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By Joseph Carman
When Hurricane Sandy bulldozed through the tri-state area in late October, scores of dance companies, studios, and theaters lost power, thus losing audiences and income.
Ice Theater of New York, housed in the Chelsea Piers sports complex, lost its office when the ground floor was completely destroyed by 10-foot-high flooding. A block inland, The Kitchen was also damaged and is facing repairs of nearly $500,000. Like many other companies and centers for dance, Armitage Gone! Dance lost a week of work, but their studio space in hard-hit Jersey City was spared.
But the most heartbreaking news came from two tenants of the Westbeth arts complex in the West Village. The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, now occupying the 11th-floor studios that Merce Cunningham Dance Company used to call its own, had flooding in its basement storage space. Sets and costumes for Graham works, such as Embattled Garden, Errand into the Maze, and Clytemnestra—many designed by Isamu Noguchi—were heavily damaged. The space also holds historic letters, programs, posters, and artifacts. “Everything will have to be restored—no doubt about it,” says LaRue Allen, the center’s executive director. The estimated worth of the property is $4 million (only a small percentage is covered by insurance). Fortunately American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey offered to lend their costumes from Diversion of Angels and Appalachian Spring, respectively, for performances that would go on as scheduled.
And choreographer John Jasperse, who lives at Westbeth, lost 27 years of sets, props, and costumes. He estimates that he will be able to salvage only 5 percent. “Dance teaches you that everything vanishes,” he says. “This is just a harder lesson.”
However, there is help: An NYC Dance Response Fund, established by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and administered by Dance/NYC, is awarding grants from $1,000 to $5,000, for lost fees and damages. And Fractured Atlas, the nation’s largest arts service organization, is waiving its membership fee and offering fundraising support and other services for artists and groups affected by the storm. Visit www.dancenyc.org and www.fracturedatlas.org for more information.
At top: The sets and costumes of Graham’s Embattled Garden, here with Maurizio Nardi and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, were heavily damaged. Photo by Michele Ballantini, Courtesy MGDC.