Club Cortez

There'll be dancing at Limelight, the controversial nightspot that reopened in December after a two-year hiatus. But this time the dancers will be professionals, with 100 seated customers watching (and standees lurking on catwalks).

Cortez & Co. inaugurates the Limelight Theater with three premieres June 16 through 18 at 7 p.m.; there'll be time for a reception before the space reverts to club status at 10 p.m. Concert tickets include free admission to the club.

Choreographer Hernando Cortez had planned to forego a New York season this year, given the financial burden of renting a space. When he learned, through one of his board members, that Limelight was looking for dance troupes, he seized the opportunity. "They're presenting us. There's no rental fee, and they're taking care of all the technical crew," he explains. "We can use all of their expensive lighting system, which can do anything, but since those are all overhead lights, my lighting designer Chenault Spence needs to add side lighting."

The high-ceilinged former church features tall stained-glass windows and a raised platform at one end where the audience will sit. "I'm not trying to disguise the fact that it is what it is," says Cortez, whose choreography must accommodate the lack of wings. "I wanted to be casual about the space."

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The program includes A Twist of Fate, a somber, expressionistic work for seven to music by contemporary Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin; Planet Soup, which Cortez describes as "all the folk dances of the world united in one"; and InnerEye, a solo in which he revisits Steve Reich's seminal Music for 18 Musicians in a newly reengineered version.

Limelight production coordinator Dawn Steeves is cultivating performance events before as well as during club hours; two Shakespeare plays were recently presented. "We're trying to make it into a hybrid space," she says. "The next direction for club-going is more intellectual stimulation."

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