NEW YORK (AP) – With the help of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a giant pair of scissors, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater officially opened its first permanent home.

With artistic director Judith Jamison presiding Wednesday, students from the Ailey School helped dedicate the Joan Weill Center for Dance. Wycliffe Gordon & the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble performed “Wade in the Water” as the young, scantily clad dancers braved the cold for a joyous processional into the building following the ribbon cutting.

“We are taking the biggest grand jete we have ever taken,” an emotional Jamison declared inside the new Citigroup Theater. “And you know we know how to land.”

The $54 million, 77,000 square-foot center, touted by the company as the largest dance facility in the United States, houses 12 studios and a 295-seat theater. Jamison blissfully described the airy, eight-level brick and glass building as a “palace.”

Ailey company members and students inaugurated the theater with – what else – excerpts from the late choreographer’s 1960 masterwork, “Revelations,” of which “Wade in the Water” is a segment.

“This (dream) has been going on since high school, when we met,” said legendary dancer Carmen de Lavallade, who introduced Ailey to mentor Lester Horton and worked with the Ailey company for many years. “And here it is – the first thing Alvin would do is cry. Then he’d soar.”

Named in honor of board chairman and donor Joan Weill, the center was designed by Carolyn lu and Natan Bibliowicz. It is located on 9th Avenue at 55th Street.

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