival in Highbridge Park, "The Hip Hop Nutcracker," a performance by a world-class artist, and the debut of commissioned work by emerging choreographers.

Danza is the home of dance uptown.

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