Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

A modern dance troupe broke in a new, affordable performing arts workspace in Long Island City earlier this week with a dance number for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and in turn hizzoner did a little performing of his own.

Dina Denis, Lisa Craig and Adrianne Rodgers treated the mayor to a still-in-the-works piece Tuesday in one of three rehearsal spaces at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Spaceworks, a nonprofit real estate company that develops and manages affordable workspace for performing and visual artists.

“We had been rehearsing for about 10 years at Topaz Arts in Woodside,” said Denis, an East Elmhurst native and director of the nonprofit dance company Dance Into Light. “We like this space because it’s affordable, accessible by train and you can book online.”

With three studios and a music room spread out across 3,800 square feet, the first floor of the six-story building, at 33-02 Skillman Ave., is the first venture for Spaceworks, which receives funding through a combination of grants from the city, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

“We worked hard to respond to the different needs of different kinds of artists,” explained Executive Director Paul Parkhill, who said plans are in motion to open another 26,000-plus square feet of individualized space at four locations in Brooklyn and on Governors Island. “Performing artists tend to work in groups and need space in increments of hours. Visual artists often work solo and they need space for longer periods of time — often years at a time.”

Parkhill said that while LIC has a longer history as a center for visual artists, the neighborhood has a blossoming scene of dancers, actors and musicians who can benefit from the $12 to $16 hourly rates Spaceworks charges.

Applicants are required to prove New York City residency and to submit a body of work for review, though Parkhill pointed out the work is not juried and the point is to support a broad spectrum of working artists.

The space is a few blocks away from LIC’s business incubator and the mayor, pointing out that arts and culture have a $21 billion impact on the city’s economy, said he saw Spaceworks as a place where both economic and cultural innovation would be fostered.

“We always talk about [how] all of these things are great; they bring tourists here. But what about us? It’s one of the reasons we live here, is to have great cultural institutions,” he said.

Bloomberg fired off a string of quips as if he were performing stand up, recounting a story about himself as a young dilettante, trying to convince his parents that if they paid for piano lessons, he would practice every day. He even offered to sit in with an experimental music group practicing in one of the studios, “but they said it would be an even bigger honor if I did not.”

“But I would have made them all look good,” he said. “Somebody has to set the curve.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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