Founders Laurie De Vito, Michael Geiger, Danny Pepitone, Lynn Simonson and Charles Wright were artistic pioneers in 1984, creating and building a studio - Dance Space Center and now Dance New Amsterdam - for educating and developing dancers and choreographers. Their work has played a critical role in building a vibrant dance community that has helped establish New York City as a cultural mecca, and DNA continues to support that vision to ensure dance is alive and developing in NYC.
Dance New Amsterdam: A Brief History
by Martha Chapman
Dance New Amsterdam (DNA)’s 28-year history began in the Noho (north of Houston Street) neighborhood of Manhattan in 1984 when five dancer/choreographers founded Dance Space Inc. - a place to dance and a home for the whole dancer. DSI offered dance training, anatomy awareness, performance and choreographic opportunities as well as community to all students at their individual levels of technique and engagement. Founder Lynn Simonson created and continues to develop the Simonson Technique, training thinking dancers whose strong technique and performance quality is based on intimate knowledge of their own body’s parameters. This philosophy continues to inform the teaching of all faculty members at DNA. The Evolving Arts Theater, the nonprofit performance venue housed within DSI provided a space for performers and creators at all stages of their careers to explore and polish their craft.
Founders Laurie De Vito, Michael Geiger, Danny Pepitone, Lynn Simonson and Charles Wright were artistic pioneers in 1984, creating and building from scratch a true home for dance in what would later become a vibrant arts community thanks to fellow arts pioneers in New York City. Danny Pepitone passed away tragically in 1987 and Michael Geiger moved on to pursue other projects. Laurie De Vito, Lynn Simonson and Charley Wright continued as co-directors until 2002, after which Charley took on the Executive Director role. Laurie De Vito and Lynn Simonson continue to teach at DNA, inspiring a whole new generation of students and faculty alike.
In 1999, Dance Space, Inc. merged with its partner organization, the Evolving Arts Theater, to become the nonprofit entity Dance Space Center. In that same year, DSC lost its lease to the economic boom of the 1990s. Charles Wright found a temporary home for Dance Space Center in the Chinatown area of Manhattan. Following the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, he continued our pioneer tradition by creating a new home in Lower Manhattan in the historic Sun Building on City Hall Park, where – renamed Dance New Amsterdam (DNA) in the former “New Amsterdam” section of Manhattan – it became the first arts organization to move downtown after this tragedy. Today, Executive Director, Catherine Peila continues DNA’s legacy and is making DNA a vibrant part of our neighborhood - an area formerly exclusive to the financial and civil-service industries.
In our home in the Sun Building at 280 Broadway on Chambers Street, six beautiful studios and a full-service theater bustle with dance students of all levels and theater majors from Pace University (a new cultural partner from across City Hall Park). Audience members enjoy performances by new and established choreographers, and related visual-art exhibits in the DNA Gallery enrich all. The gifts our five founders offered to the dance community and to New York City cannot be measured and continue to be treasured by each student and audience member who walks through DNA’s doors.
Board member Martha Chapman, a staple in the DNA community (as ballet faculty and as student) since 1997, and Board Member since 2002, reminisces on the beginning of DNA, its journey and its future.