Gibney Dance Center Launch Party tonight
Gibney Dance Center is hosting an Open House/Launch Party for the Center’s integrated complex of 7 studios located in the historic 890 Broadway Building on the 5th Floor tonight (Thu, 9/22). Doors open at 6pm, followed by a champagne toast and special remarks at 6:30 by Gina Gibney, Artistic Director of Gibney Dance and Lane Harwell, Executive Director of Dance/NYC. At 7pm there will be Pop-up performances and a dance party with music by DJ Plasticdragon.
In addition to providing high-quality, affordable space for rehearsals, classes, and showings, the expanded facility will allow the Center to build on its existing roster of community-focused programs and act as a creative hub for dance artists. Since 1991, Gina Gibney has operated a single studio at 890 Broadway. In 2010, she officially launched the Center when she acquired two additional spacious studios. Since then, GDC has added 8,400 square feet of pillar-free space to its home. This new expansion, which had a soft launch in July of this year, includes four additional studios, all of which are available for rehearsals, showings, classes, and other events. The expanded facility also provides a green room, dressing rooms, storage rooms, production offices, a media room, and new office space.
I was able to speak with Gina briefly in the midst of many last minute preparations.
It’s heartening to hear about a dance space growing right now. Right, we’ve been back there in 5-2 for a long time and have felt very fortunate when so many studios went out of business. I never anticipated this, but when the space started to become available, after having seen other organizations struggle to find space, it seemed, not only because of the physical attributes but also because of the building’s history, that it would have been horrible to not do anything. In this field at this time, people are used to the opposite kind of news – that artists and organizations are leaving the center of Manhattan or changing so much. It’s not that change is bad, but there hasn’t been a lot people can feel secure about. With 5-2 as a constant for so many years, it was nice to grow with so many of the people who having been coming through for classes. So, I feel a great responsibility to make it a great place to be. I want to send the right messages that this will be the kind of place with respect for everyone who works here. I want to make sure people can have everything we can give without charging them extra. So that it’s not “you are renting but you have to pay extra because it’s not your space.” We have these resources and we want to make them available to everyone.
What kind of resources? Well, being a choreographer has shaped the space in a way. I’ve done work in ideal situations and challenging situations, so I know what people really need and what they don’t. The main thing is to treat people with respect. I want to have a friendly environment without a capital “F.” It should be supportive and respectful, a space where you feel welcome, but when you leave you close the door. People kept saying we should have couches, but I don’t want couches. You come here to work in a rigorous environment and not just to hang out. There is a green room with tables and chairs. Meetings can be here, but I want it to be a place where you enjoy working and connect with others around their work. I don’t want it to feel like there’s a point of view either. Anybody could be rehearsing right next door and you don’t make work like each other and you may like it or not, but can still work together and learn from one another. We could have the most emerging artist across from a well-funded musical. It could be a real learning experience. Also, we thought about how much equipment do you need to feel supported without feeling that the equipment will take over – choreographers need reliable sound systems, a dvd player without paying extra, water in the studios, maybe a little candy around. Little things. We’ll have print outs with the dimensions of many of the performing venues around town (that comes directly from Fractured Atlas) with tape and tape measure around, so you can work inside the actual playing space. People comment about our candy dish. It’s a kind of example of how people want to feel supported without feeling like they have to answer to something. I want people to feel like someone is giving them a lot of space. Artists are able to see out, there is lots of light, with windows open to outside, but doors that shut. So you can work with the door open to the hallway or you can privacy without feeling isolated, because you can see outside – maybe even looking down on Union Square. We’re also working hard to figure out storage. We have these high ceilings and we’re trying to figure out the logistics of how to let people, during certain chunks of time, have somewhere to leave some props or sets while working.
It is such a huge undertaking for an organization, let alone a single choreographer dance company, to undertake. How did you make this happen? First of all, Eliot Feld is amazing. It is great to have an artist for a landlord. He is such a visionary human being. I had a great relationship with him, being here for 20 years. I felt like a little fish in the back, but he was willing to take a risk on us and he liked what we did in our first range of expansions. If he didn’t have faith, it wouldn’t have been an idea. He’s just a creative enough entrepreneur/risktaker/visionary that though it wasn’t the most logical choice or safe bet, he was willing. And, secondly, I had the support of my board, it was not rational. It was a huge undertaking, doubled the size of our budget. But when they saw, when they looked around at the space they understood, and they were able to take the leap with me. It seemed like it would work. Our staff has been incredible, Stephanie Mas and Michelle Wilson, who started as a part-timer and now is a full time operations manager, have been great. The Chris Pennington at the Jerome Robbins Foundation was very supportive and they provided the first contribution for this project. Mertz-Gilmore provided funding. It was a huge leap of faith, but people saw the need and responded.
You’ve done a lot of community-based work. Do you see this as an obvious outgrowth of that? So much of the work that my company has done in the community has been so remote, the work in domestic violence shelters. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but so decentralized. It feels as if, for the last 10 years, I’ve been throwing little ping pong balls out into space and now I feel like they are falling down on my head here now, in a good way. Throughout the years, I’ve done a lot of work on the boards of other organizations and learned a lot. It is a conscious redefinition of community for me. The classes at 5-2 were wonderful but they took up a lot time and the amount of time I had to use that space for my own work was limited. Because of that we developed creative programming around the limitations of time. We had more ways to serve once we started getting more space. It is as if our roots where in a pot and now that we’re in a bigger pot, we’re flourishing. Our community work (in addition to the dance community) with domestic violence will be able to grow and take on different aspects within this space.
You provided the DanceNow Challenge winner with free rehearsal space. Are there other strategic partnerships in the works? We are doing a couple great partnerships, working with Movement Research and class, class,class. I love Brooklyn and Queens, but it’s nice to have a central Manhattan location. We’re partnering with DNA for some specialty classes, starting with a floor barre in October. We’re only doing classes in 5-2 so that the other spaces will be available for rehearsal. Red Currant Collective are a group of NYU grads who are working as care-takers in exchange for use of our space. They come in and mop floors, re-fill the water, etc. We have an advisory group that allows us to figure out how things are facilitated, etc. Jennifer Edwards and Sydney Skybetter are doing strategic planning consultancy work here. There is a lot going on and we’re looking for there to be more. I just wanted to revitalize the place and I want people to feel that it is open to everyone. There is not one aesthetic, age or sensibility at work here.