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By Elizabeth Zimmer
Bill T. Jones needed a home for his troupe, and wanted “a place that would focus on dialogue” among art forms. Dance Theater Workshop needed help paying off the mortgage on its state-of-the-art headquarters, which opened in 2002. Last February Jones’ troupe and DTW merged into a new organization, New York Live Arts (NYLA), based at DTW’s building on West 19th Street in Manhattan.
Jean Davidson, executive director of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, became the chief executive officer of the new nonprofit. Jones’ title is executive artistic director, and Carla Peterson, longtime head programmer at DTW, remains aboard as artistic director. An expanded board of directors will help find support for an ambitious program, combining DTW’s standing initiatives—Fresh Tracks, the Studio Series, programs in the theater space and off-site—with “a much richer, juicier, more fertile cultural mix,” says Peterson. The team is developing a humanities series, an increased web presence, and a two-year residency for mid-career artists. Choreographers participating in the DTW Commissioning Program, a nod to the organization’s support of new work, include Ivy Baldwin, David Neumann, and Jodi Melnick. The Replay Series will remount works by Big Dance Theater, Reggie Wilson, Richard Move, and, of course, Bill T. Jones.
Both artistic directors see the process as collaborative; they confer weekly, often using Skype. Jones, a Tony-winning presence on Broadway, thanks to Spring Awakening and Fela!, as well as a pioneering experimental choreographer, styles himself the “senior thought leader” of NYLA. At a community welcome session last winter, asked why the organization had changed its name, he observed that “now, in the larger culture, dance is viewed as almost like mime.” He’s seeking to create “a larger cultural footprint, a home for me as a thinker in the art world.”
Peterson, meanwhile, dreams of commissioning artists to create “for the lobby and unexpected places in the building,” including sound art for the bathrooms and elevators, and doing more producing, drawing on the core competency of Jones’ organization.
Carla Peterson and Bill T. Jones. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy NYLA.