When Astoria resident Valerie Green saw that a growing number of professional dancers were flocking to Queens, she decided to capitalize on it. The dancer- turned-businesswoman opened her own studio in Long Island City almost two years ago to provide a haven where artists can kick up their heels.
Next month, Green Space will host its first festival, called “Green Space Blooms: Dance in Queens,” an event intended to celebrate both the space and the rising popularity of dance in Queens.
Despite the presence of nearby modern dance studio Topaz Arts in Woodside, “Queens is still a developing area for all of the arts,” Green said. “This is really something special, it’s breaking ground for dance and that’s what I want this festival to celebrate.”
The festival, which is sponsored by the Queens Council on the Arts, is set to take place the first and second weekends of April. It will feature a 50-minute dance choreographed by Green and performed by her own company, Dance Entropy, which she established in 1998. The dance took Green more than a year to create and nearly that long to plan the festival.
Green, a petite 34-year-old with blonde curly hair that is as distinctive as her personality, said the full-length modern dance — titled “The Shedding” — examines the “physical and emotional transformations” that humans experience throughout the course of a lifetime. The six performers emerge in cocoons of silver and bright orange fabric, symbolizing one “letting go of personal limitations” in a world of chaos, she said.
Additionally, each night will showcase a different musical group, including a Balkan band, a Latin classical singer and a flutist, highlighting the diversity of Queens. A cocktail reception will follow every evening’s performance.
“I want to accomplish many different things at once and bring new audiences together and celebrate many backgrounds,” Green said. “Someone who comes to watch a dance performance may not go see a Balkan band, but here they can all come together.”
Green, who has been dancing since she was 3 years old, opened Green Space in November 2005, after her previous studio in the SoHo district of Manhattan was replaced with luxury apartments. She said she “could foresee” that Queens would be the next artist’s community in New York City, because all of her dance colleagues in Manhattan were getting pushed out by developers. “I knew if I built it they would come,” she added.
Green Space is housed in a four-story red-brick building that was a former silk factory. Located on 24th Street in Long Island City, the space boasts windows that overlook the Manhattan skyline, covered by deep purple drapes that cascade from the high ceilings down to the maple floors.
Green said she wanted to construct a space that offers professional dancers a “warm and inspiring” place to practice their craft and provide an alternative to Manhattan, home to many long-established troops, and Brooklyn, a burgeoning artist’s community. Now, she said, dancers from all over New York City have been using Green Space.
She noted the studio also serves as a performance venue “where people can come do a show here and have it be affordable,” adding that its convenient location — just across the Queensborough Bridge — is a draw for dancers from elsewhere.
Lynn Lobell, managing director of Queens Council on the Arts, said Queens has recently seen a large influx of dancers, many of whom were without a home studio to practice. “They left Manhattan for Brooklyn, and now leaving Brooklyn for Queens” in hopes of finding studio space that is more “affordable,” she said.
Suzana Stankovic, a resident of Woodside who has performed at Green Space with her professional dance company, Stankovic Ballet, said Green’s studio is important and timely for the emerging artists’community in the area.
“She is one of the first individuals to provide a haven in Queens for dancers and choreographers,” Stankovic said. “This is enriching the lives of dancers and Queens residents alike.”
Green Space is located at 37-24 24th St. in Long Island City. Tickets to the Green Space Blooms festival are $20, or $15 for students, dancers and seniors. For more information, call (718) 956-3037 or visit www.greenspacestudio.com.