The Joyce Theater Names a New Programming Director

Danni Gee, a former dancer for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater who spent more than 15 years as the dance curator for the SummerStage festival, will be the next director of programming for the Joyce Theater, the organization announced on Wednesday.

The job is a powerful one in the New York dance world, where the Joyce is a major stop for touring performances, experimental works and midsize dance companies. Gee succeeds Aaron Mattocks, who started in the position in 2018 and stepped down this year to relocate to the Catskills. (Mattocks said he wanted “to ask what creativity looks like in my 40s, and how to build my work life around that.”)

Before her time with the Ailey company, Gee had performed at the Joyce in 1990 as a young dancer with Philadanco.

“It’s like coming full circle for her,” said Linda Shelton, the Joyce’s executive director. “To have danced here early on in her career and now coming back to the stage to program what’s on it.”

Gee left Ailey at 28 after a career-ending hip injury, turning to music to fill the creative void, she said. She has sung backing vocals for Kathy Sledge of the disco-era family group Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor and Cher.

In 2006, Gee became dance curator for SummerStage, the free outdoor festival that puts on performances in Central Park, featuring companies like the Martha Graham Dance Company, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Camille A. Brown & Dancers and A.I.M by Kyle Abraham.

As director of programming, Gee said she hoped to continue to introduce dance audiences both to renowned companies — the “rock stars” of the dance world, she called them — as well as promising up-and-comers.

“There are pockets of dance happening everywhere, and I hope to keep finding them and bringing them to the Joyce stage,” Gee said.

Shelton, who noted that Gee impressed the staff with her passion for dance and for the institution, said one of their priorities as a leadership team would be to figure out what it takes to get audiences to return to the theater in full force, which she said had not yet happened following the pandemic shutdown.

Gee has long been a fixture of the Joyce Theater as an audience member and a consultant to Complexions Contemporary Ballet, when it has performed there. Returning as an administrator will be “surreal,” she said.

“I know the smells of the Joyce; the security people; the box office people,” she said. “It’s like a homecoming.”

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