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Thread: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

  1. #1

    Default Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

    October 9, 2002
    NYC Breaks Ground for Ailey Theater

    NEW YORK (AP) -- With a burst of music in a vacant Manhattan lot, dancers and city officials held groundbreaking ceremonies for what will be the footprint of the new Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

    Young dancers from the school joined the adult members of the theater Wednesday in three short performances to celebrate the building of the company's new space at 55th Street and Ninth Avenue.

    ``See what blessings we have from one man, from Alvin Ailey, who planted the seed? Look what the tree grew into,'' said Artistic Director Judith Jamison, from a temporary stage assembled under a tent in the vacant lot. ``We finally have a home.''

    The company, which has become one of the nation's most important cultural institutions, was founded in 1958 by Ailey, a Texas-born dancer who promoted black culture through modern American dance, using choreography that fused modern, jazz and classical styles.

    He was 58 when he died in 1989.

    ``He would just be so proud to be here today,'' said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was a contributor to the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation before he was elected. ``Everything that he stood for is being carried on, is being built on, is being expanded.''

    The 77,000-square-foot, $54 million building is expected to be completed in 2004, doubling the space of the company's cramped quarters on West 61st Street.

    The new six-story building, with a two-story basement, will feature 12 dance studios, a 295-seat theater, dressing rooms, warm-up areas, an archive and library area, a costume shop and physical therapy facilities.

    The building's transparent design, by architects Carolyn Iu and Natan Bibliowicz, will enable passers-by to see into many of the studios and share in the dance experience.

    Bloomberg dipped a shiny shovel into a pot of dirt at the ceremony, which began with a troupe of dancers that paraded the seven blocks from the company's current home near Lincoln Center.

    The building will be named the Joan Weill Center for Dance, in honor of Joan and Sandy Weill, who donated $15 million to the project.

    Less than 10 years ago, the ailing company faced steep debt. But recent help from charitable organizations and a change in programming have led to renewed interest in the company and sold-out shows.

    The city contributed $9.5 million to the project, according to Beth Olsen, a spokeswoman for the dance company.

    A typical season for the 31 dancers at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater includes an international tour, a U.S. tour and a five-week home season. The Ailey School offers more than 200 classes each week.


    On the Net:

  2. #2

    Default Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

    The theater that used to be on the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 55th Street. The building was demolished in October. The 77,000-square-foot, $54 million Joan Weill Center for Dance for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater *is expected to be completed in 2004.

  3. #3

    Default Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

    77,000-SF Alvin Ailey Bldg Under Way

    By Glen Thompson

    NEW YORK CITY-The long-planned groundbreaking for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's new 77,000-sf home took place yesterday. The acclaimed performing company's new home will be located on the northwest corner of Ninth Avenue and West 55th Street.

    The new facility is an eight-story (six above ground, two below), 77,000 square foot building designed by Natan Bibliowicz and Carolyn Iu, of Iu & Bibliowicz Architects LLP, which doubles the size of the Ailey organization?s current home.

    Among the features will be 12 dance studios, a 5,000-sf black-box theater with flexible seating for 295, an adjacent green room and concession stand/boutique, dressing rooms and warm-up areas, archive and library facilities; costume shop, physical therapy facilities, lounges, and administrative offices. The building is scheduled for completion in fall 2004.

    The relocation and expansion of the Ailey home was made possible largely through the pro bono work of Cushman & Wakefield. The firm spent two-and-a-half years finding and assembling the site for the new building, said Arthur J. Mirante II, president and CEO of C&W, and a vice chairman of the dance company?s Board of Trustees. ?There are few greater pleasures in life than to be able to use one?s professional abilities at the service of one of the world?s premier artistic organizations,? said Mirante. ?The brilliant Ailey legacy that created one of the leading lights of New York City?s unmatched arts community will continue to grow in this beautiful new setting.?

  4. #4

    Default Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

    Construction continues on the Joan Weill Center for Dance for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on the northwest corner of Ninth Avenue and West 55th Street; AOL Time Warner Center is getting a crown. 18 April 2003.

  5. #5

  6. #6

    Default Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

    A beauty

  7. #7


    The lights of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, with Nicole in front. 11 June 2004.

  8. #8

    November 8, 2004
    Ailey's Creative New Digs With Room for Comfort

    In a well-known segment of Alvin Ailey's signature dance, "Revelations," performed to the spiritual "Wade in the Water," dancers wave swaths of billowy blue fabric to simulate a river.

    The architect Natan Bibliowicz pays tribute to that landmark dance piece in the marquee for the new building of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on 55th Street at Ninth Avenue, which he and his partner, Carolyn Iu, designed. "It undulates," Mr. Bibliowicz said. "It's like taking a frozen moment in time and turning it into architecture."

    To passersby, 405 West 55th Street may well seem just another sleek new building in New York. But to the dancers who will be moving into it on Friday, it represents something far more significant: the Ailey's first permanent home and what the company is billing as the largest building in the United States devoted exclusively to dance.

    Since its inception in 1958, the Ailey company has moved seven times and has often been forced to find additional space to accommodate the spillover from its main dance company, junior dance company and school. Now the Ailey can spread out and stay put in 77,000 square feet of space, which includes 8 floors and 12 studios.

    "It's rather monumental," said Judith Jamison, the Ailey's artistic director. "The idea of having 8 floors and 12 studios is unbelievable to me. We're not a bunch of vagabonds begging for space wherever we can get it, which we have been for 46 years."

    In this sense the new Ailey headquarters on Ninth Avenue, called the Joan Weill Center for Dance, is just what Ailey officials say they wanted and what the architects say they intended: a building that, without drawing attention to itself, will be animated by the people working - and sometimes visible - within its glass and aluminum walls.

    "The most important thing is, this building is about Ailey," Mr. Bibliowicz said. "It isn't about an architectural signature.

    "When the building gets populated, you will really understand the whole legacy of Ailey bringing dance into the community. That's what this building will demonstrate."

    Masazumi Chaya, the Ailey's associate artistic director, said the new building would allow choreographers to expand their ideas. "They can experiment with big movement," said Mr. Chaya, who danced with the company for 15 years.

    He said the building would also give dancers more room to practice on their own time, rather than having to do it in the hallway. Typically, the company starts the day with a dance class and then rehearses for six hours, from 12 to 7 p.m., with an hour break for lunch. "Now dancers will be able to say, 'Can I use the space at lunch?,' " Mr. Chaya said. "Every inch of the place was designed for dancers."

    Denise Jefferson, the director of the Ailey school, said she urged Mr. Bibliowicz to come visit on a Saturday - which he did - to get a real feel for the needs of the school program. "We've got 550 students coming through with one or more parents and siblings," she said. "You can imagine what the traffic jam is like."

    "He saw it, and he got it," she added.

    The school also needed a real performance space. "We haven't had lights, curtains, proper seating," Ms. Jefferson said. "Our audiences have been patient with us." The additional studio space will also allow the Ailey to expand its classes that are open to the public, offering ballroom and salsa dancing, for example, what the company is calling the Ailey Extension Program.

    The studios have customized sprung floors to allow for soft landings; floor-to-ceiling windows for abundant natural light; good acoustics so that teachers don't have to shout to be heard above piano or drums.

    The physical therapy room is equipped with a whirlpool, barre, Pilates exercise equipment and a treadmill. There are vinyl floors for stretching and carpeted areas with couches for resting. The staircases are made of a soft concrete, so dancers can walk barefoot from one level to another.

    In a media center,dancers can watch videos of dances to learn steps. Every room has a separate temperature control, so dancers can have a say in their working conditions.

    The architects - whose earlier work includes the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, the Jewish Community Center on Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street and a renovation of the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue - talked extensively with Ailey dancers and staff members about what they wanted in a building.

    "They worked with us for years, and they listened and listened to what dancers need," said Sharon Gersten Luckman, the Ailey's executive director.

    The primary consideration was gaining space. At its current home, 211 West 61st Street, the Ailey has been operating on one and a half floors since 1989; it added the other half of the second floor in 2000. "What I wanted most of all was studio space," Ms. Jamison said.

    But there were other space demands as well. The Ailey's archival material has been stored in a closet. Now it will be kept in a library with study carrels. Costume fittings used to happen in a conference room. Now the company will have a costume shop with sewing machines, cutting tables, a changing area, a washer and a dryer.

    "The capacity to put things in places where they should be," Ms. Jamison said. "I have to pinch myself when I realize we can do it here."

    The proportions of the studios were the most important aspect of the design, the architects said; the dimensions range from 46 to 64 feet long, 32 to 48 feet wide and 14 to 18 feet high.

    There are three studios on the ground floor, two a flight up and three a flight below street level. One underground studio has a finished wood floor so it can be used for tap and salsa dancing. The other two, when joined, create a black-box theater with 295 retractable bleacher seats for student presentations and small company performances.

    The fifth and sixth floors have the studios for the main company and the junior company, Ailey II. Car drivers and pedestrians on Ninth Avenue or across 55th Street will be able to observe activities going on in these spaces through the big windows, unless shades are drawn for privacy.

    The Ailey's administrative offices are on the third and fourth floors.

    The architects also included what they call "discoveries" within the building. Some floors have glass panels that allow a view of what is happening in the studio below. The rooftop has a deck on the west side, which can be used for entertaining, and an interior courtyard on the north side.

    The red brick enclosing the building's core spaces is a gesture to the Clinton neighborhood, with its numerous brick buildings. Although the building feels cool and modern, Ms. Luckman, the Ailey executive, said the posters and other artwork the company will install will make it feel homier. Ms. Jamison is having her office furniture designed in African tones. Ms. Luckman said, "We want it to feel home and welcoming and warm."

    The building also honors the company's history, with large pictures of Ailey dancers decorating the exterior, and a lobby featuring a two-story photograph of Ailey and Ms. Jamison on one wall and head shots of the dancers on another. The fifth floor presents a large mural of Ms. Jamison dancing, a mosaic of Italian glass tile.

    Mr. Bibliowicz calls the lobby "the public square," where dancers, students and parents can mingle. Ailey merchandise will be sold in the boutique, and tickets will be sold for open classes and performances in the black-box theater.

    Mr. Bibliowicz has been involved with the project since 1997, when he offered his services pro bono to help the company assess its space requirements. "I think I know everybody at Ailey," he said. "It's been my home for the last seven years."

    The total financing campaign was $79 million, including $25 million for the endowment. Ms. Luckman said the company still has $7 million to go. The city contributed $11 million. The building is named for the Ailey's chairwoman, Joan H. Weill, who donated $18.4 million toward the project and is the architect's mother-in-law. "It's modern, it's young, it's beautiful," Ms. Weill said of the building.

    The Ailey considered staying at its current location, but the landlord was not willing to make a deal. So the company considered three other sites: 10th Avenue and 55th Street, where it would have been part of a Related Properties apartment building; the Gaseteria at 59th Street and 12th Avenue, where there were potential environmental problems; and the former WNET building on West 55th, the ultimate choice.

    The site has many things going for it. The company wanted to stay near its fine-arts program at the Lincoln Center branch of Fordham University. It performs at City Center, which is on 55th Street off Seventh Avenue. And there was meaning to the location. "Revelations" was televised for the first time on WNET, in 1961. Alvin Ailey himself, the company's founder and muse, lived nearby.

    If Ailey himself were looking down at his company's new home, Ms. Jamison said, he would laugh - "from sheer joy and from the impossibility of the art that makes all things possible."

    She added, "I think I can hear him laughing now."

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Catskills


    The location of Alvin Ailey further strengthens this area's cultural heft, and further closes the small gap between the theatres of Times Square and Lincoln Center. In the late 1980's I would walk up Ninth Avenue every day to work (W59th - St. Paul the Apostle). Along the way I had to fend off crack addicts as I tried to spot some familiar homeless folks for conversation and assistance. The transformation -- along both 8th and 9th Avenues -- continues to amaze me. It's not the same neighborhood but it's hard to dispute the trade-offs with its significant gains. My biggest concern is for the preservation of affordable housing within the near West Side. Where do service workers, starving artists and other professions go? The intellectual juice of the vibrant cultural scene comes from the very plurality that is being squeezed out of Manhattan. I see this as one of the critical developmental issues of Mid town.

  10. #10


    I agree.

    It has been said in other threads that Manhattan is expensive, and we should just allow the laws of economics to operate. This thinking ignores the fact that Manhattan has always been expensive, but there has always been housing for people who are not wealthy.

    Manhattan was expensive for people who wanted the same things that they could have elsewhere - big apartment, maybe a yard, a car, etc. However, there were also places for "starving artists," because they could forego the above luxuries (you don't need a car), and still be near the action. Many of the creative people we now associate with New York celebrity came here without much money.

    Coming to New York with nothing more than a dream is becoming more and more difficult. If this island turns into one big luxury bedroom community, it will have lost its soul.

  11. #11
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City


    Coming to New York with nothing more than a dream is becoming more and more difficult. If this island turns into one big luxury bedroom community, it will have lost its soul.
    Let's pray that that day never comes. But how can it be stopped?

  12. #12
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    The soul of New York is in the outer Boroughs. Manhattan, IMO, has become sterile. Big, but sterile. There's no underbelly left.

  13. #13
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City


    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynRider
    The soul of New York is in the outer Boroughs. Manhattan, IMO, has become sterile. Big, but sterile. There's no underbelly left.
    I think it's too early yet for such such a write-off.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Catskills


    It might be too early to write Manhattan off, but Brooklyn holds a key: through its revival Brooklyn has not only rediscovered its own soul but the rest of New York is also discovering its own soulfulness in Brooklyn. The real estate comparisons -- Dumbo is the new SoHo, Williamsburg the new East Village -- go beyond a developer's pitch. The rawness and "edge" that defined New York for its creative artists is rarely found in Manhattan south of 96th Street.

    Because I lived in Hell's Kitchen in the 1980's, I don't want to turn the clock back. Nostaligia is lost memory. Yet as I've said in other threads, I did not fear for my safety then. Plus, my experiences with such a broad cross section of humanity placed a love for New York in my heart that no other place on earth has matched since. It has been a very long road back to New York, and even now it is difficult sometimes to justify the expense when my income would go so much further elsewhere. But New York is far more than Times Square, skycrapers and high-end shopping -- it is a true meeting point for our nation's and the world's greatest strivers, artists, creative thinkers and dreamers.

    Every place on earth has the ingredients for a wonderful life because humans have that ability. And that human ability to create something out of almost nothing has led me and countless others to New York. Development and growth are essential to the future of this city. But so its soul and its humanity.

  15. #15


    Ailey Company to Offer Dance and Fitness Classes

    By Emily Quinn
    February 7, 2005

    Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will offer a series of dance and fitness classes to the public starting in March 2005, the company announced.The classes, called the Ailey Extension, will take place at the company�s new home, the Joan Weill Center for Dance, at West 55th St and 9th Avenue.

    Classes will be offered at different levels in different dance forms, including ballroom, hip hop, West African, Cuban salsa, Argentine tango, Afro-Caribbean, capoeira, and ballet, in addition to other movement techniques such as pilates, yoga, and Horton fundamentals. Expert teachers in each discipline, as well as former AAADT company members, will lead the classes.

    Prices range from $14 to $17. For more information, go to

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