FYI | There’s No Place Like (a New) Home

What’s up in the dance community

It’s a scenario familiar to artists: move into a neglected urban area, make it hip and desirable, and then get shoved aside to make room for new residents attracted by all that hipness. Dance studio educators—with their modest revenues and need for sizable square footage—are particularly vulnerable.

Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance students are smiling again now that the studio has found a permanent home.
Photo by Inna Penek

The downtown Brooklyn studio Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance was three years into its 10-year lease when executive director Jimena Martinez received notice that the facility would be torn down to make way for a 19-story residential tower. “We had just finished a renovation. It was quite a shock to find out that we would be kicked out, and so soon into our lease,” Martinez told Dance Studio Life.

Thus set off a two-year period when the studio struggled along in spaces generously offered by dance-community compatriots such as Brooklyn Friends School, Brooklyn Ballet, and Gibney Dance. The necessary reduction of the studio’s once-robust schedule—as many as 50 classes a week in traditional and contemporary African dance styles such as West African, Afro-Brazilian, Senegalese, and Chicago-Style Stepping for adults, plus creative movement for ages 1 to 4—was tough, not only on students but also teachers, many of whom saw their hours greatly reduced.

This gentrification tale, though, has a happy ending. This fall, Cumbe found a home at RestorationART, a vibrant arts complex/coalition run by the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Not only will Cumbe have use of the center’s expansive rehearsal studio spaces, but Martinez said she is excited about partnership possibilities with RestorationART’s other artistic and cultural organizations. “We’re looking forward to helping create this locus in Bed-Stuy where each of our organizations creates an energy that benefits us all,” she said.