So Long, DC

May 30, 2016

American Dance Institute moves to Catskill, New York.

In the five short years since expanding its mission, a modest dance school in a Washington, DC, suburb has remade itself into one of the most progressive modern dance presenters in the country. With its out-of-the-ordinary Incubator program, American Dance Institute has provided unprecedented support for mid-career artists like Jane Comfort, Susan Marshall and David Neumann. “I’ve never had the opportunity to be in a theater like that,” says Comfort, who was given a tech crew for herweeklong residency in 2011. Her dancers were fed, housed and paid during their stay.

Susan Marshall’s Chromatic will come to New York City’s The Kitchen, June 23-25. Photo by Peter Serling, Courtesy ADI.

But at the close of the 2017 season, ADI, which was founded in 1999 by former ballet dancers Pamela and Michael Bjerknes, will move to a former lumberyard in Catskill, New York, a small town two hours north of Manhattan. This month, it will present its first season in New York City at The Kitchen, its new performance-space partner, featuring postmodern matriarch Yvonne Rainer’s
The Concept of Dust: Continuous Project-Altered Annually
, as well as works by Comfort, Marshall, Brian Brooks and Jack Ferver.

Finances are the driving reason for the move. Executive director Adrienne Willis says it costs about a million dollars a year to keep the Rockville, Maryland, location running, and at 20,000 square feet, it is far smaller than the new space. Purchased for $1.2 million, the new property features a 30,000-square-foot main building unencumbered by poles. Three adjacent waterfront barns and outdoor spaces will also be added in phase two of development. Willis envisions a self-contained artistic haven that can house between 24 and 26 dancers and crew in the upstairs part of the building, which will also have a warm-up studio, public lobby and chef’s kitchen. The groundbreaking took place in May, and ADI Lumberyard, as the facility will be called, will accept its first artistic residencies in summer 2018. Meanwhile, ADI will close out its Maryland space in 2016–17 with 11 performances, including works by Zvi Dance, Steven Reker/Open House, Marshall, David Dorfman, David Gordon and Stephen Petronio.

Will ADI’s move leave a hole in the metropolitan Washington, DC, dance community? Willis says she is committed to maintaining a presence, and is providing a new $100,000 subsidy for the programming of ADI-curated artists. ADI is also working with the local service organization Dance Metro DC to support an existing local artist commissioning program, with modest subsidies doled out over the coming two years. “We really want to help strengthen Dance Metro DC and the local community if we can,” Willis says. Stephen Clapp, director of Dance Metro DC, notes that ADI, which supported DC dance artists like Christopher Morgan and Tzveta Kassabova, would be missed. “In addition to the Incubator, ADI instituted excellent pre-show talks,” he says, “and it was really wonderful to hear the scholarly perspective on dance works.”

ADI’s adventurous presenting and residencies will be a loss for the Washington, DC, region. “They’ve been a great asset to this community,” says Clapp. “As they transition out of our area, I’m glad they’re committed to continuing to support this community. It speaks to the commitment that they have had from the beginning.”