Maggie Hernandez-Knight Selected as Honoree for 2017 Uptown Arts Stroll

boundlessBARRE founder, Maggie Hernandez-Knight was  selected as an honoree for the 15th annual Uptown Arts Stroll! “I’m speechless and filled with so much gratitude for this kind recognition.  I feel blessed — no more and no less than anyone else — which makes it difficult for me to take ownership of this honor. But it is a great honor.” ~ Maggie Hernandez-Knight.

Thank you Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, Joanna Castro, Martin Collins. Congrats fellow honorees Patricia Cruz, Executive Director of Harlem Stage; Elvis Eo Nolasco, actor; and Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, Community Board 12 Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chair.

2017 Honorees by NoMAA

For 15 years, outstanding people and organizations have been honored during the Uptown Arts Stroll, and in 2017 the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance is pleased to recognize the talents and contributions of Patricia Cruz, Executive Director of Harlem Stage; Maggie Hernández-Knight, visual artist, dancer and entrepreneur; Elvis Nolasco, actor; and Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, Community Board 12 Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chair.

Patricia Cruz

Uptown Arts Stroll 2017 honoree Patricia Cruz

Patricia Cruz
Photo: Chester Higgins

Patricia Cruz is the Executive Director of Harlem Stageand Aaron Davis Hall since 1998, responsible for programming, development, finance and administration. Ms. Cruz has secured more than $2 million in endowments, substantially expanded programs and audiences, and successfully completed a $26 million Campaign for Harlem Stage to restore and secure the 30-year old arts institution.

The highlight of her tenure is securing and renovating a historically landmarked 100-year-old gatehouse building of the Croton Aqueduct System, across the street from the current Aaron Davis Hall facility. Following a two-year renovation, The Gatehouse now provides a new state-of-the-art theater and offices for Harlem Stage. The project, completed in 2006, also served as a catalyst for economic and community development for the four-block area surrounding The Gatehouse. All the activities cited above were made possible through public and private partnerships and designed to expand services to artists and communities.

Ms. Cruz was Deputy Director for Programs for The Studio Museum in Harlem, where she directed the planning and management of all programs from 1989 to 1998. She developed the acclaimed Vital Expressions in American Art series, which presented major artists, scholars and performers for more than twelve years. Ms. Cruz started at The Studio Museum in 1982 as Director of Development, supervising all aspects of the organization’s public- and private-sector fundraising. She also served as Acting Director in 1988 and 1994. Ms. Cruz has forty years’ experience in arts management. She serves on the Tony Nominating Committee and is a past President of The New York Foundation for the Arts.

Maggie Hernández-Knight

Uptown Arts Stroll 2017 honoree Maggie Hernández-Knight

Maggie Hernández-Knight

Maggie Hernández-Knight is a local resident, born and raised in Washington Heights and best known for her brightly colored abstract paintings. However, Maggie’s creative life did not begin in visual arts. In fact, over a lifetime, Maggie has used her creativity to reinvent herself many times over. Her first love was classical ballet. Ms. Hernandez started formal training at the age of eight and worked as a student teacher starting at age 15.

Alongside dance, Maggie worked primarily in banks: she was the youngest-ever assistant supervisor at a Venezuelan bank in midtown at age 19. Maggie landed at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she became an abstract artist, and it was there that she discovered a passion for strong color and movement and developed the iconography of contrasting shapes, bold strokes, crosses, spheres, lines, and drips often visible in her work.

After finding her creative voice, the emotional issues that plagued Maggie throughout her life began to surface. Within a 10-year period, the “tortured artist” transformed herself to wife, mother, and personal development workshop leader. She became a certified life coach and published a book about her healing journey.

In 2013, Maggie left the banking world for good and opened JourneySpace, a studio offering a suite of dance and movement classes at 220 Cabrini Blvd. Ms. Hernández infused her classes with personal development to help students find inspiration and strength. As a result, they transformed themselves into confident, empowered dancers supported by a community that formed within the studio. The arts proved to be a great healer and unifier at JourneySpace.

In February 2017, the studio closed its doors to breathe life into what came next for Maggie, ButterflyMyst LLC, which built upon her foundational experiences and combined her love of the arts with personal development and community building. Maggie offers self-empowerment courses, art-making workshops, and her own brand of ballet barre, boundlessBARRE.

Elvis Nolasco

Uptown Arts Stroll 2017 honoree Elvis Nolasco

Elvis Nolasco
Photo: Emmanuel Abreu

Elvis Nolasco began his acting career in a small theater room at George Washington High School in Washington Heights. Soon after receiving formal training, Elvis was cast in the hit comedy I Like It Like That with Lauren Valez and Rita Moreno. Mr. Nolasco was then cast by Spike Lee for the film Clockers with Mekhi Phifer and Delroy Lindo. From this strong foundation, Elvis started building a line of great performances in several independent hits, including his critically acclaimed role in the film In Search of a Dream, which is the number one grossing independent Latino film.

Appearing as a guest star on many hit TV series over the years, Elvis also had a recurring role in the Spike Lee series Miracle Boys. Mr. Nolasco continues to work on stage, where his performances have earned him rave reviews. Elvis shot a series regular in the HBO pilot DA Brick, directed by Spike Lee and executive produced and written by John Ridley. He had a memorable role in Spike Lee’s feature films The Sweet Blood of Jesus and Old Boy.

Mr. Nolasco was recently cast in the award-winning and critically acclaimed ABC anthology series American Crime by John Ridley, where he was extolled for his performances playing different characters in each season. In season one of American Crime, Elvis played the part of Carter Nix, a lost soul suffering from mental illness and drug addiction, and in the second season he portrayed Chris Dixon, a passionate high school principal. Elvis recently shot a series regular role in the Kathryn Bigelow/Carolyn Strauss–produced HBO pilot Mogadishu, MN and will soon be seen playing a supporting role in the Forest Whitaker and Pharrell–produced Roxanne Roxanne from director Michael Larnell, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Mr. Nolasco is currently shooting the recurring character of Papo in the Spike Lee–directed series She’s Gotta Have It (based on the film of the same name) and the recurring character Chip Lauderdale in the TNT series Claws that stars Niecy Nash.

Elizabeth Lorris Ritter

Uptown Arts Stroll 2017 honoree Elizabeth Lorris Ritter

Elizabeth Lorris Ritter
Photo: Barry A. Ritter

Elizabeth Lorris Ritter is a 34-year resident of Washington Heights, and an ardent supporter of the arts. As Chair of Community Board 12’s Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee, Liz has been a powerful voice for arts funding and programming in northern Manhattan, including early advocacy with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for the funding that helped create the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, and longstanding efforts with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to get uptown on the map. (Literally: most maps of Manhattan used to cut off around 96th St, and then around 145th St.)

Ms. Ritter is also the founding President of the Hudson Heights Owners Coalition, the original fiscal sponsor of the Uptown Arts Stroll, which she helped co-found with Martin Collins, Mike Fitelson, Zead Ramadan and the late Homer Young Kennedy. Thanks to that first Stroll, Liz bought her first piece of art, now part of her large and highly eclectic collection of work by local and international artists. There’s hardly an uptown arts initiative or organization in which Liz wasn’t involved in some way, as a contributor, participant, donor, booster, or behind-the-scenes matchmaker. She continues to foster arts and community-building through the publication of a weekly-ish eblast of community events (and occasional activist musings). Liz has used art for political statements, including pop-up theater in the subway, and a rainbow installation on the George Washington Bridge following the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

Ms. Ritter currently serves as UP Theater Company’s Board President and on the Advisory Board of Northern Manhattan Arts and Culture. She is a published writer of essays and poetry, an exhibited photographer, a teacher of improv, a preacher of sermons, an avid crocheter, and a singer in community choirs. Liz’s greatest creative endeavors are her 27-year (and counting!) marriage to Barry, and their two fabulous kids, Tina and David, competent, moral, and civically engaged adults who are gainfully employed in their respective fields of study.

How To Launch A Corporate Wellness Program That Works

How To Launch A Corporate Wellness Program That Works
by Melissa Thompson
Launching a High Returning Corporate Wellness Program. Photo credit:

Employee wellness is something that matters to both employees and employers. A healthy employee is happier and more productive, which reflects well on the business and keeps everyone satisfied. But if you don’t have a formal corporate wellness program, you probably aren’t focusing enough on the health of your employees.

The Business-Side Benefits of Employee Wellness

Health and wellness is a very personal thing, clearly benefiting the individual more than anyone or anything else. But the advantages of managing a workforce full of healthy employees extend far beyond the employee-side benefits. Businesses stand a lot to gain from putting employee wellness first. Let’s check out some of the specific benefits:

  • Happiness. According to a 2012 study by AFLAC, employees who participate in workplace wellness programs are more satisfied with their jobs. This is tied to the fact that wellness programs show employees that the company cares for them. They also makes people physically feel better.
  • Enhanced productivity. It’s no surprise that physical activity and good nutrition positively affect the brain. The long-term benefits are more energy, better focus, and extra motivation. Those are valuable benefits, regardless of the industry or role.
  • Stronger community. Employee wellness programs are great for companies that are simultaneously trying to strengthen their culture and bring employees closer together. With group activities, challenges, and common “non-work” goals, organizations have discovered that wellness programs play a major role in forging stronger, longer lasting communities.
  • Cost savings. Harvard Business Review reports that, since 1995, the percentage of Johnson & Johnson employees who smoke has dropped by two-thirds. Furthermore, the number of people with high blood pressure and physical inactivity has been cut in half. Why does this matter? It’s tied to the company’s investment in employee wellness, which has saved J&J $250 million on healthcare expenses over the past decade. In fact, the return has been $2.71 for every dollar spent.

These are just a few of the business-side benefits of an investment in employee wellness, but they show the impressive return a formal health and wellness program can bring to the sponsoring organization.

Three Keys to a Successful Program Launch

Simply developing and launching a corporate wellness program isn’t enough. There’s a big difference between an average program and one that’s highly effective. According to the same Harvard Business Review report, organizations with programs that are deemed as having “low effectiveness” experience volunteer attrition rates of 15 percent, while companies with “highly-effective” programs see, on average, just 9 percent voluntary attrition. Specifically, software company SAS Institute has seen voluntary turnover drop from 19 percent in 2005 to just 4 percent more recently.

In other words, if you’re going to invest time, energy, and resources into developing and launching a corporate wellness program that’s aimed at producing the aforementioned benefits, you have to focus on a successful launch and execution.

1. Lead From the Top

The worst mistake a company can make is launching a wellness program when there’s dissention in the upper levels of management. Sadly, this is quite common. In many organizations, you’ll discover that HR supports a wellness program, while managers and executives reluctantly go along with it. But there’s no place for reluctance from leaders.

If the CEO is a slob who eats cheeseburgers for lunch every day and spends his weekend drinking beer and watching football, employees won’t buy into the program. They’ll assume that the CEO is merely implementing it for the return he’ll see on his investment.

On the other hand, if the CEO runs three miles at lunch, eats healthy, and encourages employees to join his basketball league on the weekends, suddenly health and wellness are viewed as genuine organizational priorities.

So, before launching a program, make sure there’s buy-in from the top. And more important than buy-in, ensure there’s leadership by example. This is how you get people excited about participation.

2. Focus on the Right Tasks

A lot of strategic planning must go into developing a corporate wellness program that works. This means focusing on important areas that deliver the highest employee- and business-side benefits.

According to Gary Lindsay of Partnership for Prevention, there are three major components of a successful corporate wellness program: tobacco, cancer screening, and fitness/nutrition.

“The most cost saving service that is out there is really offering comprehensive tobacco benefit,” Lindsay says. “That should really be one of the first things an employer should do.”

Cancer screening can be done on-site, or may just look like your company giving paid time off for screening appointments and other related services. As for health and nutrition, which will likely take up the bulk of engagement from employees, there are plenty of ways to encourage participation. For example, you could:

  • Hire a personal trainer to teach onsite classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.
  • Give employees an extra 20 minutes at lunch if they participate in some sort of physical activity.
  • Offer cheap and healthy dietary options in vending machines and in the break room.
  • Create group weight loss challenges and other competitions.

It’s important that you offer some variety so employees are able to choose something that fits their needs, preferences, and schedules. By offering multiple opportunities to engage in healthy behavior, you’ll see superior results.

3. Make the Program a Key Focus

If you’re going to invest in a corporate wellness program, you obviously need to get something out of it. One mistake you’ll often see is that organizations spend a lot of time developing a program and then do a poor job of building excitement and engagement.

Here are some strategies you can implement to ensure this doesn’t happen:

  • Apply marketing principles. In the beginning stages, you need to treat your program like you would treat a product you’re selling. Marketing will go a long way towards increasing visibility and driving participation. Make sure you’re developing and circulating materials in the workplace. Putting up flyers in the break room is one practical suggestion, as is mentioning new developments in a weekly internal email newsletter.
  • Focus on benefits over features. After spending time developing a corporate wellness program, it’s easy to get caught up in the various elements of the program itself – such as health screenings, workout plans, etc. – but be careful not to only focus on the features. In order to encourage buy-in, you need to focus on the benefits. What do employees have to gain from participating?
  • Develop an incentive plan. Some employees will participate because they’re interested in being healthy, while others will need a little more coaxing. For this latter group, a targeted incentive plan is a great idea.

If the launch goes well, then you can feel better about the long-term sustainability of the program.

Getting Out of the Gates 

There’s a lot of talk about corporate wellness programs these days, but they require hard work and strategic planning from the corporate side. If you want to enjoy the sort of return that companies like J&J receive, you’ll need to lead from the top, focus on the right tasks, and prioritize the program within the company.

Do those three things and you’ll be well on your way to success.

Corporate Wellness: How Health Improves The Bottom Line

by Kevin Harrington

It seems every time we turn around there is a buzz about “corporate wellness.” I have heard it so many times that I wonder if people are becoming skeptical and leery of it being a marketing ploy. However, I know the importance of health in business as I practice a healthy lifestyle and know the positive impact on my bottom line.

I found that there are five key ways to improve the bottom line of a business with a corporate wellness program. First it begins with a wellness culture that starts at the top. As a corporate leader, you need to practice what you preach and live the lifestyle that you promote within your business.

I was talking with Dr. Roger Sahoury, author of Gladiator’s Guide to Corporate Health & Wealth, and he said, “It’s amazing to learn that 55% of workers identified a workplace wellness program as an instrument in improving their overall well-being. In fact it equates to $250 million in savings in lowered health costs and a 50% reduction in high blood pressure among employees.”

I found those numbers astonishing, but amazing at the same time because it proves that a corporate wellness program and culture can have not only a positive impact on the employee’s health but also on the bottom line of the company through tremendous cost savings.

As I spoke with Dr. Sahoury he shared a phrase that I thought was important for businesses to remember. “When a team understands how much a company cares about each individual person, the people will work harder, be more dedicated and can more easily operate as one unit. If the overall wellness of an organization is evaluated and treated holistically, a company can minimize mechanical and structural problems while maximizing culture and profitability.”

Secondly, focus on a combined individualized, customized program that is augmented by a team program. This provides a network of support for the individuals and also can add a competitive component that drives people to do more, be more and experience more.

In business that skill is critical as it can become part of a training to “think outside the box.” I view health and wellness as the new frontier and fuel for the successful businesses of tomorrow. It takes a healthy lifestyle and mindset to succeed in business.

Third, ensure there is an environment of health. It sounds easy, but if you have a vending machine in your break room, fill it with healthy snacks. When you order in a corporate lunch for an educational program, order healthy options and not pizza. Health must be embraced throughout every aspect of your business, no matter how small or large.

The fourth key is exercise and movement moments. Incorporate a variety of exercise and movement moments throughout the day for your team. This could be a power production walk that is your meeting time to discuss projects. Or it could be a scheduled motivational moment where everyone gets up and jumps rope for 10 minutes. Incorporate anything that gets your team moving; including yourself.

Lastly, what do you stand for? Know what you are willing to sacrifice and not when it comes to health and your business. I know that when I’m completely on my game, my performance, overall output and general sense of wellbeing are impacted. When I meet with inventors and entrepreneurs, I can tell almost immediately if they are of sound mind and body.

Not that I judge a great idea based upon that, but it makes a difference when you invest in an individual because they have to be committed to the health of their business and their body. I understand that many are under a lot of pressure and stress, but when you are healthy (both mentally and physically) you can certainly weather any storm more easily.

The Top 7 “Less-Known” Benefits Of Ballet by Ivy Chen, DanceLova Dance Academy
When you think of ballet, you probably picture in your mind a thin, graceful and beautiful ballerina freely prancing on a dance floor leaving every person that sees her in complete awe. Accurate?

Well, if that’s what you pictured, you’re exactly right. But what’s their secret? Aside from the grace, elegance and beauty of this dance form, ballet is really a total body workout, plus a mental cleanse all wrapped into one.

Here we will explore 7 “less-known” benefits that are worth thinking about the next time you walk by a dance studio window.

1. Long and Lean Muscles.

It tones and sculpts your body. Ballet classes… are designed to teach movements that will naturally develop long and lean muscles, not thick ones.

2. Better Posture.

Because it requires the use of good posture and alignment, you will naturally improve awareness of the way you stand, walk, sit and carry out your daily activities.

3. Poise and Confidence.

Ballet classes help improve your poise, confidence, but with a touch of grace. You will repeatedly be taught to do a series of simple exercises called barre exercises. These exercises have been found to be so beneficial that many Hollywood celebrities including pop singer Madonna are obsessed with barre workouts alone!

4. Flatter Tummy.

It makes your waistline become more defined. Ballet class students’ back and ab muscles are strengthened over time, resulting in less back pains and a flatter abdomen — yes, a flatter tummy!

5. Flexibility.

Taking ballet lessons makes your body a lot more flexible. Chances are, the movements you will practice in your next ballet class give you an amazing and effective body flexibility workout because it uses muscles that aren’t often used in other sport activities.

6. Mental and Emotional Health.

Your body isn’t the only part of you that benefits from ballet. Because every ballet student will interpret each dance movement in their unique way, the release of this personal creative expression can be highly-therapeutic, promoting mental and emotional health.

7. Dissolve Stress.

Ballet can melt your daily stresses away. The exercises in ballet class will require you to shift your focus to the proper movement of your hands, placement of your legs and feet, as well as the coordination of your body with music. Ballet students report they actually feel completely removed from the world as they know it.

boundlessBARRE Speak


Grande Plie
Ronde de Jambe
Grande Ronde de Jambe
Battement Fondu
Port de Bras
Grand Battement


Plie Squat
Glide Touch
Glide Up
Circle Touch
Circle Lift
Leg Unfold
Diamond Leg Unfold
Half Plie
Flex Point
Arm lift, circle, wave
Power Kick
Plie Pop