Danspace Project and Porsena are the perfect pair, complimenting each other’s success like marsala and a good red wine.

Located in St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery since 1974, Danspace Project has presented groundbreaking new work by some of the most iconic contemporary dance and performance artists.

Just three blocks away sits Porsena, an Italian trattoria run by Chef Sara Jenkins. With a small staff, Danspace Project does not have a formal corporate sponsorship program, but it understands the value of small arts organizations partnering with small businesses like Porsena restaurant.

“It began by simply getting to know each other,” explained Porsena manager Ian Macrae. Danspace board members had started eating there before shows. Then, a Danspace staff member walked down to the restaurant to grab pasta and ended up chatting with Macrae. One pasta meal turned into Friday staff lunches, and staff lunches eventually turned into pre-show dinners hosted by board members.

It was a “relationship that developed organically,” according to Peggy Cheng, Danspace’s Director of Development. Danspace needed venues for social and cultivation events, and Porsena was already the unofficial site of pre-show dinners. With a personal connection and professional alignment, Porsena was a clear potential partner. Macrae added, “We are similar in that we are small organizations, we are neighbors, we are community, and we like each other. But mainly because we are about a true and honorable service art.”

Over the past five years, Danspace staff have developed deeper relationships with Porsena’s manager and servers. “Trust is key,” explained Macrae. “We love doing collaborations and we all know what is expected.” From hosting events at the restaurant (Macrae: “all my guys know the Danspace regulars”), the partnership has grown to catering on-site (Cheng: “we all know each other well, so it’s lovely” to have them), donating restaurant gift cards for Danspace’s membership program (Macrae: Danspace has “opened us up to new audiences”), promoting materials, and of course, attending performances and events.

Good business for Danspace means good business for the restaurant. “Porsena has definitely had new customers come and come back because of introductions.”  

Photo by Greg Ramsey.

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