By Kiley Armstrong NEW YORK - New York's predominance as the dance
and theater mecca is being threatened by a surge in real estate
values that is forcing artists into the streets.
Small dance studios, where future talent is trained and
professionals polish their skills, are the hardest hit. Concern
also is growing at off-Broadway theaters.
Evicted to make way for lucrative high-rise buildings, dancers
must struggle to find space for their special needs - high ceilings,
no pillars - and pay rents averaging $6,000 a month.
``We're living on borrowed time,'' said Peter Brown, a spokesman
for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, whose lease in the
Minskoff Building expires in 1989.
``A lot of arts organizations are going to go out of business.
The daily battle for survival is going to do them in,'' predicted
Kyle Renick, artistic director at the WPA, the off-off-Broadway
theater which originated ``Little Shop of Horrors.''
The city is home to 249 dance companies and 18,000 to 20,000
students, according to Marian Horosko, a former member of the New
York City Ballet who heads a lobby group called Dance Artists
National Space Emergency. Since 1985, she said, 55 teaching or
rehearsing studios have folded.
``It's a silent disappearance - people don't scream,'' Horosko
said. Instead, they just leave.
``This is where national auditions are held for road
companies,'' Horosko said. ``Now Stuttgart, Hamburg, they come here
and raid our dancers. Seoul, Korea, is one of our major competitors.
The loss will be irreparable.''
Les Schoof, general manager of the American Ballet Theater,
noted that fledgling dancers at small studios sometimes rise to the
theater and other major companies. However, the future crop of
talented dancers could be stunted if fewer opportunities exist for
The problem has generated measures in the State Legislature that
would eliminate real estate taxes for the portions of buildings
rented to non-profit arts groups, give tax breaks to developers who
build new arts spaces, allow non-profit arts groups to pay just part
of a property's market value, giving the owner a tax credit for the
balance, and set up a $40 million revolving fund for non-profit arts
groups' capital projects. The bills are still pending.
The first alarm of an arts crisis sounded in August 1985 with
the closing of Richard Thomas' renowned New York School of Ballet,
where Cynthia Gregory, Eliot Feld and Twyla Tharp perfected their
craft. The building, where the late George Balanchine and Igor
Stravinsky created the masterwork ``Agon,'' originally housed the
historic School of American Ballet. The structure now holds model
apartments for a luxury condominum.
The situation has made a nomadic tribe out of Tharp's famous
modern dance troupe. ``Twyla Tharp begs, borrows and rents studios
on a day-to-day basis,'' said Sharon Gersten Gluckman, the company's
director of development. ``Can you imagine a scientist having to use
a different laboratory each day? …