Brenda Bufalino, Dancer/

Resident at Westbeth since 1997

A Life at Westbeth

The studio where I teach, where I am artistic mentor and artist in residence, is the American Tap Dance Foundation on Christopher Street, just a few blocks down from my apartment at Westbeth. I can walk there in ten minutes, so I often cut it close. On special days, I will bring a young professional tap dancer home with me to share a tea, which I love to lay out on my long wooden table in front of the windows that overlook the Empire State Building, straight ahead, and Washington Street, below.

I love watching my mentorees as they enter the Westbeth lobby. There is always a sigh. Something tells them right away that they could belong here. The same sense I had when coming to visit a residence here in 1980. I knew right away Westbeth was where I wanted to live, and I immediately put my name on the list. Seventeen years later, I was finally awarded my apartment. Unfortunately, it’s difficult now to get on the list. Yet these dancers come to New York and aspire to a life of artistic authenticity that they feel the moment they walk through the Westbeth doors. It takes time to get through the lobby. There are paintings or photographs, or assemblages on the wall of the long hallway. “This is wonderful,” they always exclaim. “What is this place?” I respond proudly, “It’s artists housing.” I can feel a longing in their look, as they view dancers, painters, musicians coming out of the elevators. In the elevator, there might be a faint whiff of linseed oil and turpentine. And there are artists that obviously have not bothered to comb their hair this day and have a preoccupied look on their faces.

I never take for granted how living at Westbeth has allowed me to have an integrated life. Where my outer world and inner world are always in dialogue, and I can afford the luxury of remaining an artist in New York City. Thank you, Westbeth.

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