TCQ&A: “Harvey Keitel Always Smiles Back”

Born in Texas, Loretta Thomas moved to New York City in 1977 to study with Merce Cunningham—and to Tribeca four years later. So the neighborhood has changed a bit, huh? “There’s no comparison!” she says. “We didn’t even have Morgan’s back then!” Having taught adults since she started dancing professionally—she still performs, by the way—Thomas began teaching kids when her daughter was four. “Friends asked me to do it, so I was teaching in my loft,” she recalls, “but so many people signed up that I had to look for extra space.” Her studio, Moving Visions, has been at 19 Murray for 12 years now. There are classes for adults and kids: Mommy and Me; Pre-Ballet; Modern Ballet, Choreography; Stretch, Tone, and Boogie; and more. “I’ve always just enjoyed teaching,” she says. “It’s exciting to see you can have an impact.” The teachers use ballet and modern-dance techniques as the foundation for a style that’s creative and not overwhelmingly restrictive—because, as Thomas quotes Isadora Duncan on her website, “The highest intelligence is the freest body.”

How long have you lived in the area?
I moved to Tribeca in 1981.

Which restaurants do you frequent most often?
My husband and I love Japanese food so we go to Takahachi (right) and of course Zutto, where I’ve been going since 1980! We also love the Little Place for Mexican, Kitchenette, Edward’s, Max, Gigino and the Odeon where we’ve been going since it opened—even before moving down here.

Which restaurants do you tend to go to for special occasions?
We have a tradition of going to the Odeon after my school’s annual recital. We really love Japanese any time so we go back and forth between Zutto and Takahachi. We used to love Chanterelle to take my mother and have been to all the Bouley restaurants since the first location on Duane Park.

Where do you order in (or get take-out) from? Are there dishes you always order?
We try to eat our own food at home but we do order from Takahachi: My daughter loves the soba salad and spicy tuna, my husband gets the sushi special, and I love the salads and sushi. We order from Kitchenette for the turkey meat loaf, which is very generously served. My husband loves the shrimp pasta from Gigino and we also get pasta from Max.

Which shops do you find it hard to resist popping into when you pass by?
I’m not a big shopper. Many of my favorite shops, like Seam and a couple of gift shops, have closed in the years since 9/11. I go to Century 21 to search out bargains and essentials. With my daughter, who is a world class shopper, I visit American Apparel, Calypso, and Steven Alan. I shop at Koh’s Kids for gifts.

What was the last non-essential item you bought in Tribeca?
Probably an expensive cookie! Or maybe the chocolate-covered almonds from Bell Bates or their their yummy roasted almonds.

Are there any services (salon, fitness, etc.) that you’re particularly glad are in the neighborhood?
The Stuyvesant pool and Equinox‘s physical therapy service, which was wonderful for an injury I had (and it’s across the street from my home). Equinox gym for my daughter’s and husband’s sanity.

What’s the area’s best-kept secret?
It may not be such a secret, but I love walking along the river to see a sunset with the Statue of Liberty in view. Washington Market Park (right) for a place to sit outside for lunch with a friend. Poets House is a nice escape. Gigino at the end of Battery Park, where the view is wonderful.

Where do you always take out-of-towners?
People usually want to see how Ground Zero is progressing. We walk along the river and around the neighborhood. We go to Zutto, Takahachi, the Odeon and sometimes the Bubble Lounge for a festive experience.

Which neighborhood building do you wish you lived in and/or owned?
I would love to live on Duane Park—there are several buildings I’d be happy to inhabit.

What’s your favorite part of the area (street, park, whatever)?
The Hudson River Park and Washington Market Park. My home and my studio.

Your most memorable celebrity sighting?
I always love seeing Harvey Keitel. He’s such a character and he smiles back.

If you could change one thing about the neighborhood, what would it be?
That below Chambers where I live, would go back to the peaceful, quiet way it was before 9/11.

What’s changed around here that you like? That you don’t?
I’m happy there’s a bookstore close by. It’s nice to have so many great restaurants. The beauty of the parks and even the gardens and pathways along West Street are wonderful. The Tribeca Greenmarket is a great asset. I’m not happy about the fact that Whole Foods has put so many small vendors either out of business—very sadly, Bazzini’s—and threatened others such as Bell Bates. Bell Bates (left) has much better organic vegetables, wonderful herbs and spices, and the very best nuts and dried fruit anywhere. It seems that many people flock to the next new thing, whatever that might be, forgetting about the wonderful choices that we already have, which can cause the loss of the places, teachers, and services that are what made Tribeca great in the first place. Since 9/11, Murray Street, where I also live, has become a major thoroughfare for auto and foot traffic with way too many bars. Our quality of life has dramatically changed for the worse. My neighbors and I have suddenly become community activists, and we’ve mostly been unable to keep this all at bay.

What’s your best Tribeca story?
I’ve been very lucky to meet and know so many families in Tribeca through my school. I’ve been able to guide so many children toward conquering fears of performing or overcoming doubts about being able to create a dance in choreography class. Every year, during preparations for and during our recital, something funny or exciting has happened: a child stopping mid-dance during the performance to wave at a parent they’ve just spotted in the audience; a child coming off stage with a yelp of happiness over how well a dance has been performed or that it ended on the exactly right note in the music; seeing a child perform the first dance she has ever created on her own after thinking for weeks that she wasn’t going to be able to accomplish the task; getting to sit back and watch my longtime students enjoy performing and remembering a dance without my help; passing on the knowledge of generations of teachers to yet another generation. I’ve been honored to be a part of the development of these children and they have honored me with their love and respect. I now even have a new fish named after me and there has also been a cat named Loretta in the past!

Any questions you wish you’d been asked?
Perhaps about what it has been like to raise my daughter, who is now almost 18, in Tribeca. I feel lucky to have had such a great public school, P.S. 234, for her to attend. It gave her such a sense of community, and our family still has many great friends from there. We have terrific classes for the children at schools like Church Street School for Music and Art, where my daughter met her best friend to this day, Children’s Tumbling with Suellen Epstein, and of course my school. All of these schools share a common philosophy, which allows the children not only to learn technical skills but also to explore their creativity while remaining innocent. These children, lucky enough to grow up in a real neighborhood with great public schools and extracurricular activities, have grown into wonderful people with a true sense of self.

Recent TCQ&As:
Carla Sullivan: “The Babysiting at Equinox Has Been a Lifesaver!”
Jackie Spiegel: “My Dog Likes to Watch the Birds at Petland”
Bill Sullivan: “We Could Use a Bookstore like Dashwood”
Annika K. Martin: “I’m Intrigued by 135 Hudson”
Glenn Plaskin: “It’s Like Living on a Houseboat”



  1. Thanks for the wonderful Q & A with Loretta Thomas! She is such an incredible dance teacher! My 9 year old daughter has been dancing with Loretta for 7 years and wouldn’t think of dancing with any other instructor. She really helps to create such a love of dance. Her studio is a real Tribeca institution.

  2. hey cuz,

    what a wonderful article. i remember coming thru and staying on murray street july 4, 1984. going to the top of the towers. great memories. i believe that you taught me a dance or 2 while i was there.
    love, nancy

  3. Love these interviews from neighbors. I moved into Tribeca in 1976 and I believe Morgans was here was the only place in the neighborhood to buy grocery items..they also had a great butcher counter!