Temple of Modern Dance

A 75-year history whispers through the photo-lined walls and worn wooden floors of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. Alvin Ailey premiered Revelations here; Anna Sokolow’s Rooms and José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane debuted here as well. Lincoln Kirstein’s Ballet Caravan, a precursor to New York City Ballet, had its first performances at the Y; Katherine Dunham and Carmelita Maracci made their New York debuts here. And La Argentinita, Carmen Amaya, La Meri, and Jean-León Destiné all brought their international dance to the Y.

This month, the dance center’s anniversary kicks off with a gala on November 5 that exemplifies the breadth and depth of its his­tory. Among the works to be performed are Frontier (1935), by the Martha Graham Dance Company; Doris Humphrey’s Two Ecstatic Themes (1931), by Lauren Naslund; excerpts from Revelations (1960), by Ailey II; David Parsons’ Caught (1982); plus a piece by Doug Varone and Dancers. The Y’s own Harkness Repertory Ensemble will perform Jerome Robbins’ NY Export: Opus Jazz. And a plethora of events throughout the year will highlight the Y’s mark on dance history.

It all began in 1934, when William Kolodney, the newly appointed educational director of the Y, had a vision: He wanted dance to be part of his humanistic center for education. Perhaps it was fateful that his first choice for adviser, renowned ballet choreographer Michel Fokine, said he wasn’t interested. When Kolodney next went to John Martin, chief dance critic of The New York Times, he was pointed in a more modern direction. Martin suggested Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman—who had worked together that summer to form the Bennington School of the Dance—be at the core of the Y’s dance center as teachers and performers. The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to the gala event, the Y’s Sundays at Three and Fridays at Noon series will honor the Y’s history as well. These two series were started more than 20 years ago by dancer-turned-Alexander-practitioner Jane Kosminsky and Ilona Copen (who also founded the New York International Ballet Competition). “They recognized the need for artists to have a space where they could try out their ideas and stay in dialogue with their peers,” says Renata Celichowska, director of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. During the anniversary year, Sundays at Three presents re-creations and reconstructions, including performances of the de Mille legacy by the New York Theatre Ballet, the Erick Hawkins Centennial Celebration, an Anna Sokolow Birthday Tribute, and perfor­mances of Jean Erdman’s work. The Fridays at Noon programs will represent more contemporary artists like David Parker, Doug Elkins, and Keely Garfield.

This spring’s Harkness Dance Festival will span five weekends and will take place at the Y for the first time in its 15-year history. The festival was the brainchild of then-director Joan Finkelstein, with the support of the Harkness Foundation. (In 1994, the dance center was renamed in honor of the Foundation, and it is now known as the Harkness Dance Center.) In the beginning, the festival was meant to be an intimate event, so the Y’s 900-seat Kaufmann Concert Hall wasn’t the right venue. Finkelstein searched for off-site venues and found the 91st Street Playhouse. The festival later moved to the Duke Theater, and recently to the Ailey Citigroup Theater. In this anniversary year, the organization is bringing the festival home to their upstairs studio theater, Buttenwieser Hall.

As part of this year’s festival, From the Horse’s Mouth, an exuberant traveling show designed by Jamie Cunningham and Tina Croll, will bring more than 30 dance artists onstage to improvise and tell stories. The Limón Dance Company, Doug Varone, Yoshiko Chuma, and Molissa Fenley will perform during the festival as well.


As the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, the Y’s Jewish roots are reflected in the dancers who have chosen to perform and work here, like Anna Sokolow, Pearl Lang, and Sophie Maslow. Naomi Jackson wrote in her book, Converging Movements: Modern Dance and Jewish Culture at the 92nd Street Y, about Kolodney’s “desire to bring together the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. He fervently believed that within the American context, with its potentially pluralistic society, this difficult act of integration could be achieved with joy and mutual benefit.”

In the 1960s a new movement was brewing downtown, influenced by Merce Cunningham and John Cage. When budding dancemakers Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, and Steve Paxton auditioned their minimalist pieces at the Y, they were turned down. And thus began a new style, which evolved into postmodern dance, based in Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village during the ’60s. The dance center at the Y was no longer the place to be.

But eventually downtown dancers found their way back up to the Y. For David Dorfman, the first time he visited the Y was to take a class with David Parsons in the 1980s. “I used to joke about needing a visa to go uptown,” he says. “The moment I set foot in the Y, it reminded me of a Jewish community center in my hometown of Chicago,” says Dorfman. “But this was so much more cosmopolitan. It’s a grand building with all this history.” He has continued to give workshops and performances at the Y. The historical significance of the Y is not lost on him. “Like at ADF and Connecticut College, these pioneers and master teachers and thinkers and innovators taught at the Y. So any time I get to rub my feet and do a little rhythm on the same floors they did, I feel honored.”

The Y also welcomed black dance artists. Katherine Dunham gave her first New York performance there in 1937 with Asadata Dafora, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who first brought African dance to the concert stage. When the Y hosted Dunham’s 90th birthday celebration decades later and she was asked how it felt to be back, she replied, “I’m home.” Alvin Ailey, too, found his first New York home at the Y when he debuted his company in 1958. Carmen de Lavallade, who was an original member in his company, says, “The 92nd Street Y was the hub. It was the the place to be seen in the ’50s. If you performed on the Y stage it was like you’d arrived.”

Sharon Gersten Luckman, executive director of Alvin Ailey Dance Founda­tion, ran the Y dance center from 1978–86. Her personal history with the Y began when she took classes as a child in the ’50s. “My mother wanted me to have the best training, so she brought me to the Y.” She went on to teach at the Y and eventually took over as the director. “The Y had very good teachers who really cared about the individual. Modern dance was at the core, but we started doing ballet, and the adult program became very popular as well—like the Ailey Extension is now.”

Celichowska says the Y has sustained Kolodney’s mission to support dance through the years. It now offers almost 100 dance classes a week in not only modern dance but also Afro-Caribbean, Israeli folk dance, flamenco, swing, tango, and salsa classes to more than 1,000 students of all ages. The center does ballet outreach to public schools and offers the Dance Education Laboratory, a series of workshops for educators to develop dance in their curriculum.

The 92nd Street Y dance center has a great history, and Celichowska wants people to know: “We’re still here.”



Emily Macel, former associate editor of DM, is a writer based in Washington, DC.


Pictured: Martha Graham in Frontier (1935). Photo by Barbara Morgan.

Show Comments ()
Dancers Trending
Lindsi Dec with husband Karel Cruz in Alexei Ratmansky's "Don Quixote." Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet.

When people ask what I do for a living, I say I have the best job in the world. But it isn't just a job. It's my passion. Feeling the rise of the curtain, the cool air rushing towards me from the audience, the warmth of the stage lights and the music taking me into my own little world, becoming the piece, the character, the dancer, is such a gift.

Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB.

Keep reading... Show less

American Ballet Theatre's two months of performances at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House can be an exciting but demanding time for the dancers. With nine ballets in eight weeks including Whipped Cream and Harlequinade, a night off is hard to come by.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Eating healthy fats and a bounty of fruits and vegetables is smart. But what about cutting carbs? Photo by Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Although the ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s as an epilepsy treatment for children, it's experiencing a new wave of popularity. Thanks in part to social media, where "healthy" keto-friendly recipe videos are going viral, the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is gaining ground. But is it safe for dancers?

We checked in with Rachel Fine, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, to see what eating keto means for dancers.

Keep reading... Show less
Editors’ List: The Goods

Planning to spend the majority of your summer sweating it out in the studio? Don't worry, you're not alone. And while you're definitely going to want to save the warmups for the winter, you can still accessorize your studio look without adding bulk, thanks to the always-in-style ballet skirt. From bright florals to washed out pastels and wild prints, we rounded up our favorite short (and a few long!) ballet skirts for summer.

AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt

via AinslieWear

If you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully).
ainsliewear.com, $50

Career Advice
Learning how to invest and deal with tax implications can be a shock. Photo by Pepi Stojanov/Unsplash

Unrestricted grants—those not tied to a specific project or commission—are the holy grail of dance funding. But how do dance artists accustomed to living from project to project handle the sudden influx of capital?

We asked three choreographers who've won these grants multiple times about their experiences.

Keep reading... Show less
The 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, shot on location in New York City, preserved Jerome Robbins' choreography. Photo courtesy DM Archives

We didn't see this one coming.

According to Playbill, a revival of West Side Story, the beloved 1957 musical that put a 20th century, New York City spin on Romeo and Juliet, is coming to Broadway in 2020. We'll still hear Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, but the new production, directed by Tony winner Ivo van Hove, will be deviating from the original in at least one crucial respect: the choreography won't be original director Jerome Robbins'.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Think "biscuits" should be in the dictionary? Now's your chance. Photo by Jazmin Quaynor via Unsplash

Have you ever referred to your feet as biscuits or your pointe shoes as dead in front of a non-dancer friend or family member and seen a wave of confusion cross their face? Dance, like most activities, is chock-full of words and phrases used only by those in the know. In honor of their 90th anniversary, the Oxford English Dictionary wants to change that. They've put out an appeal to gather "hobby words," and dance is on their list (we know that dance is more than a hobby—try not to take offense).

Keep reading... Show less
What Wendy's Watching
The Young Ensemble in Naharin's Virus

The first piece that Ohad Naharin brought to New York City after taking over Batsheva Dance Company exploded onto the Brooklyn Academy of Music stage in 2002. The NYC dance audience knew immediately that something big was happening in Tel Aviv. The piece was Naharin's Virus, and it seemed to embody both rage and a Zen acceptance of the unique strangeness of every human body. Now it's back in NYC until July 22, danced by the second company, known as Batsheva — The Young Ensemble, which ranges in age from 20 to 28.

The choreography has the ferocity yet humanity we've come to expect from Batsheva, plus a text from Peter Handke's agitating play, Offending the Audience. The dancers speak Handke's accusations, saying one minute that we, the audience, have a private part of our minds that no one can touch, and then in the next breath that they are invading that part of our brains.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Miami City Ballet's Nathalia Arja, PC Alexander Iziliaev

We love learning new things about our favorite dancers through our "Spotlight" Q&A series (like Sterling Baca's obsession with spiders!). One of the questions we always ask is: What's the biggest misconception about dancers?

After a while, we began to sense a pattern in the responses. Here's how five dancers answered the question (warning: this may make you hungry!):

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Bullies sometimes excuse their own behavior by saying they're just strict. But there's a difference. Photo by Thinkstock

A few months ago, your teacher snapped at you for smiling too much. Today, you're keeping your expression neutral when your teacher abruptly cuts the music and walks over to you, pretending to knock on your forehead. "Hello? Is anyone in there? Your face is always blank." Your classmates look just as frozen as you feel, their eyes darting back and forth between you and your teacher until the music resumes and class goes on.

Being bullied by a dance teacher can be painful—and confusing. You may have more questions than answers. What's happening? Am I just too sensitive? Is this really bullying?

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Photo by Jim Lafferty

Do you have a sprained ankle that won't heal? It's not that rare. Studies have shown that 10 to 30 percent of sprains will have symptoms later. So what is a sprained ankle anyway? It's the most common injury in all of sports and dancing.

Dancing pushes your body to its limit. If you roll over on your ankle when landing from a jump, you can sprain or injure the ligaments on the outer (lateral) side that hold the joint together. This is different from a "strain," which affects your tendons and muscles. An easy way to remember this distinction is this: You sprain your ankle, but you strain your Achilles tendon. The degree of injury varies, depending on the damage to the ligaments. We determine this by a physical exam and X-rays that help us classify the ankle sprain as Grade I (mild), II (moderate), or III (severe). The most serious sprain involves a complete tear of the ligaments with marked instability that often requires surgery. Fortunately, most sprains are Grade I or II and heal in three to six weeks. The exceptions are those that continue to cause trouble. This is the "sprained ankle that won't heal."

In medical circles, residual problems from sprained ankles cause considerable angst, because they can be hard to diagnose and difficult to treat-especially when telltale signs are ignored by stoic dancers. Problems with old sprains tend to fall into three categories: swelling, pain, and instability ("giving way").


It's normal for a sprained ankle to swell, sometimes for four to six weeks, or longer. But swelling that persists for more than three months may be a sign of trouble. The lining of the capsule surrounding a joint is called the synovium, and anything inside the joint that irritates the synovium will cause it to secrete fluid. Swelling inside of a joint is often a sign that something is causing irritation. (The swelling that is seen from the outside is a combination of soft tissue swelling around the joint and fluid within the joint itself.) In the ankle there are several reasons for this condition. While these may seem alarming, treatment is possible. But first, let's take a look at the culprits.

Chronic synovitis Sometimes there is damage to the surface of the joint that does not show up on any tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, even though it continues to cause irritation and excess fluid.

A bone chip At the time of injury, a bone chip may have been knocked loose, leaving a "loose body" floating around inside to cause trouble.

An OCD lesion "OCD" in sports medicine stands for osteochondritis dissecans (not obsessive compulsive disorder). The easiest way to think of this is like a cavity in a tooth. It is something that leaves a small hole in the surface on the ankle bone (the talus) with a dead piece of bone in it. An MRI study will usually pick this up.

A bone bruise This is not black and blue. Instead, it feels like an achy pain that is difficult to explain and lasts for months. There is edema, or fluid, within the bones themselves that we can only see on an MRI study. Fortunately, it is rarely serious and gradually fades away.

What can you do? Treatment for chronic swelling, no matter what the cause, usually requires sleeping with the leg elevated on a pillow at night and putting on an elastic ankle support in the morning when you get out of bed. If the swelling is minimal and is slowly going away with no other symptoms, it is OK to dance, but go easy on the jumps and grand plies till all the swelling is gone. However, if it doesn't feel so good then don't do it! An ankle support (no need for metal hinges, etc.) usually feels good at this stage.

It also helps to avoid the saltshaker, which leads to water retention. With diligence, the swelling should go away. However, if the leg is swollen up the shin, something else may be happening, and it needs to be checked out by your doctor. Swelling that does not go away is a sign that something more is wrong. Normal joints do not swell.


There are several common causes of ankle pain that does not go away:

The sinus tarsi syndrome Lingering inflammation, scar tissue, or a partly torn ligament can occur in the hollow place in the side of the anklebone called the sinus tarsi (sinus in Latin means hollow or sunken and the tarsus is the ankle). This is the most common cause of the sprained ankle that won't heal. While it can be difficult to discern this problem on an X-ray or MRI, a physical exam by a dance medicine specialist can pinpoint the diagnosis by locating the exact area that hurts.

A tarsal coalition Residual pain in the sinus tarsi after the original sprain heals can also be due to an unrecognized tarsal coalition. The ankle has two components: the regular ankle joint that moves up and down, and the subtalar (ST) joint beneath it that moves in and out. Together, they make up the ankle joint complex. Some people are born with limited motion in their ST joint because the bones in this area are joined together where they ought to be separate—a coalition. It can usually be seen on an X-ray or MRI. This condition is present in about five percent of ankles. It usually occurs in one ankle only, rather than both. As with a sprain, it can be mild, moderate, or severe. In dancers, it is usually mild or it would have caused trouble before the sprain. Dancers with mild symptoms can often work around it.

The high ankle sprain This is marked by tenderness in the front of the ankle on the outside. Unlike routine ankle sprains where the main damaged ligaments lie right in the sinus tarsi, this one affects a ligament that is higher up, at the level of the ankle joint itself. This is the so-called "high" ankle sprain, which can be a real bugaboo because it takes two to three times longer to heal than a routine sprain. It may not show up on medical tests, so the diagnosis is usually made on the basis of the physical exam.

Secondary problems Lastly, there are several conditions, such as FHL tendonitis ("dancer's tendonitis") and the os trigonum syndrome that seem to pop up out of nowhere. Dancers often think that the residual pain is part of the healing process when it is actually a separate problem. Later the sprain may heal, but these conditions can continue to be painful and may even require surgery if left unaddressed.


"My ankle gives way" is probably the second most common leftover problem with ankle sprains after the sinus tarsi syndrome. We doctors see it all the time. Many things can cause this problem. Fortunately most respond to appropriate treatment.

Peroneal weakness There are two peroneal tendons that run parallel down the outside of the ankle; one is short and the other is long. Their major function is to keep the ankle from rolling over and prevent sprains. After an injury they can remain weak, so the ankle is poorly protected from further roll-overs. It's easy at this point to fall into the vicious cycle of "Because it's weak it rolls over and because it rolls over it's weak," which can go on for months. If this is the problem, it is easy to fix. Simply restore the normal peroneal strength with physical therapy. A few months of daily use of a theraband, under the guidance of a physical therapist, will usually strengthen the peroneals. (They gain strength faster if the exercises are done in the full "tendu" position.)

Laxity of the ankle ligaments Grade I sprains do not usually damage the ankle ligaments to any extent, but repeated Grade II or Grade Ill injuries can lead to permanent looseness of the ligaments that hold the anklebones together. This is a difficult situation, because they can be tightened only by surgery. The surgery is quite effective, but the recovery is usually three months or more. So it is nice to avoid it if you can.

Many loose ankles often give way because of a combination of looseness and weakness. These can often be brought up to full strength with physical therapy and then they don't give way anymore. The number one indication for ankle ligament surgery is the failure of rehab to correct the problem.

Pain, swelling and instability

The problems associated with a recurring sprained ankle can co-exist and produce all three symptoms. In this ease the diagnosis is particularly difficult. There is one last problem that might be going on:

Peroneal tendon damage With repeated sprains, the peroneal tendons can develop small longitudinal rents or tears. When this happens, the tendons swell up in the sheathes that surround them and cause achy pains, chronic swelling and weakness that cannot be corrected by exercise. This problem is easy to miss and hard to correct because it usually gets worse in spite of all treatment. Fortunately, this condition also responds well to surgery.

The best way to diagnose these various problems is to see a sports or dance medicine specialist for a history, physical exam, and appropriate studies. Your doctor may request X-rays followed by an MRI, CT and/or bone scan. Physical therapy is usually the first step in the recovery. Do not try to treat yourself! There is an old expression in medicine that says, "Someone who treats themselves has a fool for a physician." Merde!

William G. Hamilton, M.D. is the orthopedic consultant for New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The School of American Ballet and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Ballet School.

Mats Ek and Ana Laguna in Memory. Photo by Lesley Leslie-Spinks, Courtesy Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

Three generations of Swedish dancemakers—Mats Ek, Johan Inger and Alexander Ekman—pay tribute to filmmaker Ingmar Bergman this month at Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. The youngest, Ekman, will no doubt tear up the stage in a solo called Thoughts on Bergman. Inger, whose Walking Mad wowed Ailey audiences last year, has made a work for four dancers titled 4 Karin. But it's likely that Ek's touching, oddly beautiful Memory, performed by Ek and his wife, Ana Laguna, will be the most fitting tribute to the great filmmaker. July 12–14, Salle Garnier, Opéra de Monte-Carlo. balletsdemontecarlo.com.

Dancers Trending
Keone and Mari Madrid have created a first-of-its-kind dance ebook. Photo via Kickstarter

For the past few years, when Keone and Mari Madrid would try to explain their next big idea to people, they were often met with confusion. The pair—known for their viral dance videos and stint on "World of Dance"—dreamed of making a dance ebook, where text, video, audio and illustration would combine to create an interactive storytelling experience.

Now, years after conceiving the idea, they've done it—and they're on their way to opening the door for more artists to explore the medium. Their ebook, Ruth, follows an elderly woman who has left her retirement home for the first time in years, and is transported to an alternate universe—filled with dance, of course.

We caught up with the duo to hear about the project—and what it was like to work with over 200 dancers in five different countries.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Reviews help Gabrielle Lamb understand how her works come across. Photo by Glenn Goettler, courtesy Lamb

Love them or not, reviews are part of the ecology of being a dancemaker. Critical writing can validate, illuminate or sometimes get in the way of an artist's creative process. We spoke with five choreographers about their relationship to reviews.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs Revelations. Courtesy of Knight Foundation

At a time when the political climate is increasingly divisive, it's no wonder people want to compartmentalize. Some want their pirouettes separate from their politics, and can be quick to protest when dancers challenge that both on and off the stage.

Most recently, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston was scrutinized when she shared this post on her Instagram.

Keep reading... Show less
Advice for Dancers
Perfectionism can make dancing a burden rather than a joy. Thinkstock

I had a two-month injury and thought it would make me miserable. Instead, I'm experiencing a huge wave of relief at being out. Should I feel guilty about not missing dance? I still love it but hate never feeling good enough.

—Injured Perfectionist, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Keep reading... Show less



Viral Videos


Get Dance Magazine in your inbox