Gibney Goes Big: Inside the NYC Dance Hub's Latest Expansion

June 15, 2018

New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It’s a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik’s Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped “Dance” from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.

Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney’s Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation’s artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce’s DANY Studios in 2016.

The organization has been contemplating this expansion since 2014, when it moved into 280 Broadway, says Gina Gibney, but the first phase focused on renovating the existing spaces. The remainder of the property was subleased, and was mainly used for storage. “It was a mess,” Gibney says. “It was crammed full of costumes and props and old suitcases.

Photo by Whitney Browne, Courtesy Gibney

Driving the expansion was Gibney’s intimate understanding of the challenges faced by dance artists in New York. “I’ve spent a lot of time surrounded by dancers who have very specific and particular needs, and I live and breathe those needs on a daily basis,” she says. “We never seemed to have enough of those studios where 6 to 12 dancers could actually stage a piece to perform in a sizable house. I really wanted to create those types of studios, not only where people could rehearse in two-hour blocks, but where mid-career artists could rehearse substantial works over big chunks of time.”

Paired with new studios, the new, fully equipped black-box theater will provide a year-round home for production residencies that enable artists to develop work requiring technical support in a theater setting during the creative process.

It sounds like a dream come true for dancers at all levels—emerging, mid-career and seasoned artists can find support for their work, including a promised 25,000 hours of affordable space each year, in addition to existing production residencies, choreographic residencies, workshops and classes.

Major funding for the expansion was provided by the City of New York, as part of its Affordable Real Estate for Artists initiative. Gibney’s ongoing support comes from an array of funders and from earned income from space rentals—the organization offers studios at commercial rates to Broadway productions, for example, which helps subsidize its reduced rates for nonprofits, individual artists and activists.

There was some grumbling on social media when the organization announced it was dropping “Dance” from its name. But Gibney herself notes that most people drop the “Dance” and just say, “I’m going to Gibney.” Keeping that name was important to the board and the leadership team, to reflect the fact that the organization is artist- and women-led. Says Gibney herself, “We’re really interested in being an organization that serves the whole field of dance, and we also have a huge social justice mission. But we wanted something simple, because we’re complicated.”