Dancing About Architecture

Judith Jamison and Trisha Brown Are Movin' In

Despite marching with a white umbrella down Ninth Avenue in full Revelations regalia to Ailey's ground breaking, Jamison's not exactly gleeful about the new eight-story glass-and-steel structure that will house 12 dance studios and a black box theater. In fact, she's slightly pissed. "We've been waiting for 44 years for a building to call our own." She doesn't romanticize impermanence as the dancer's way. "That way wasn't because of color, it was about 'I'm a struggling artist and I can't find a place.' Ailey wasn't about that. The fact that we're celebrating actually having a home after 44 years is odd. Without any pomposity, I say we deserve it. We've been housed in the basement of BAM and a church on 59th Street. We've been fighting a long time for this."

Growing up black in what she now calls the "tradition of 'no,' " Jamison remembers taking dance classes in the '50s. "It would come to partnering and there would be no partners that wanted to touch you." She danced as a guest with American Ballet Theatre in 1964, and says bluntly, "There were no black people in ABT." Yet, she maintains, "there's a perseverance behind being told that you can't do something."

A former West Side parking garage is Brown's new home.
photo: Tyrone Brown-Osborne/Maverick Arts
A former West Side parking garage is Brown's new home.

Ailey's 44th New York season opens at City Center December 4. "Finally after 10 years in the company, Matthew Rushing's on the cover," she beams, holding up the house program, "I asked for 31 individuals and I got 'em, believe me. It makes the job not a job. I mean, how many people get a chance to do this? There's not another contemporary company doing a five-week season in New York. I have to pinch myself sometimes. A lot of people brought us to this juncture." With that she's up and bounding to a noon rehearsal, pausing to point out an architectural detail of what will soon be her former office. "It gets either freezing in here or too hot," she says, motioning to the floor-to-ceiling windows. "But at least we have the sky."

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