Renewal on West 55th
Many New Yorkers live in tiny spaces, giving us a special appreciation for the grand lobbies and vaulted ceilings of the city’s great theaters. New York City Center, hosting audiences for 68 years, just had a complete face-lift costing more than $56 million — including new elevators, more restrooms, a state-of-the-art sprung floor to protect the knees of dancers and a fabulous paint job that restores the neo-Moorish glory of the former Shriners hall.
Also gleaming with fresh talent is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Performing at City Center for 40 years, and returning for five weeks on Nov. 30, the company recently acquired a new artistic director, only the third in its 53-year history. Robert Battle, whose work has been in the Ailey repertory and will be seen this year, took over in July from Judith Jamison.
Battle, 39, is still in honeymoon mode with the troupe, gleaming with pleasure at his 30 dancers, including nine new ones and returning diva Alicia Graf Mack. He has a flat-screen TV in his office, so he can watch rehearsals even as he tends to his multitude of other duties.
His first season at the helm will display “Home,” a new, hip-hop-inflected dance by Rennie Harris that premieres on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day and the 22nd anniversary of the death of Alvin Ailey, the company’s founder. Also on tap is Paul Taylor’s 1981 “Arden Court,” the first piece by the modern-dance master to enter Ailey’s repertory. Other company premieres include Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16” and Battle’s “Takademe,” both from 1999.