Will the NYLA Experiment Live On?
When Dance Theater Workshop and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company merged in 2011 to become New York Live Arts, many dancers scratched their heads. How does that work? What does it mean when a performance venue/service organization becomes one with an iconic modern dance troupe? Good things, apparently: The alliance secured a budget much larger than the two organizations’ original ones, leading to seven new jobs and two additional programming series. These days the building seems alive with the electricity of both artistic innovation and audience excitement.
But NYLA has always had competing missions—to honor both DTW’s and BTJ/AZDC’s histories while also moving their artistic visions forward, as well as serving both a collective of artists and a single choreographer. So far, it seems NYLA’s been able to manage this balancing act by having two equally strong leaders at the top: Carla Peterson, formerly the head of DTW, as artistic director, and Jones as executive artistic director. However, it’s just been announced that Peterson is leaving in May to head up the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University. Many are now wondering whether NYLA will be able to find another director who’s tenacious enough to replace her as a counterpoint to Bill T., or whether it will simply become his organization. (I’ve heard rumors that it wouldn’t be surprising if a number of Peterson’s very loyal staff follow her out the door.) Either way, NYLA is such an integral part of the dance community that many are keeping a keen eye on whatever happens next.