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iHeartDance NYC welcomes dance stars to perform in outdoor live dance series

Herman and Erica Cornejo.
Herman and Erica Cornejo.

iHeartDance NYC, a new initiative to celebrate and support the dance artists of New York City through performance opportunities and financial relief, announces its live inaugural performance series on April 11on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel. The series, which will offer audiences four intimate performances, will feature New York’s biggest dance stars from American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet (NYCB), tap, Broadway and more to celebrate artistry, diversity and resilience — and to shine a light on the dance community that has kept committed to their craft despite their extended intermission from the stage. Additionally, all proceeds from this series will be allocated toward the iHeartDance NYC Fund, which will invite professional dancers working in New York City to apply for financial assistance, through the organization’s fiscal sponsor, the Irondale Ensemble Project. 

iHeartDance NYC rooftop series.

Founded by producer and dance activist Melissa Gerstein and arts publicist and manager Kimberly Giannelli, iHeartDance NYC was jointly realized as a response to the toll the pandemic has taken on the dance community, as its heartbeat relies on rehearsals and performances. The rooftop performances will reprise the format of Gerstein’s fall fundraiser to benefit the Dancers of NYCB. This time, the event will represent a wider landscape of the diverse dance community and welcome notable artists like ABT principals Skylar Brandt, Herman Cornejo and Christine Shevchenko, artists from the American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, tap dynamo Ayodele Casel, Broadway performers Robbie Fairchild and Chris Jarosz, Christopher Grant and Spartak Hoxha of NYCB, and more to be announced. Overlooking the iconic landscape of Lincoln Center, the spring outdoor series will welcome an intimate audience to bring live dance back to the city in a safe and comfortable environment, while offering an opportunity to experience world class artists in a unique setting.

American Ballet Theatre's Skylar Brandt.
American Ballet Theatre’s Skylar Brandt.

The coronavirus and the related closures within New York City continue to have a deleterious financial impact on the dance community. There are thousands of professional dancers who have made New York City their home, because it is a city where dreams come true. With the average professional dancer earning $32,716 per year, more than 75 percent have reported needed funds for housing, and 74 percent needing assistance for food and groceries over the last year. Ten percent have been forced to relocate due to high living costs of New York City, and the lack of employment opportunities with little guidance for the future. iHeartDance NYC will open applications for emergency and immediate funding following the April 11th event to provide aid and help dancers while they remain waiting in the wings for theaters to reopen. Donations to the iHeartDance NYC fund can be made here.

Robbie Fairchild.
Robbie Fairchild.

“Over the last year, I have met dancers who are struggling mentally and physically while turning their kitchen counters into ballet barres,” explains Gerstein. “I have been unbelievably inspired by their perseverance, and as a former dancer feel the need to support these performing artists in any way that I can. To be able to get dancers back in the studio working together and rehearsing for a performance again is something we are so excited about leading.”

“While many professional companies and performing arts institutions have had a hard time navigating the financial impacts of the city’s restrictions, dancers have been tasked with marking the year away from the stage as a time to invest in themselves and their own personal development,” adds Giannelli. “They have shown up every day and put the work in, and this is our small way of celebrating them in the way that we can. When the music starts and the dancers take their places, we will all have a little more compassion, appreciation and perspective on where we have been as a community and as an artform and where we can go from here.”

Ayodele Casel. Photo by Michael Higgins.
Ayodele Casel.
Photo by Michael Higgins.

iHeartDance NYC rooftop series will take place on April 11, at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm. The running time of each performance is 60 minutes. Tickets to the inaugural iHeartDance NYC benefit performance are $200, $500 and $1,000 and available here. A $50 livestream will also be available for purchase. All tickets include unlimited brunch and cocktails. 

For more information, visit www.iheartdancenyc.com.  

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