Evolving from the history of innovative dance at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery (which goes as far back as performances given in the 1920s and 1930s by Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and Charles Weidman), the Danspace Project was founded in 1974 by Barbara Dilley and Larry Fagin to provide an affordable performance venue for independent experimental choreographers. Supported in part through the stewardship of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, the Danspace Project, along with the Poetry Project and Ontological at Saint Mark's Theater, creates a multifaceted arts center in the East Village.
The Danspace Project's performance series takes place in the renovated main sanctuary of St. Mark's Church, one of the oldest active churches in New York City and a designated historical landmark. Nearly destroyed by fire in 1978, the church has been rebuilt to its original Colonial design. However, the pews were replaced by a clear maple dance floor and the space was rewired to accommodate full theatrical lighting and sound systems.
The mission of the Danspace Project is to offer innovative dance artists opportunities for growth and development through the support and presentation of their work. Danspace is committed to ensuring that choreographers can take risks, can realize their artistic vision in a professional setting, and will be viewed by an educated and receptive audience.
Approximately 20 weeks of contemporary dance are fully presented by the Danspace Project each season. Artists are provided with technical, promotional and front-of-house support. Danspace has presented a number of artists at early stages of their careers, including Douglas Dunn, Bill T. Jones and Bebe Miller. Danspace also serves artists such as Meredith Monk, who premiered and reprised her chamber work, Facing North, in the particularly appropriate environment of Danspace. In addition, through programs such as Food for Thought, Danspace offers younger choreographers a chance to showcase their work over a weekend that also serves to collect food for neighborhood social agencies. DraftWork (formerly TEA/dances), informal Sunday afternoon performances, invites dialogue between choreographers and the audience, and is followed by reception in the Parish Hall.