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Ailey's new Education Wing opens

Posted October 24, 2017

At a festive ribbon-cutting on the evening of October 18, 2017, leaders of the Ailey organization joined with dancers, students, donors, and friends from New York City's dance community to open the Elaine Wynn & Family Education Wing, a 10,000-square-foot expansion of Ailey's permanent home, the Joan Weill Center for Dance.

Featuring special performances by dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and The Ailey School, and tours of the bustling new facilities, the ceremony, ribbon-cutting and reception kicked off a public celebration of the opening of the new Wing during which Ailey Extension offered five days of free dance classes in a range of styles –from house dance with a live DJ to hip-hop, Zumba, West African, New York-style Mambo, and contemporary dance.

Designed by the Center's original architects, Iu + Bibliowicz Architects, the Elaine Wynn & Family Education Wing adds three floors to the west side of Ailey's building to provide four additional dance studios (bringing the total number of rehearsal spaces to 16), two new flexible classrooms, and added administrative office space. The $25 million project has also enabled Ailey to renovate existing dressing rooms, lounges, restrooms, and the company's costume shop.

With the new Wing, Ailey is now offering more than 500 weekly classes, an increase of 20% since the start of the project, to meet the needs of The Ailey School's pre-professional and professional training programs for young people, and Ailey Extension's dance and fitness classes for the public. The expanded space also will accommodate rehearsals for Ailey II and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in addition to serving the needs of the New York City arts community.

Ailey's Board Chair Daria L. Wallach and President Debra L. Lee joined Artistic Director Robert Battle and Executive Director Bennett Rink to acknowledge philanthropists Joan H. Weill and Sanford I. Weill and welcome Elaine P. Wynn and her daughter Gillian, thanking them for helping Ailey to serve more students and dancers, and an ever-growing national and international audience. Among the dignitaries who came to mark this milestone for the City of New York and the world of dance were New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, New York State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Bennett Rink said, "We are deeply grateful to Joan and Sandy Weill, whose extraordinary leadership enabled us to begin this journey, and to Elaine Wynn and her family for their exceptional support that will allow Ailey to take another leap upward. They have been joined by Daria Wallach, Debra Lee, John Schaefer, our generous Board, and the many other supporters of the Campaign for Ailey's Future who saw the potential of this project to elevate everything we do. We feel especially honored to have received a significant capital investment from the City of New York. We take this public participation as a testament to the vital cultural and educational contributions of the Ailey organization and as a recognition of New York City's eminence as the dance capital of the world."

Elaine Wynn said, "Ailey's wonderful education programs benefit so many people, from children training at all levels at The Ailey School, to underserved students in the AileyCamps, to the Company's breathtaking dancers, who awe people around the world with their grace and power. My family and I are proud to be a part of this remarkable organization, which gives us all so much joy and inspiration."

Robert Battle said, "Our educational mission is a legacy from Mr. Ailey himself, handed down to us through Judith Jamison. They taught us that dance has the power to touch the hearts and minds of people of all ages and backgrounds, and change their lives for the better. The Elaine Wynn & Family Education Wing is going to help us pass on our cherished legacy. This new facility expands the reach and impact of all our programs whether it's carried out in these studios and classrooms or is one of Ailey's Arts In Education activities implemented off-site, in cities across the U.S."

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl said, "The Ailey organization is an essential part of New York City's cultural landscape. The de Blasio Administration is proud to have invested more than $2 million in this exciting project, which will expand Ailey's ability to engage audiences and serve tens of thousands of students every year. Ailey's existing facility was at full capacity thanks to the popularity of their programming, making this an urgent and welcome addition to this important institution. We are grateful to all of the partners – including the City Council and the Manhattan Borough President's Office – whose support will help increase access to studio and classroom space and ensure that New York remains a place where artists live, work, and contribute to the vibrancy of our city. I'm thrilled to see this new Wing completed and already bursting with activity."

"Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been a vital cultural institution in New York City for nearly six decades," said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "It benefits New Yorkers and art lovers everywhere to have Alvin Ailey housed in a space as welcoming and vital as the company itself-which is why the City Council has provided $1.8 million in capital funding to aid in this expansion, so that this landmark organization can continue to thrive for another 60 years and beyond for the good of all. I thank NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, the leaders of Alvin Ailey, and my fellow Council members for their vision in securing these essential funds."

Gale A. Brewer said, "The Ailey organization is a quintessential New York arts institution, committed, as its namesake and founder was, to our city's values of eclecticism, diversity, and excellence. I'm proud to have given my office's support to this project and am excited to be here to cut the ribbon for these wonderful new facilities."