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Popular Dance Studio Has to Move Because of Rent Increase, Owners Say

By Ben Fractenberg | April 14, 2014 3:03pm
 Dance Manhattan is being forced to look for a new space because their rent is doubling at the end of August for their 14,000 square foot space at 39 West 19th Street, owner Elena Iannucci says. 
Dance Manhattan
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FLATIRON — A longtime Manhattan dance studio will have to move out of its West 19th Street space by the end of summer, after a looming rent increase priced them out of the neighborhood, owners said.

Dance Manhattan is leaving its 14,000-square-foot location at 39 W. 19th St. after nearly 20 years because its landlord is doubling the rent at the end of August, according to one of the dance studio founders.

“It’s crazy. But, you know, I guess I hear that Chelsea in particular seems to be the Silicon Valley of the east,” co-founder Elena Iannucci told DNAinfo New York last week from the studio. “The fallout of that is that you have the Googles and the Yelps and the Yahoos…who are looking for space and they become the people that buildings like this one want to rent to and not necessarily to those of us in the arts who are providing dance to the public.”

 Elena Iannucci co-founded Dance Manhattan in 1992. It moved into its current location at 39 W. 19th St. in 1995.
Elena Iannucci co-founded Dance Manhattan in 1992. It moved into its current location at 39 W. 19th St. in 1995.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

Iannucci — who grew up in Long Island and left her corporate job to pursue dance full time after her father passed away — co-founded the studio in 1992 to teach dance to people of all skill levels who want to learn styles like swing, tango, salsa and ballroom.

Her first studio was inside the Irving Plaza building before it was turned back into a music venue. 

They moved to 19th Street in 1995, renting the entire fifth floor of the building and eventually taking over part of the fourth floor about 10 years ago.

Iannucci said the space not only tries to make dance accessible to the general public, but also to foster an environment in which professional dancers and teachers can perfect their craft.

“During the day we provide them with free space so they can pursue their own dreams, so they can rehearse their own troupes, create their own choreography that they then go and take to other communities around the world, around the country,” she said. 

Dance Manhattan's lease had been scheduled to expire at the end of May, but its landlord extended it to the end of August to help with the transition, Iannucci said.

Still, the studio needs the help of the dance community since the summer is an especially slow time for them.

“We are going into the summer, which is a very difficult time of year typically. People go on dance hiatus in some sense because they are taking vacations or they are going to their beach homes on the weekends or they are going outdoor dancing,” she said. “So, continue taking those classes throughout the summer months. Continue supporting our special events. Bring your friends and family here, bring us new business and keep us vital. That’s what I would say to our customers who clearly want to see Dance Manhattan continue and want to continue to be part of our family.”

Group classes start at $90 for a one-hour weekly class for four weeks, according to its website.

Swing dancer Dan Bates said the loss of Dance Manhattan would be a huge blow.

“It is one of the biggest and best studios in New York and is known throughout the world,” he said. “Dancers coming through New York on their way elsewhere always make a point of stopping off there to check it out. It's a community as well as great space, and to lose it would be terrible.”

Bates added that the studio is also one of the last to teach the The Lindy Hop, which was created and became popular in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in the 1930s.

“The idea that the last major studio teaching this could close is very bad news for the city indeed,” Bates said.

Dance Manhattan would also love any leads on new spaces, Iannucci said. It has been looking for several months, but many building owners are hesitant to rent space to the group because of its longer hours and stream of people coming in and out, according to Iannucci.

“They would prefer to have businesses that are more mainstream, you know, in at 8, out at 6 — less traffic. But, although we have more traffic, we have more fun traffic,” she said. “Yes, we have a lot of dancers and yes they come in in the evenings, but they’re a great community of people and I believe any building should be proud to have them in their space.”