IIDA NY Celebrates Creative Legacies At Annual Leaders Breakfast

Judith Jamison at IIDA NY Leaders Breakfast – Photo courtesy of Johnny Wolf Photography

Judith Jamison Notes The Commonalities and Differences Between Dance and Design

On Thursday, May 18th, the New York Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA NY) hosted its annual Leaders Breakfast with keynote speaker Judith Jamison, Artistic Director Emerita, of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Held at 583 Park Avenue, attendees enjoyed a pre-breakfast networking hour, a keynote speech from Jamison, and a Q&A session with Jamison, led by Cheryl Durst, the Executive Vice President and CEO of IIDA. Jamison spoke about the hardships and triumphs of being an African American dancer, the importance of mentorship, and the parallels between dance and design.

While both fields require constant inspiration, Jamison noted a key difference. “Dance is ephemeral,” said Jamison. “We do a performance, you remember it, we hope we move you, we hope to bring you to new heights. But when you’re building a building, and you’re doing that interior, people have to live with that for a long time.” This was the case for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, referred to by Jamison as a ‘Glass Palace.’ The architects behind the project were applauded for listening to the very dancers who work in the building, ultimately merging their visions together to create a curving space that ‘dances’ in its own right.

Jamison also touched upon the idea of legacy and mentorship, attributing her success as an African American dancer in the 1960s to the mentors who took her under their wing and provided her with the opportunities her natural abilities deserved. “You have to be consciously aware that there is a generation behind you that you’re responsible for. If you want to continue making sure that young people understand how important your discipline is, you have to constantly bring them with you.”

Acknowledging that designers and dancers alike create with the purpose of serving others, Jamison ended her speech. “We are never dancing in a vacuum. We are never doing what we do, excellently, in a vacuum, we’re always doing it for others.”

Attendees left the breakfast reflecting upon the power designers have within the communities they serve and the importance of providing a path for the younger generation to build the future of design.


The IIDA New York Chapter (IIDA NY) is a professional networking and educational association of more than 800 Members in ten specialty Forums. IIDA NY provides its Members with the resources to reach expertise, knowledge and contacts. Networking events allow professionals and industry members to connect on more personal terms that encourage trust, collaboration, and innovation. The Chapter is proud to have been recognized as IIDA Large Chapter of the Year in 2011, 2008, 2001 and 2000. For more information, visit: http://www.iidany.org/.