Downtown Brooklyn

Ballerina Kate Reyes to return Nov. 9 as lead dancer in ‘Orphan Train’

Reyes, an alum of Martha Graham Company, appeared as a child in 2012 staging of "Orphan Train" at the NY International Fringe Festival

November 3, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
Kate and Students in rehearsal. Photo: Jaime Gamez
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — When ballerina Kate Reyes takes the stage for the performance of Orphan Train at The Theater at City Tech on Nov. 9, presented by Brooklyn’s own Covenant Ballet Theatre (CBT), she will be a key element in telling the gripping story on which the ballet is based.

Kate Reyes, photo by Jaime Gamez.
Kate Reyes.
Photo: Jaime Gamez

An original narrative ballet, Orphan Train was conceived and choreographed by CBT Artistic Director and Founder, Marla Hirokawa. The ballet presents the extraordinary story of Rev. Charles Brace, founder of the New York Children’s Aid Society and the Orphan Train movement, the first placing-out program in America for over 150,000 abandoned immigrant children in New York City from 1854 to 1929. The performance will feature CBT dance students ages 10-18 alongside professional dancers. The performance will also include a re-staging of Ms. Hirokawa’s Diamond Caper, a short work chronicling the theft of the legendary Hope diamond.

The narrative ballet tells a “moving and heartbreaking story with a nod to Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham,” states author Oscar Moore in a review of the 2012 NY Fringe Festival production. “Stark reality is wonderfully conveyed by this fine company of actor/dancers who with a look or a gesture augment the excellent choreography.” Orphan Train premiered in 1997 in Brooklyn, NY. It was restaged numerous times in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Athens, GA. In 2012, Orphan Train was the first ballet ever showcased at the New York International Fringe Festival. The production will be dedicated to the memory of Alice DePass, founder of Encore Dance Theatre in Athens, GA, and a longtime colleague and friend of Ms. Hirokawa and supporter of Orphan Train.

Rehearsal for Diamond Caper with dancers Jai Perez, Roberto Facchin, Kate Reyes, and Colleen Rivera.
Rehearsal for Diamond Caper with dancers Kate Reyes, Jai Perez, and Colleen Rivera.
Photo: Sonia Jones

Kate Reyes’ lifetime dedication to dance is an accurate reflection of the qualities that make Covenant Ballet Theatre ‘one of Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets.’ Her return to work with her mentor Marla Hirokawa, whom she calls Miss Marla, is a great Brooklyn human interest story. Originally from the Philippines, Kate Reyes first began her dance journey by participating in traditional folk dance at her local church. “In the Philippines, due to the social class structure, classical dance training was not even an option for me,” Kate says. She moved to Brooklyn at the age of 7 and discovered her love of dance while participating in classes and competitions at a local dance school. Knowing that her dance classes were lacking serious training, Kate enrolled in Covenant Ballet Theatre (CBT) Academy under the direction of Marla Hirokawa while in middle school. “Previously I wasn’t getting the classical technique, I was just performing a lot of repertory,” says Kate. “During my placement class, Miss Marla told me to do certain steps and I had no clue what she was saying because I didn’t know the vocabulary.”

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Young members of the cast of Orphan Train rehearse in Borough Hall Plaza. Photo: John McCarten
Young members of the cast of Orphan Train rehearse in Borough Hall Plaza.
Photo: John McCarten
Students rehearsal, photo by Jaime Gamez
Students in rehearsal with Kate Reyes.
Photo: Jaime Gamez

Kate was determined to be prepared for acceptance into a performing arts high school and knew that CBT would provide her with the necessary foundation in classical dance. “I learned that I could do dance as a profession,” says Kate. “CBT Academy was the place where I got a lot of information about the professional world and the possibilities there.” At that time, her teachers included Marla Hirokawa, Rebeccah Brann, José Rivera, Matthew Westerby, Sonia Jones, Nanako Kitagawa, Mandy Chan, Kristin Licata, among others. She studied three full years at CBT Academy, including summer intensives, and performed in the 2012 production of Orphan Train at the New York International Fringe Festival as Dorothy, an orphan train rider.

Kate auditioned for and was accepted to New York City’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS dance program. After discovering her love for Graham technique in class with Blakeley White-McGuire, she auditioned for the Martha Graham Company’s All-City Panorama Project, which provides public school students ages 13-18 from all five boroughs the opportunity to perform Martha Graham’s seminal work, Panorama, on stage during the Graham Company Season. Kate received additional training at Manhattan Youth Ballet, The Martha Graham School, The Taylor School, and MOVE (NYC). Upon graduating magna cum laude with a BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College, Kate joined the Graham 2 company and in the fall of 2021 joined the Martha Graham Dance Company and Buglisi Dance Theater. She has shared her knowledge with dancers across the tri-state area teaching at Covenant Ballet Theatre, the Martha Graham School, Belvoir Terrace, and is currently on faculty at LaGuardia Arts HS and Nimbus Dance Center.

Rehearsal for Diamond Caper with dancers Jai Perez, Roberto Facchin, Kate Reyes, and Colleen Rivera
Rehearsal for Diamond Caper with dancers Roberto Facchin, Kate Reyes, Jai Perez, and Colleen Rivera.
Photo: Sonia Jones

Kate says that the CBT community fostered by Marla Hirokawa has continued to play an important role in the opportunities that she has received. “Miss Marla is so abundant with love and knowledge, and it has always been that way,” says Kate. “I was struggling with tuition when I first started, so Miss Marla made the opportunity for me to earn a work-study scholarship which has made all the difference in my career.” On November 9, Kate will return to the CBT stage as Mamie, an orphan train rider happened upon by Rev. Charles Loring Brace, who unites with new parents and a second chance for life in the

Marla Hirokawa: choreographer, artistic director, and founder of Covenant Ballet Theatre.
Marla Hirokawa: choreographer, artistic director, and founder of Covenant Ballet Theatre.
Photo: Jaime Gamez

Midwest. “It doesn’t feel like a lot of time has passed since I performed in Orphan Train, and now I am that professional that CBT students are now looking up to,” reflects Kate. “It’s full circle.”

Since 1987, CBT has invested in the children and families of South Brooklyn, where cultural activities and resources are limited. In an accepting yet rigorous environment, CBT fosters the love of dance through pre-professional training in its studios and educational programs in NYC schools, and through dozens of original ballet productions conceived and choreographed by Ms. Hirokawa. The 2023 production of Orphan Train marks CBT’s first return to the stage since March 2020 and is made possible by the NY State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor, the NY State Legislature and Apple Bank.

Orphan Train poster, courtesy of Covenant Ballet Theatre.
Orphan Train, courtesy of Covenant Ballet Theatre.

Tickets for Covenant Ballet Theatre’s performance of Orphan Train, starting at $55, are available at For further information, visit CBT’s website, call 718-891-6199, or email [email protected].


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