NYC Dance in Sacred Places

Manhattan & Brooklyn

Partners for Sacred Places began our NYC Dance in Sacred Places program in the Manhattan and Brooklyn Boroughs in 2019. We spoke with and inventoried 20 sacred places in those two boroughs to identify underutilized spaces that could be potential rehearsal, office, and/or performance space. Through a series of training sessions, we connected the sacred places with space to share with over 40 dance makers who are actively looking for space to rent in the hopes of crafting mutually beneficial space-sharing arrangements.

Little did we know what 2020 would have in store for all of us. By mid-March of 2020, things seemed to be progressing in a bad direction, NYC was shutting down and folks were told to stay in their homes. We were a one-day training session shy of completing our NYC work for Phase I but we decided to take a step back to re-evaluate our program in light of our new reality.

Seeing space sharing as potentially problematic in our socially distanced world- Partners took the time to reassess our work to align with the priorities of New Yorkers, we hosted two happy hour Zoom sessions. No agenda, no work expectation – just a check in with our friends in the Big Apple. We discovered that our work may have an even greater impact than before. With the possibility of losing some key dance maker spaces in NYC, our work opening up and drawing connections with sacred places may play a key role in maintaining and revitalizing the dance scene – keeping it alive by providing much needed affordable creation space.  

Having pivoted to online sessions to complete our Phase I work, we strived to create meaningful online interactions where relationships can be initiated. As a result of our efforts, our work in NYC is being taken to Phase II. Starting in July 2020 through December 2021, the NYC Dance in Sacred Places program is looking for 30 additional sacred places in Manhattan and Brooklyn and up to 45 dance makers (city-wide) who are looking for creation space.   

We are happy to announce our continued collaboration with Dance/NYC, New York Landmarks Conservancy, and Goldstein Hall Law Firm. The goal of this project is to create and foster sustainable, mutually beneficial space sharing relationships between dance organizations and sacred places. We also have developed a NYC Advisory Committee to help guide our process and progress, keeping us committed to serving the faith and dance maker communities therein. 

Our online training will cover topics including:

  • Aligning dance organization’s sacred place’s missions 
  • Relating artistic content to religious doctrine
  • Creating a space sharing agreement that works for both parties
  • Reimagining the sacred place facility for use by the dance community

Partners’ experience and research has shown that many urban congregations are overwhelmed with the burden of caring for surplus space. At the same time, artists who are struggling to find adequate and affordable space in which to work, may not know that the former Sunday school wing of a local church could be available for office, performance, or studio space. Partners’ Arts in Sacred Places program (AiSP) was designed to capitalize on this challenge by facilitating mutually beneficial space-sharing relationships between arts organizations without a home and the city’s houses of worship with space to spare.

CreateNYC, New York City’s most recent cultural plan, lists affordability as one of its primary issue areas. The report notes, “the [arts] sector cannot continue to make the city great if the artists, scientific researchers, cultural workers, and nonprofit organizations that make up much of the cultural field cannot afford to do their work. The current supply of affordable places to live, work, exhibit, and perform falls far short of demand. This affordability crisis not only severely affects the well-being of the 250,000 New Yorkers that work in the cultural field, but it also threatens the city’s future as a global cultural center.” (CreateNYC, 12)

Dance/NYC has confirmed that the lack of rehearsal space is a pressing need for NYC dance artists, a constituency that currently includes:

  • 5000+ individual dance artists in NYC
  • 1200+ dance-making entities in NYC
  • 500+ nonprofit dance companies in NYC

“Dance makers, who create and/or perform dance, are vibrant contributors to and ambassadors for the City, as evidenced by 1,763 public performances annually in New York City, 1,335 public performances on tour, 4,468 off-site school classes, and an astonishing array of workshops and additional events.” (State of NYC Dance 2016)

Past and present Dance/NYC research reveals that, affordable presentation and development space is a high need for the workforce of dance makers. According to their Advancing Fiscally Sponsored Artists and Art Projects report (2017) “The workforce ranks living wages as its highest need, followed by affordable presentation space, affordable development space, supplies and materials, affordable healthcare, affordable living space, and affordable training.” The study recommends “protecting, repurposing, and increasing use of existing spaces suitable for dance rehearsals and residencies” by “improving access to nontraditional spaces, such as sacred spaces, community centers, senior centers, libraries, and retail and office space for short- and long term use” and “expanding promotion of dance spaces through centralized platforms such as SpaceFinder’s Dance Space Directory, a community partnership between Fractured Atlas and Dance/NYC.” The NYC Dance in Sacred Places program addresses the need for affordable space by locating congregations interested in utilizing more of their space for dancemaking. 

  • Sacred places are community spaces and artists expand that definition.
  • Artists avoid the costs of property ownership while sacred places can earn income to maintain their buildings.
  • Sacred places are generally able to rent their spaces below market rate.

Partners is seeking at least 30 sacred places located in Manhattan & Brooklyn to participate in this pilot project. Selected sacred places should fit the following criteria:

  • Have a willingness to share your space with dancers specifically.
  • Are open to artistic freedom
    • Artistic freedom means allowing the artists to develop and create their work without interference or influence from entities outside their creative process.
  • Have large open spaces – free of columns and with floors that are appropriate for dancers, such as, hardwood, marley, sprung, or linoleum.
  • Have the human capacity at your facility to handle the management of potential space sharers
  • Have clergy and lay leadership interested in the arts and space sharing

Partners is inviting hundreds of sacred places to apply for 30 slots. We will be making the selections based on geography (Manhattan & Brooklyn), openness, denomination variety, accessibility, public transit options, and interior spaces that are functional for the dance community. Sacred places interested in participating in the program must have their buildings surveyed prior to the 2021 training sessions. We are currently investigating online site survey options and small group in-person options. We do ask for everyone’s patience. Please contact Allison King (aking@sacredplaces.org or (215) 567-3234 x 20) to schedule a survey of your building.

The NYC Dance in Sacred Places program is focused on guiding both artists and sacred places towards sharing space with one another based on mission and vision alignment that creates a strong relationship foundation for long-term success. While we will advise, assist, and act as a resource to all participants, the program at this time, does not provide any financial support or negotiate any individual space sharing agreements. Our distinct hope is to empower both groups to create space sharing agreements that work for them.

In light of this project’s specific geographic parameters, we would like to acknowledge that the NYC Dance in Sacred Places program is taking place on the traditional land of Wappinger, Lenape and Canarsie people.

Partners is seeking approximately 45 dance makers (individuals, co-ops, or organizations) to participate in this process. Selected dance makers should fit the following criteria:

  • Have a willingness to make a creative home within a sacred place
  • Are currently paying rent in another space or are ready to make that leap
  • Have human capacity to handle the space sharing relationship
  • Have artistic and management leadership interested in sharing space with sacred places
  • Wants to have a creative home in either Manhattan or Brooklyn
    • Does NOT have to live in either Manhattan or Brooklyn

Partners is anticipating a large amount of interest from the NYC dance community and would like to express that our slots are limited because this is a pilot project. The success of this project in these initial stages will gauge the future of NYC Dance in Sacred Places in terms of expansion into other boroughs or number of dancers served. We will be recruiting a group of panelists to help in selecting the final participants in this pilot project. Recruitment for these panelists will reflect NYC demographics and represent the fullness of the NYC dance community. We are working with Dance/NYC to make sure our process is in alignment with the transparent processes they have for their programs.

Partners is committed to Dance/NYC’s values of justice, equity, and inclusion and will strive for those same values in our dance participant selections.

The NYC Dance in Sacred Places program is focused on guiding both artists and sacred places towards sharing space with one another based on mission and vision alignment that creates a strong relationship foundation for long-term success. While we will advise, assist, and act as a resource to all participants, the program at this time, does not provide any financial support or negotiate any individual space sharing agreements. Our distinct hope is to empower both groups to create a space sharing agreement that work for them.

Photo credit:

  • Grounds that Shout! (and others merely shaking) Fist and Heel Performance group in “…they stood shaking while others began to shout” at Church of the Advocate. Photo by Daniel Kontz

Advisory Committee

Savona Bailey-McClain
Executive Director/Chief Curator, West Harlem Art Fund
Ann-Isabel Friedman
Director, Sacred Sites Program, The New York Landmarks Conservancy
Ingrid Kapteyn
Co-Founder, HEWMAN, Welcome to Campfire
Kate Toth
Project Director, Bricks and Mortals
Christopher Antonelli
Associate, Goldstein Hall PLLC
Stephen Hill
Artistic Director, The ChoreoJoey Project
Daphne Lasky
Architect
Board Member of Greenpoint Shul
Stephanie Chan
Senior Planner, Office of Manhattan Borough President
Colleen Heemeyer
Deputy Director, Sacred Sites & Preservation Services, New York Landmarks Conservancy
Candace Thompson-Zachery
Manager of Justice, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, Dance NYC
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Contact for more information:

Karen DiLossi, Director of Arts in Sacred Places
kdilossi@sacredplaces.org
215-567-3234 x16

Allison King, Grants and Program Manager
aking@sacredplaces.org
215-567-3234 x20

September 25th Info Session

RSVP Here

Dance Maker Participation Form

Dance Maker participation form

Sacred Place Participation Form

Sacred Place participation form

Our Collaborators on this Project:

Dance/NYC and NY Landmarks Conservancy

Law Firm Partner:

Goldstein Hall, PLLC

Funding provided by:

The New York Community Trust