A Silver Celebration: The Joyce Marks 25 Years

By Reiter, Susan | Dance Magazine, October 2007 | Go to article overview

A Silver Celebration: The Joyce Marks 25 Years


Reiter, Susan, Dance Magazine


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The Joyce Theater has been such a mainstay of the New York City dance scene that it's hard to recall a time before it existed. Now celebrating its silver anniversary season, the 472-seat house is making a big deal of that landmark--with 25 generous commissions going to 25 dance companies, and special $25 tickets for all Sunday evening performances. This cultural hub in Manhattan's thriving Chelsea neighborhood is booked with a variety of dance troupes for 48 consecutive weeks, from the Martha Graham Dance Company (which opened the season in September), through regulars like Ballet Hispanico, Garth Fagan Dance, and Stephen Petronio Company, to first-timers like Mexico's Ballet de Monterrey and Kansas City Ballet.

The commissions, $25,000 each, epitomize the Joyce's long-standing mission to support dance companies and broaden the dance audience. "We wanted to honor those companies that have had the longest relationship with the Joyce over the 25 years," explained Martin Wechsler, director of programming. A $1 million gift from Board Chair Stephen D. Weinroth initiated a restricted fund for commissioning new works. The initiative is intended "to really make a statement, to help as many companies as we could," said Linda Shelton, the Joyce's executive director since 1993.

Cora Cahan created the Joyce with Eliot Feld when she was executive director of his company. Feld's troupe had long sought an appropriate home base for its New York seasons, and the duo sensed that many others shared that need. "We wanted to create a situation that would protect the companies by subsidizing their performances, as well as providing an infrastructure of marketing, so that there was a built-in audience," explained Cahan. Subscription sales, always strong, continue to climb.

The neighborhood was a "barren landscape" when Feld and Cahan purchased the Elgin Theater, a small marginal movie house, in 1979. "The first few years were hard," Cahan recalls. The theater was booked for just 19 1/2 weeks the first season, 1982-83. "Once we presented Merce Cunningham's 'Events' in September 1984, everything changed." Cunningham's troupe has returned there often, and many others have made it their regular New York stop. …

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