Older Campus Building Converted to New Studios for Dance Program

September 10, 2012

By Bob Romantic
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

 

Construction at GCU will come to a halt on Wednesday.

Sophomore Alissa Dill shows up for class, kicks off her shoes and jumps as high as she can - because she can.

Dill is a student in GCU's dance program, which got a new home over the summer when a pair of dance studios were built in Building 9 - the former home of Public Safety and ROTC, next to the Bookstore. The studio spaces allow more classes to be taught and also feature raised sub-floors made of slip-resistant vinyl that are softer and provide better cushioning for a dancer's feet.

For someone like Dill, who has been dancing since she was 3, the more accommodating flooring is a welcome relief.

Susannah Keita, director of dance for the College of Fine Arts and Production, leads a class in the new dance studios at Building 9. "Our old floors (in the Rec Center) were wood on top of concrete. They were really hard on your joints," Dill said. "I couldn't jump in ballet for a month because it hurt so much. You wake up aching every morning because your spine is absorbing the shock. Here the floor absorbs the shock.

"The other day I was jumping as high as I could; it was so nice."
This is the third home for the GCU dance program since it was resurrected in 2010. Classes originally were held in a room on the north end of the Student Union, then switched to the Sanctuary room at the Rec Center. The Sanctuary, which is also used by aerobics and fitness classes, is a bigger room and is still used for larger dance-related rehearsals. But sophomore dance student Jasmine Johnson said it just didn't feel like "our home."

"It was more sports and people working out. This is much better," Johnson said. "And this is nice because we have two rooms."In addition to the dance studios, the Building 9 renovation includes two rooms for film production. One is a lab with film editing stations. Adjacent to that is a classroom. Both had previously been housed in the same room in Building 18.

"Those dance rooms really get a big workout," said Claude Pensis, dean for the College of Fine Arts and Production. "Choreographers can schedule time to go in and work. Also, the student directors in theatre can use it. Each needs to do two plays per semester, so they can now utilize those spaces for their classroom work. In the past, we haven't been able to do that. This is much more conducive to dance learning.

"And in terms of editing and digital film, it's really nice to have the two rooms they can work in so they can work on different aspects simultaneously."

The dance studios originally had support pillars in the middle of each room, but those were removed and reinforcements were placed in the ceiling, which was also raised.

"They really did a good job with the renovation," said Susannah Keita, director of dance for COFAP. "The studios are really beautiful and the students are real happy.

"As an academic program, we really needed our space."

The dance program started with 12 students in its first year, then added 40 freshmen last year and is now up to about 60 students. There are 22 classes offered in the program.

Two new faculty members also have joined. Candace Hughes, who is from New Jersey and grew up taking classes at the Dance Theater of Harlem, will teach dance education courses.
Dancers have a new home at two studios built this summer in Building 9.
She taught high school dance for many years and co-pilots an after-school youth arts program. Leanne Schmidt, who ran her own postmodern contemporary dance company in New York City for seven years, will be teaching ballet, modern dance, choreography and dance ensemble courses.

Two dance performances are scheduled for this semester, with two more coming in the spring. The bigger productions will take place at Ethington Theatre, and the student shows will occur in the dance studios of Building 9.

"It's amazing," Dill said of the new space. "It changes the dynamics of the dance program and makes it a little more professional in a sense."

Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or bob.romantic@gcu.edu.