A Flowering of Dance From a Chelsea Birth

The Joyce was built on the site of the former Elgin Theatre, notorious for its midnight movies and the unsavory activities that took place in the balcony. With an award-winning renovation designed by New York architect Hugh Hardy, one of the few theaters in the world devoted exclusively to the art of dance was born.

The Joyce was initially conceived to accommodate the large number of New York City-based dance companies in need of a suitable venue for their home seasons, but the programming quickly grew to include prominent national and international companies. The theater is now open 48 weeks each season, presenting a diverse array of prominent local, national, and international dance. Highlights this year included the Joyce debut of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in her tour de force solo, “Once.” We’re looking forward to the multi-media performances of Finland’s Tero Saarinen Company later in March, and the extraordinary traditional African music and dance that will be performed by the Children of Uganda as they raise money and awareness of the devastation being caused by AIDS.

In 1996, The Joyce purchased the former DIA Center for the Arts on Mercer Street, to create Joyce SoHo. Within this three-story building, the Joyce provides low-cost rehearsal space in its three studios, which are open 12 hours per day, seven days each week, and small-scale performances take place from September through June in the 74-seat theater. This fall, among the many companies that performed at Joyce SoHo, we were proud to welcome Seattle’s Locust Dance Theatre, and the San Francisco based Levydance. Later this month, contemporary French choreographer Martine Pisani will make her United States debut with her quirky trio, “Sans” as part of the national French-U.S. Exchange in Dance Project.

Joyce SoHo also houses five artists-in-residence each year. Artists are given the studio space and some of the resources needed to create new dance pieces. Participating in the program this year, Monica Bill Barnes created “Hollywood Endings,” which received rave reviews when it was performed last December at Dixon Place. Reggie Wilson recently concluded his engagement at Dance Theater Workshop where his Fist & Heel Performance Group performed the dance/vocal piece that he created during his Joyce SoHo residency. Currently, Christopher Williams is busily at work on his “Portuguese Suite,” which will have its premiere at the Danspace Project in May.

Joyce SoHo also houses “Dance Talks,” a series of free educational lectures for audience members conducted by experts in the field. Trace Magazine’s editor-at-large Stephen Greco led a panel discussion about the work of Dutch dance artist Emio Greco|PC. Coming up, New York City Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Millepied will discuss the challenges he faces being a dancer in one of the world’s most renowned ballet companies, and simultaneously choreographing work for the Geneva Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, and for his own group which will perform at The Joyce later in March.

With a leadership contribution from Joyce trustee Stephen D. Weinroth, the Joyce established a commissioning fund in 2000, which it uses to provide substantial grants to dance companies to support the creation of works which will be performed at The Joyce Theater or Joyce SoHo. To date, the Fund has provided grants to 16 companies, including Doug Varone and Dancers for the creation of “Ballet Méchanique” and Lawrence Goldhuber, for his solo work “The Life & Time of Barry Goldhubris.”

Stephen Petronio received a grant to help fund the creation of his work “Strange Attractors,” and Jane Comfort received support for her recent production of “Persephone.” Ballet Preljocaj will be receiving a grant to help pay for its newest work, “Empty Moves (Part 1),” which will have its premiere at The Joyce next November, and Karole Armitage will be creating a new work set to the music of Ligeti.

In 2004, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council invited The Joyce to partner with it to co-produce “Evening Stars,” a dance festival that takes place in Battery Park each September as part of the River to River Festival. Through this festival, The Joyce has been able to present free performances by dancers from the New York City Ballet, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and Savion Glover, among others. Announcements of the line-up for the September 2006 Evening Stars festival will come out in May.

The biggest news on the horizon for The Joyce came in 2004, when we learned that we were selected to be part of the new performing arts center at the World Trade Center. With programming at the Chelsea theater at maximum capacity, and many more dance companies being turned away, The Joyce had long-desired to build another theater for dance in Manhattan. Although it is a complicated process, planning is going forward for the new performing arts center, which is being designed by Frank Gehry. The Joyce will operate a new 1,000-seat theater, where it will present some of the world’s best dance companies, many of which are never or rarely seen in New York.

In preparation for this major under taking, The Joyce is in the process of building its board, and increasing its endowment. Since being selected for the site, we’ve added four new board members. As a result of the recent campaign, The Joyce’s endowment has increased to more than $12 million. Interest income from the endowment is used to support our programming.

We are now in the process of putting the finishing touches on the programming for the 2006-07 season. We look forward to welcoming back some of our favorite companies, like Ballet Hispanico and Armitage Gone! Dance; and introducing our audience to some artists that they haven’t seen before, such as Belgian dance/theater artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, with his production of “Foi,” and Metros Dance Company from Spain with its production of “Carmen.”

Looking further ahead, the 2007-08 season will be The Joyce’s 25th anniversary, and we will be planning some very special events to celebrate.

Linda Shelton is the executive director of The Joyce Theater, and Martin Wechsler is the director of programming.

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