Post-Sandy Report: Resilience and Resolve

Compiled by Lisa Traiger

While the damage from Sandy is unprecedented and a complete picture of the losses the dance community in New York and New Jersey have suffered won’t be fully evident for weeks to come, Dance/USA’s From the Green Room has reached out to its colleagues and constituents in the affected region via social networking, email blasts, and personal messages to put together an anecdotal report of some of the damage.

Galapagos Art Space, a thriving cultural hub in DUMBO, Brooklyn, was devastated by the hurricane Sandy. The space is flooded with five feet of water. Robert Elmes is the owner of Galapagos, which does not accept government grants or public funding of any kind. On Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 31, around 50 volunteers came out to help with the clean up, and Elmes and others are continuing to sweep out water and try to salvage what they can.

Dancer Mona Afable messaged in via cellphone while on a lunch break from her 9-5 job. Afable who dances with the new Indelible Dance Company, which is performing at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Nov. 16 and 17, wrote: “Before the trains shut down last Sunday evening, the company was rehearsing, even for an hour. We anticipated that we may miss up to 4 days of rehearsal because of the hurricane. We turned out to be right …. Today, some subway service has been restored and our director decided to hold rehearsal despite the lack of power in the studio. Since it would be dark after sunset, I probably won’t make it today (it will take me too long now to even make it from my office).” Sandy, she said, has caused a great deal of anxiety. “We’re just hopeful that we pull this together by production week. Or by opening night!”

On Tuesday, Mark Roxey of the Roxey Ballet in Lambertville, N.J., wrote in via iPhone: “I would love to add something but at the moment we are in the dark and I have very limited communication. When things are restored I will try to share my perspective. At this time it is pretty bad! Not sure how bad yet! But it really does
look like the end of the world here …. I am not joking!!!!At this time it is pretty bad! Not sure how bad yet! But it really does look like the end of the world here …. I am not joking!!!!
— Mark Roxey, Roxey Ballet, Lambertville, NJ
” Nutcracker rehearsals and classes have been cancelled through Friday.

Larry Keigwin of Keigwin + Company tweeted: “I am missing our residency on Governor’s Island, but pushed the living room furniture aside and we danced.” Gibney Dance Center in the historic 890 Broadway building remains closed through Fri., Nov. 2 due to power outages in the area.

Choreographer Henning Rubsam of SENSEDANCE calls the cancellation of his Sun., Oct. 28 performance a major setback. “Instead of performing and collecting revenue for a sure to be sold-out house,” he said, “I got together with the dancers and paid them. Now I have to fundraise to make up for the lost performance and to reschedule for the near future.” He’s not sure what he might be able to recover from rent he already paid out for the performance. “The cost for artists who are paid for the rehearsal period as well as months of rent for rehearsal spaces without the income of the performance is the true hardship,” he said.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company found itself stuck in Sarasota, Fla., following a series of performances  and unable to return on time due to flight cancellations. But by Thurs., Nov. 1, the company was on its way to Syracuse for the premiere of “To Make Crops Grow.” Its patrons’ dinner scheduled for Oct. 30 is being rescheduled and the office and classes at the studio on Grand Street remain closed through Friday.

Although unfortunately the Joyce Theater in the Chelsea area remains without power and had to cancel performances of Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Brooklyn Academy of Music remains open for business (although its phone lines are down, email is working) and Brazil’s Grupo Corpo is performing Nov. 1-3.

Ice Theatre of New York reports that it has lost its office, but fortunately moved its computers, important files and photo archives out of harm’s way. It was lucky as well that its major gala honoring Richard Dwyer was successfully held a week before Sandy. “We are so, so fortunate,” Jirina Ribbens, executive director, and Moira North, founder/director reported. “Anything left in the office was lost in 5 feet of seawater. We are currently working off-site and are looking for a temporary space,” they added. “The water pretty much destroyed everything on the ground floor in the Chelsea Piers complex — it was as high as 10 feet in some places.”

Dance New Amsterdam remains closed and without power. Chen Dance Center will be closed through Fri. Nov. 2, or until power, phone and subway service is restored in Chinatown. For those who are stir crazy to take class, Steps on Broadway, Broadway Dance Center, and in Brooklyn the Mark Morris Dance Center are open for classes. Be sure to check the schedules, as not every teacher nor every class is being offered to accommodate teachers’ needs at this time.

While the city of New York and the state of New Jersey  are working feverishly to restore power and services , including transportation, electricity remains out mostly in lower Manhattan below 34th Street. (As of Thursday night 1.7 million people still had no power in New
Jersey, as well as 640,000 Long Island Power customers and another half a
million ConEdison customers continued to experience power outages.)

There are smaller stories as well. Wednesday morning ABT principal David Hallberg tweeted that he and New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns were the only two to show up for  class. And Washington, D.C.-based dancer Sarah Ewing, who found herself in New York prepping for a performance, gave herself class in the kitchen. She is returning home without having performed; the show with the BalaSole Dance Company scheduled for this weekend, Nov. 2-4, at the Ailey Citigroup Theater was cancelled.

Yet, dancers are nothing if not resilient … and creative. Yvonne Rainer and Group’s “Assisted Living/Good Sports 2” was originally scheduled for Nov. 1-3 at Danspace Project on East 10th Street, but St. Mark’s Church has no power. Instead of cancelling, Rainer and her dancers are offering a free post-hurricane community matinee, Sat. Nov. 3 at 1:00 p.m. Entry is first-come, first-served, and audience members are asked to “participate in our low-tech lighting design and please bring a flashlight with you!”

If you would like to share your story, please do so by emailing or tweeting to #sandydance.

Lisa Traiger edits From the Green Room, Dance/USA’s online journal. A long-time arts journalist, she contributes to The Washington Post Weekend section and serves as arts correspondent for the Washington Jewish Week. Her writing can also be seen in Dance, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Forward and other publications.


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