Virus Cases Delay Effort to Bring Indoor Dance Back to New York

The Park Avenue Armory is postponing “Afterwardsness” after three members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance company tested positive for the coronavirus.

By Sarah Bahr

It was one of the most high-profile experiments to bring indoor live performance back to New York City.

The Park Avenue Armory decided to take advantage of the cavernous, flexible space of its 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall to hold a short season called “Social Distance Hall.” It received permission from state health authorities to invite extremely limited audiences back inside, and planned to give them all rapid tests for the coronavirus. To kick things off it turned to one of the great choreographers of the day, Bill T. Jones, to stage “Afterwardsness,” a new piece that addresses the coronavirus pandemic and violence against Black people.

But the eagerly anticipated performances, which were set to begin on Wednesday for a sold-out seven-day run, had to be postponed after several members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company tested positive for the virus, Rebecca Robertson, the president and executive producer of the Armory, said on Saturday in an email to ticket holders.

“The affected performers are, thank heavens, feeling well,” Robertson wrote.

“While this is greatly disappointing for the artists, the Armory and our audiences, this postponement is a necessary part of the process of collectively returning to in-person performances in responsible and safe ways,” she added.

Kyle Maude, the producing director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, said that three members of the company who were given a rapid antigen test had tested positive on Thursday, and that those results were later confirmed when they took a more reliable P.C.R. test, for which results came back on Saturday.

The planned March opening had put the Armory ahead of the April 2 start date for reduced-capacity performances in New York announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, but state officials had approved the early opening. Robertson told The New York Times earlier this month that the decision was made partly because the Armory had already tested its safety procedures in October when “Afterwardsness” was filmed before a live audience of volunteers in its Drill Hall.

The Armory, whose spacious Drill Hall holds a huge volume of air, appeared to be an ideal venue to experiment with indoor performance. Plans called for limiting the audience to 100, which is only about 10 percent of the hall’s capacity, and for seating people at least nine feet apart. A series of precautions, including masks, on-site rapid testing for all audience members, electronic ticketing and temperature checks, will be in force for the spring season.

The Armory said all ticket holders for “Afterwardsness” would receive a refund and would be given early access to book tickets for the rescheduled performances when dates are announced.

“Afterwardsness” was set to be followed by “Social! the social distance dance club,” conceived by the choreographer Steven Hoggett, the set designer Christine Jones and the musician David Byrne. Dates for that will be announced soon, the Armory said.

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