Rejoicing in The Joyce

Rejoicing in The Joyce From scouting the world for new works to raising funds, Linda Shelton, executive director of The Joyce Theater, relishes it all.
Linda Shelton
Linda Shelton

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Linda Shelton, calm as cookies, says she knows nothing about Angelin Preljocaj's Empty Moves, "so I'm going to Paris tomorrow to see it." What she does know about the work that is premiering at Theatre de la Ville is that its creator "sometimes takes classic shows like Romeo and Juliet and makes them into his own vocabulary."

Empty Moves, recipient of a Joyce Theater commissioning grant from The Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New York, is slated for a December bow at The Joyce, New York City's humming little 472-seat hub of dance in what was once a shopworn revival movie house down in Chelsea. A recent successful $9-million drive has boosted the endowment fund to $12 million - "very nice for a theatre our size."

Quick hops abroad - scouting trips to France, Japan, Korea, Slovenia, Cambodia, wherever dancers dance - are an ever-renewing adrenaline for Joyce Theater executive director Linda Shelton, who came from The Joffrey to The Joyce in 1993. And what she can't cover, programming director Martin Wechsler will.

"Just last night," Shelton says, "we had Tero Saarinen, a young man from Finland who held the stage, alone - it must have been 30 minutes - in Hunt, a piece to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in which the dancer was both the hunter and the hunted." One of the highlights in July will be Gideon Obarzanek's Chunky Move troupe from Australia in I Want to Dance Better at Parties. The title is what got Shelton to go see it Down Under. "Yeah, it's a good piece. Five men tell their stories on video while five dancers dance it." If travel is a key part of the job, there's something that Shelton, daughter of a Totowa area, New Jersey, diner owner, enjoys even more: fundraising.

Fundraising??? Enjoyable???

"Yes, and I'll tell you why. Whenever I speak with a donor, a foundation, an executive, they always have something wonderful to say about The Joyce. And if they don't know about it, it's very exciting to get them to come see."

The Joyce operates 48 weeks in the year, booking 30-some aggregations, everything from Jazz Tap to the second companies of Paul Taylor and Alvin Ailey to ABT to Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo to Pilobolus to Benjamin Millepied's classical ballet.

Millepied? Thousand-footed? "Yes," she says with a laugh. "Good name for a dancer."

All sorts of activities - tryouts, classes, rehearsals - spill over from The Joyce to the busy-busy 74-seat Joyce SoHo in an old firehouse on Mercer Street. A somewhat larger venue - 1,000 seats - will be the new Joyce component designed by Frank Gehry for the rebuilt World Trade Center.

If it happens.

"How about when it happens?" says Linda Shelton, calmer yet. "We're still in the mix. Still planning. I feel confident about it."

They grow them sure-footed in Totowa.