The New York City Center Repeats History with Its Grand Re-Opening


After a $53 million renovation project, the City Center will reopen with presentations from Sarah Jessica Parker, NYC Ballet and Brian Williams. (Courtesy of New York City Center)

Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall; each of these venues can be considered the go-to locations to appreciate the performing arts in New York City. Another locale that has been making significant contributions to the New York City arts scene for nearly 70 years is the New York City Center. And now after a year-and-a-half hiatus due to a $53 million renovation project, the City Center is back and better than ever with its annual events, including the Fall for Dance Festival.

On Oct. 25 the City Center had its grand re-opening Gala performance. The Gala featured various artists including Sarah Jessica Parker, the dancers of the New York City Ballet, Patti LuPone, Joshua Bell and Brian Williams. Mayor Bloomberg, who is an advocator for the event and principal sponsor of the Fall for Dance Festival, repeated history by conducting the Encores! Orchestra, as former mayor and savior Fiorello LaGuardia did for the New York philharmonic when the theatre first opened in 1943. The building in which the City Center now resides was originally saved from demolition by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

(Jim Henderson/WikiMedia Commons)

Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the City Center presented an affordable alternative to Broadway theatre, the Metropolitan Opera House and Carnegie Hall. Prestigious performing groups such as the New York City Opera, the New York City Ballet and the New York City Symphony were all found at the City Center.

“The building was originally built in 1923 as the Mecca Temple for the Shriners [a freemason society], who were thrown out of Carnegie Hall (which connects to City Center through the back door) due to complaints about their tobacco smoke,” said Mark Litvin, senior vice president and managing director at City Center.

“In 1943 Fiorello LaGuardia declared the site as a center for the arts and it remained that way for about 20 years until Lincoln Center was built. Then the New York Opera and Ballet moved over there. In the 1970s we got dance companies like Alvin Ailey to come here,” he said.

The upcoming event, Fall for Dance Festival, showcases a series of dance styles from hip-hop to ballet featuring dancers from all over the world. Many prestigious dance companies participate in the festival including the Trisha Brown Dance Company, the Australian Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Some companies making their debut in the festival include Vertigo Dance Company, Jessica Lange Dance and the Royal Ballet of Flanders.

In addition to the five different shows that will be shown over the ten days, Fall for Dance will also be holding its annual DanceTalk series in which a discussion panel will be held before two of the performances. DanceTalk is an opportunity for the public to hear what dance experts and artists have to say about current topics in the dance world. The free talks are held at the City Center Studios on West 56th Street.

The Fall for Dance Festival was developed in 2004 as an attempt to expand the City Center’s repertoire and enable them to target more different types of audiences. When it first opened, tickets cost $10 and still remain the same affordable price today, making it more accessible for anyone to be able to come and appreciate the art of dance.

It seems that New York couldn’t be more eager to see one of their favorite events at the City Center, now that it has finally re-opened to the public. “Tickets for the Fall for Dance Festival, in the past, have sold out in usually 3-4 days,” said Litvin. “This year however we filled our new capacity of 250 seats in just four hours.”

The Fall for Dance Festival runs from Oct. 27 until Nov. 6. Tickets are sold out but those that are returned to the box office are available for purchase on the day of the show. For more information about the festival and other events at the City Center visit