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Aftermath: six months after 9-11.

SIX MONTHS AFTER THE WORLD TRADE Center's collapse, New York's dance world still feels the shaking. While no dance-related organization was unaffected, smaller companies and solo artists were quicker to feel the short-term impact. The September 11 terrorist attack closed some downtown dance venues and performances and created more demands for funding. Economically fragile companies, some already suffering from international economic recession and cuts in all levels of government arts funding, are barely getting by. Dancers are joining forces to lobby for aid, reestablish community, and tap into the healing power of their art.

Immediately after the attack lower Manhattan was closed off, but once rescue efforts diminished and the structural integrity of surrounding buildings was insured, access to all but streets immediately adjoining Ground Zero was gradually restored. Today tourists rush to a platform to view the desolation and continued search and cleanup operations. Subway trains have been rerouted and telephone service has returned slowly and sporadically--it may well be years, if ever, before the acres of networks below the former World Trade Center are reestablished.

Dance Space Center, a hub for classes and performances located at 451 Broadway just above TriBeCa [Triangle Below Canal Street and west of Centre Street], was closed for four days following September 11. The center reported an immediate short-fall of $10,000 in anticipated income. After reopening, class attendance remained 30 percent below normal throughout September but has gradually grown toward normal according to Managing Director Sheramy Keegan-Turcotte. The center refunded $23,000 to foreign students who returned home or canceled their planned stays. "Even as late as January, we expected thirteen visa students and only three were able to come," Keegan-Turcotte said.

The Flea, a tiny presenter of experimental plays and dance three blocks south of Canal Street, got back into the swing of things with a fund-raiser in January at the New Victory Theatre. Further, they are presenting a new drama about a NYC fire department captain starring Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver--who will perform eight weeks at $100 a week, reported Artistic Director Jim Simpson, to help the theater get jumping.

BATTERY DANCE COMPANY, LOCATED JUST nine blocks from Ground Zero, canceled its annual fall fund-raising gala, which usually raises about $60,000 toward its $417,000 budget, according to former Managing Director Ron Knoth. "We substituted a year-end appeal letter instead. Despite a generous response, we only raised half of what the gala would have brought in." Project Coordinator Sven Van Damme said, "We are still in the process of trying to find ways to get relief money from various foundations. Ron Knoth is gone, and we are in a very serious battle to keep our space. We can still rent studios and they are booked."

Chen and Dancers, another downtown company with a school in Chinatown, canceled twenty-eight bookings at its Mulberry Street Theater after public-school field trips to Lower Manhattan were banned for security reasons through the month of November. Associate Director Dian Dong said that the cancellations meant a shortfall of $25,000, roughly a quarter of the company's usual fall-quarter income. Funds come mainly from tuition and admissions.

In response, "we just started giving free shows." explained Dong. "Shows for Catholic schools, private schools, day-care centers, rescue workers. We felt we needed to give something to the community and to at least provide work for our dancers. Dancers are paid from grant money from the school program." Schools asked the company to go to them since they couldn't come to Chinatown, but the schools prefer to come there for the immersion experience. Now they are coming back: Grace Church School came, and the Little Red School in February. "There is a board benefit reception in spring to raise money," said Dong, and the company added more shows to their performances in Jacksonville, Florida, so no dancers have been let go and only one and a half staff positions were cut.

H.T. Chen, founder of the company and school, reflected, "We are lucky parents and dancers are safe. [One] very nice thing--we are closer with parents and students; for example, we made more than 200 phone calls to parents to cancel class. Now we are closer, [and we] have higher energy and [more] dynamic relations with parents. We get more support from [our] board. Nothing can stop [the company]. We are over twenty years old. Through this emergency we are getting strong.

"The images in. the media are of a beautiful and painful memory; they are real people. The dance company is moving on with the whole nation," said Chen. "Since September 11 we know in the future how to prepare for an emergency. For example, the organization is going to save up an endowment cash-reserve fund. In the long term, [it is] positive to think in the future."

Amy Chin, executive director of the New York Chinese Cultural Center, which runs a dance school and houses the Chinese Folk Dance Company, said it's hard to ask local businesses for help when they're hurting too. For September and October, Chin estimated lost income of $25,000 from canceled enrollment, dance-space rentals, and performances. But, observed Chin, everyone is discovering capabilities and learning to do things they never thought possible. "I found that I could outrun a fireball," she said. "I didn't know I could do that."

Three companies, Battery Dance Company, Chen and Dancers, and the New York Chinese Cultural Center, have formed Downtown Dance Partners to lobby so they wouldn't fall below the funding radar. "[We] discovered from this whole episode that we have a lot in common," explained Battery Dance Artistic and Executive Director Jonathan Hollander. "Our audiences don't overlap, but we are all down here, and through our different audiences our actual outreach is tremendous. The guiding mission of all companies is similar. The catastrophe made us look around and recognize that we didn't know enough about each other. Once we sat down together and compared notes, I was overwhelmed by the depth of the programs of others. We are so used to working on our own; before we didn't have time. Now we know we have no choice. The ability to reach wider audiences through the Downtown Dance Partners is enormous."

It's good to know, said Hollander, that "we are not alone; others share our vision. We are strengthening an art form that we all love."

THERE'S A PATTERN, IN MANY DANCE schools, of children returning quickly, but adults have been more hesitant to return to study. Whether that is fear or a money-saving issue is unclear. Pam Chancey from Broadway Dance Center in Midtown reported that experience in the center's open classes, and further noted, "Where out-of-towners used to bring forty [students], now they are bringing four." But it is slowly returning to normal. Stuart Hodes, director of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, said there has been no drop-off of students studying there, and its enrollment is exclusively adult.

Broadway and large, established performing companies have more clout with rainmaking. To boost both Broadway shows and the restaurants and shops that rely on their audiences, the city bought 50,000 tickets ($2.5 million worth) to struggling shows, including the dance-heavy Contact, which plays uptown at Lincoln Center. Nonetheless, several shows closed early or were canceled before opening, perhaps giving a fighting chance to those remaining. Dance and theater critic Clive Barnes observed that in New York and London theater audiences are attending well, but are not reserving in advance. Not since post-World War II days have ticket buyers been so willing to stand in line at the box offices.

Similarly, Rob Daniels, head of communications for New York City Ballet, said the company had one of its best years for Nutcracker sales, but that lines at the box office were longer than anyone had ever seen. City Ballet's season has run uninterrupted. However, Christopher Ramsey, director of external affairs, noted, "We are nearing the end of a capital campaign for our endowment and some archival projects, but in this climate, it is harder to talk to donors about long-term gifts."

American Ballet Theatre, recognizing a decline in expected revenue, has canceled a planned $400,000 all-Stravinsky program that included a sumptuous production of The Firebird scheduled for June. "The Stravinsky program was a new production. It involved more time in the theater, which is very expensive. It involved practically the whole company, which makes rehearsals very expensive," Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie explained. A less ambitious program will be substituted.

SHARON GERSTEN LUCKMAN, EXECUTIVE director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, explained, "Even with diminished tourism, we had record sales during our City Center season, up 6 percent from last year. Alley is uplifting. It is what people needed at this time."

While corporate and foundation contributions are promising, many organizations remain pessimistic about receiving support. This stems in part from the nation's slide into recession. With portfolios down, foundation and private giving dwindles. According to Mark Jones, executive director of the Jose Limon Dance Foundation, the Limon Dance Company's largest foundation donor suffered a portfolio decline from $15 billion to $5 billion. Thus, it slashed its grant budget by two-thirds for 2002.

Loss of potential earned income becomes epecially crippling to the small dance community because, unlike some larger companies, it has virtually no safety net. Dancers often cannot afford personal health insurance, let alone business interruption insurance. "A crisis comes along and there is no cash reserve, no endowment, no contingency plan," reiterated Hollander. "This has been tragic, but it has also been an education. We found out just how ephemeral the art form is, how loose the coalitions between dancers are, and how little advocacy there is for dance."

The frustrating process of applying for relief money has highlighted the need for increased advocacy. In the months after September 11, as millions of dollars in highly publicized financial aid apparently flowed into New York City, the confusion began. Never before had the nation faced a disaster or a relief effort of this magnitude, and there was really no infrastructure to handle it properly. Meanwhile the federal government backed out of its commitment of funds to the City of New York, the insurer of the World Trade Center claimed it should not have to pay for the losses, and in a domino effect, the city notified arts groups that it could not meet its financial commitments to them. Such disruptions were felt throughout the city; for example, 651 ARTS had to postpone its February contemporary black dance festival, now tentatively scheduled for May.

Once it was identified as having appropriate special needs, the dance community was confronted with a quagmire of confusing paperwork. Systems that were supposed to help were simply not designed to accommodate not-for-profits (particularly those with fewer than five employees) or self-employed artists (especially those who live and work in the same space). In mid-January 2002, the Small Business Administration changed its policy to consider economic-injury losses to not-for-profit companies. In some cases, organizations such as the September 11th Fund, established by the United Way of New York City and The New York Community Trust, have provided aid. The Safe House service organization has provided emergency cash for immediate needs to some dancers living and working below Canal Street, while the Nonprofit Finance Fund awarded $189,500 to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, a longtime supporter of dance programs whose offices in the World Trade Center were destroyed.

To help navigate the money maze, the New York City Arts Coalition developed guides for both organizations and individuals; these guides became components of the New York Arts Recovery Fund. Spearheaded by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the Recovery Fund is a partnership of eight arts organizations committed to raising and distributing relief money to the arts community. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation established a $50 million fund last November for disaster-affected cultural and performing arts organizations; $2.65 million was placed in the Recovery Fund, to which dance organizations could apply. "We have to make sure we take care of our own," explained Ted Berger, executive director of NYFA. "We'll continue raising money as long as we need it. The Recovery Fund will not be institutionalized, however. It is here for this moment of crisis, like a tourniquet. If we can at least bring people back to the levels of September 10, then we can help them to rethink some of the underlying economic issues in the arts."

THE STORY OF GOVERNMENT FUNDING IS not encouraging: Surpluses have been exhausted; estimated tax revenues must be reduced to account for recession; excessive demands are placed on cleanup funds; major transportation and energy companies are asking for bailouts from Congress; and, oh yes, there's a war on. Culture Counts, a study recently released by NYFA, shows funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) to organizations in the city already had been steadily decreasing over the past twelve years. And in January, New York City's budget director, Mark Page, asked all the city's agencies--including the Department of Cultural Affairs--to prepare 25 percent cuts in their four-year building plans. The city's new mayor, Michael Bloomberg, warned that "given the rough economic times," the long-planned and troubled reconstruction of Lincoln Center, home to the New York City Ballet, the Juilliard School, the School of American Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera House, might have to be delayed.

While the effects of September 11 may have exacerbated the funding problems inherent in a weak economy, they also highlighted the power of arts to heal. Despite a decline in tourism, many presenters noticed an increase in attendance in the weeks following the tragedy, as New Yorkers turned to the arts for solace. Answering the call to give to those in need of diversion and relief, performance spaces hosted numerous benefits, and dance companies, including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Alvin Alley American Dance Theater, enrolled in the Gift of New York, a program offering free tickets to victims.

Capezio Ballet Makers Inc. paid for dancewear, shoes, and a year of dance classes for children who lost parents in the tragedy through its Healing With Dance Program. From New Jersey and Staten Island to Tewksbury, Massachusetts, and Memphis, Tennessee, more than 100 children are studying tap, jazz, ballet, gymnastics, and hip-hop--some for the very first time. Capezio's director of external affairs, Gayle Miller, says many dance teachers gave the children free classes until paperwork could be processed. "I am so overwhelmed with the generosity and the inherent kindness of the dance teachers," she said.

Many companies are asking the deeper, harder questions about their missions and visions: The Association of Performing Arts Presenters issued a call to action toward cultural interdependence at its January annual conference, while the Conference on Blacks in Dance is revisiting its prime purpose and method in a new age.

ARTISTS, TOO, HAVE BEEN DEEP IN SELF-EVALUATION and have found new relevance and deeper meaning in their work. Robin Staff, co-founder of dancenow/nyc (see Reviews, Dance Magazine, December 2001, page 111), an annual festival presenting the work of 150 choreographers, reported that the schedule was halfway through when the attack happened. Upon rescheduling several of the concerts in October she found, "1 was startled by how comforting it was to see dance that was beautiful. I'd almost forgotten about pure and simple beauty. I was hungering for it. There is a power in beauty that can heal us." So inspired, she remolded a February production that was originally intended as a fifth-anniversary concert for the 40Up Project (a collective of artists over the age of 40). Staff made the production multigenerational and titled it Grace as a tribute to the eloquence of the art itself.

Story compiled by Darrah Carr, a New York City-based writer, choreographer, and teacher, and Dance Magazine staff members Karen Hildebrand, David Favrot, Maura Hennessy, and K.C. Patrick.

Think the aftermath is only in New York City? Think again and see the rest of the continuing story and resources at www.dancemagazine.com.
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Title Annotation:Dance Companies and Dance Schools after September 11th, 2001
Author:Patrick, K.C.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:2690
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