New theater and director for Dance Theater Workshop

By Doris Diether

Major changes are about to take place at the Dance Theater Workshop, 2l9 W. l9th St. David R. White, executive director and producer of D.T.W. since l975, has just stepped down to be replaced by Marion K. Dienstag. And the newly constructed D.T.W. will open for its first season on Sept. 3.

D.T.W. was begun in l967 by Jeff Duncan, Jack Moore and Art Bauman in a loft. In l975 they moved to the American Theater Lab on l9th St., the same year White went to work with them as their first full-time employee. Over the next 28 years, besides presenting almost-weekly dance concerts, D.T.W. commissioned dance works. In l984, they began producing The Bessies, New York Dance and Performance Awards, which are presented annually to outstanding dance and performance artists. The following year the company started The Suitcase Fund, a program permitting artists to perform and do research overseas, and The National Performance Network in association with l4 other organizations across the United States.

In l995, D.T.W. bought its building and in December 2000 closed it down to demolish the existing building and construct its new state-of-the-art facility. They also amassed an impressive board of directors, headed by Michael J. Connelly, president and C.E.O. of Mosaica Education, as their president. The board includes business people and financial officers plus choreographers and arts management people.

It was during the period when D.T.W. was beginning its campaign for the new theater in the spring of l999 that Dienstag joined White as director of management and planning. She had extensive experience as director, manager and administrator of such organizations as Mabou Mines, New York Dance Center at 890 Broadway, The New 42nd St. and Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun, before coming to D.T.W.

White, who will be relocating to St. Paul, Minn., felt that this was finally the right time to step down and turn the reins over to someone else, and Dienstag was ready to step in. This change will assure the continuity of the programs. For some time, White has had the goal of being able to hand off the job to able people, especially during the last eight years because of the job’s intense focus on finances and capital campaign and having to learn about real estate. He is grateful for the break from that, and from the frustration of having, year after year, to justify the very existence of D.T.W.

St. Paul has a smaller but vital dance community and White hopes to work again as producer for some of the artists he knows. However, he did admit he will miss being “in the middle of the clover leaf of artists,” bumping into artists daily in his everyday life. “An extraordinary group of people,” he said.

As new executive director, Dienstag will be shepherding the fiscal and public face of D.T.W., the day-to-day operations, but she will not be producing. For that she has two artistic directors, Cathy Edwards and Craig Peterson. She hopes to make D.T.W. exciting and healthy, and of service to the community.

During the demolition and construction period, Dienstag meshed outside funding with people inside the organization familiar with the funding needs. Her experience during the construction work at 890 Broadway and the New Victory Theater helped her move the project forward.

White had approached Dienstag about coming on board in l999, and the team that was set up is really involved with the future of D.T.W., “which makes us the best team,” Dienstag said. As in the past, D.T.W., besides presenting dance performances, will have music and theater at times.

Asked about the steep angle of the theater seating with no railing, Dienstag said that installing railings is absolutely her intention, but probably not until next December because there is no money right now.

“Maybe you can get someone to donate the $l0,000,” she suggested.

The first season of the new theater officially starts on Sept. 3 with a performance by former Pina Bausch dancer Felix Ruckert. Other companies to look forward to this first season are Big Dance Theater (Annie B. Parson & Paul Lazar), LAVA, John Jasperse, Arthur Aviles and their popular programs, Split Stream and Family Matters.


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