Optimism at Dance New Amsterdam

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER  |  The news was not good for Dance New Amsterdam on Sept. 7 when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced the recipients of $17 million in Community and Cultural Enhancement grants. The 27-year-old dance company whose classrooms and performance space are at 280 Broadway at Chambers Street got nothing from the L.M.D.C. despite having been on the ropes for more than a year because of large rent arrears.

However, D.N.A. Executive Director Catherine Peila reports that things are now looking up. D.N.A.’s landlord, Fram Realty, “is willing to work with us,” she said, “which, I think, is great. Fram has compromised and D.N.A. is compromising. Everyone is coming to the table with some sort of compromise.”

Peila said that specifics of the lease still have to be worked out but that she is optimistic that they will be. She said that NY State Sen. Daniel Squadron and City Council Member Margaret Chin “have been very supportive as has D.C.A. [the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs].”

Pace University, which currently rents space from D.N.A. for dance classes, received $1 million from the L.M.D.C. It will be used to expand dance rehearsal space.

“We have plans for a new dance facility, but where it will be and what it’s going to be are still in the planning stage,” said Christopher Cory, a spokesman for Pace. He said that as of this fall the University has a program focused on “commercial dance” that provides specialized training for dance careers on the stage and in film and television.  The B.A. in Theater/Commercial Dance is the first of its kind in the country and is designed to give students the skills to earn a living as dancers. Students are admitted by audition.

Pace’s new facility will have an impact on D.N.A., but not in the immediate future.

D.N.A.’s struggle to arrive at an affordable lease has mostly affected foundation funding, said Peila. “The foundations are looking to give funding to organizations that are stable, especially in this environment. This is why we’re working so hard to stabilize our lease agreement. That will give more confidence to the foundations that we’re going to be here. And that will give greater confidence to the artists and our faculty.”

Meanwhile, D.N.A. has announced a performance schedule that started in September and extends through February. There are fewer performances scheduled for this season than for last year at this time, but Peila commented that, “A lot of organizations have cut their performance schedules in half because of the funding situation and we’re exactly the same.”

Nevertheless, classes are continuing at the school at a robust level.

“We have a new education director, Jamie Dowd,” said Peila, “and she and Laurie de Vito and Lynn Simonson — two of the founders of D.N.A. — are working closely together to create a stronger curriculum. An emerging artist who is just becoming a performer can come in and take classes all day.”

Peila was also encouraged because Bloomberg Philanthropies arranged for Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center, to meet with her and her staff.

“He not only cares about the business bottom line – that there’s a balanced budget and strengthening the business – but also has an eye on the mission,” Peila said. “It’s not just about getting money. It’s also about having good programming.”

Peila said that Kaiser met with her and her staff last week and will continue to offer advice.