Plans for dance center debut at concert

by Nancy Ngo

The University’s dance program had a $3.5 million reason to celebrate as people gathered this weekend for the concert celebrating the program’s 10th season.
A ground-breaking ceremony that took place before the show capped a seven-year effort to bring the new University Dance Center to the West Bank campus. University students and staff members alike attended the concert, which was held in the Rarig Center on the West Bank.
W. Phillips Shively, Provost for Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, who helped to get the project going, was among those who lifted a shovelful of dirt into the area of what is currently a University parking lot on Riverside and 21st Avenues. “Everything is in place pending regents’ approval,” Shively said.
Besides approval for the project, which is expected to come at the next Board of Regents meeting, funding and building plans for the dance center are complete. About half of the $3.5 million will come from private sponsorship and the rest is from various University departments, including Shively’s office and the College of Liberal Arts.
“It’s going to bring us into the next century. I’m really excited about it, said Maria Cheng, head of the dance program.
Currently, the provost’s office has secured sponsors from private sector businesses and foundations, but Shively would not disclose the contributors. In addition to Shively’s office and CLA, University President Nils Hasselmo has also pledged support.
Cheng said the program’s current space in Norris Hall on the East Bank is a facility that does not meet professional standards. The new center will provide three new large studios with fully sprung floors like those used in professional studios. Right now, the two small studios and one large studio in Norris Hall have wood and concrete floors.
The new dance center would also seat at least 125 people instead of 60.
“Our dance program has grown so much in quality and quantity,” Cheng said. “We need better facilities for our students.”
“The dance program has developed into one of the nation’s top dance programs,” Shively said. “A program of such quality couldn’t be denied (a new facility).”
Cheng said the program has won several important awards and contests, bringing more prestige to it. She said as a result, the school needs facilities to meet the needs of the students.
Christine Stuhr, a senior majoring in dance, said she is excited about the new dance center even though she will graduate before the move into the new building. “It’s not part of just the University, but part of the whole Twin Cities dance community.”
She said that dance programs outside of the University sometimes used the program’s space on weekends.
Contractors await approval by the regents before construction can begin. They hope to start this summer in time to open the building by September.
“It’s going to have a profound effect on the department. It will bring dance and theatre students in proximity with each other,” said Lance Brockman, chairman of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.
The location of the new dance center, two blocks away from the theater program, is expected to increase interaction between the two programs in the department.
The theater offices are also looking for new space since it has been asked to vacate its space in Middlebrook Hall to meet the growing demand for residential living space.