The Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation is raising the roof: it held a ceremonial “roof-breaking” performance on Tuesday to mark the beginning of a $25 million construction project that will add three more stories of studios, classrooms and offices to its Manhattan home.
The expansion of the building, the Joan Weill Center for Dance, which opened in 2005, is being designed by Iu & Bibliowicz Architects. One of the partners, Natan Bibliowicz, is the son-in-law of Mrs. Weill, a major Ailey supporter who stepped down as chairwoman of its board in 2014. Cultural institutions supported by the Weill family’s philanthropy, including Carnegie Hall, have hired the firm for big projects in the past, sometimes prompting questions about potential conflicts of interest.
The extension will build the stories to the shorter midblock portion of the building, at 55th Street and Ninth Avenue, so that it matches the six-story corner in height. It will add 10,000 square feet space to the bustling center, and a new glass facade with an undulating pattern inspired by “Revelations,” Alvin Ailey’s signature dance. It is scheduled to open next fall, and will be called the Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation Education Wing.
The project will be paid for in part by a capital appropriation of $4 million from the city, Ailey officials said. The rest is coming from private donors: The foundation announced that it had raised $48 million of the $50 million it is seeking as part of a campaign that was inaugurated by Mrs. Weill’s husband, Sanford I. Weill, the financier and philanthropist, to honor her work at Ailey.
Bennett Rink, the executive director of the Ailey foundation, said Mrs. Weill had recused herself from the process of selecting the architects, and that the firm was chosen because it had designed the building. “They designed the original building, and given that the building itself has been such a huge success, it seemed to make the most sense to go back to them,” Mr. Rink said.
The building is used by the Ailey School, which will be able to grow after the expansion; the Ailey Extension, which offers after-work and weekend dance classes to the general public; and for rehearsals by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and its second company of young dancers, Ailey II.
Robert Battle, the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, said that he was encouraged that the foundation had essentially outgrown its new home after a decade.
“So often you get the question, how to you feel about the state of dance, or how do you feel about the future audience of dance?” he said in a telephone interview from London, where the company was performing. “But then look at the Extension program, and see how quickly it grew — thousands of people coming to take classes at the end of their work day.”
Source: NY Times