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Interlochen Center For The Arts Opens State-of-the-Art Dance Center

The center combines Interlochen's Hildegarde Lewis Dance Building with a 16,280 square-foot addition.

Interlochen Center For The Arts Opens State-of-the-Art Dance Center

Interlochen Arts Academy dance students made Interlochen history this week as the first students to pirouette, plié, and soar through the air in the new Dance Center at Interlochen Center for the Arts. The 25,905 square-foot lakeside facility opened its doors Feb. 23, ushering in a new era for dance at Interlochen.

With spacious, light-filled studios overlooking Green Lake and enhanced technology to support teaching and virtual master classes, the Dance Center rivals the facilities of major professional dance companies. It combines Interlochen's Hildegarde Lewis Dance Building with a 16,280 square-foot addition designed by the Boston-based architecture firm Flansburgh Architects, who recently completed the Perles Family Studio at Jacob's Pillow Dance.

"Our expanded Dance Center's state-of-the-art studios and stunning views will inspire generations of dancers," said Trey Devey, President of Interlochen Center for the Arts. "The new facility will strengthen Interlochen's position as a destination for young dancers around the world."

Programs for dancers at Interlochen Arts Academy, the nation's premier arts boarding high school, and Interlochen Arts Camp, the world-class multidisciplinary summer arts program, will be based at the new facility. Young dancers from around the world pursue pre-professional dance training at Interlochen, where experienced resident faculty are complemented by renowned guest teachers, stagers, and choreographers in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, and other idioms. Arts Academy dance students perform four fully staged dance productions each year, many of which feature live musical accompaniment from the Academy's Music Division. Recent productions have toured Michigan and appeared on Detroit Public Television, the state's largest public television station.

"The Dance Center will revolutionize the way dance is taught at Interlochen and open up a wealth of artistic possibilities for our students," said Interlochen Director of Dance Joseph Morrissey, who worked closely with Flansburgh on the facility's design.

The Dance Center's four new studios are outfitted with sprung-wood floors, Marley flooring, air conditioning, professional lighting grids, state-of-the-art sound systems, and large-screen televisions for virtual guest artists. Professionally designed barres match the standard of those used by top dance companies. The three upper-level studios boast 16-foot ceiling heights, while the lower-level studio is 11 feet tall.

"The vaulted ceilings will allow everyone to jump as high as they like, and will also allow students to learn and rehearse dynamic partnering techniques," said Morrissey. "The openness of the studios enables us to conduct large-scale corps de ballet work while ensuring repertoire is rehearsed in a space comparable to our theater and touring venues."

Eight-foot windows encircle each studio, offering unparalleled views of Green Lake. "All year round, students will be able to draw inspiration, focus, and rejuvenation from the spectacular, panoramic views," said Morrissey.

The glass studio walls enable invited visitors to watch rehearsals without disrupting classes. Guests can see into all four studios from the building's main lobby. "The idea is not that the dancers are on display, but to showcase all of the hard work that goes into dance," said Flansburgh CEO and project architect David Croteau.

With cozy nooks where students can mingle and study between classes as well as a spacious lakeside deck for casual gatherings and formal events, the facility's design also fosters a sense of community.

Construction began on the $7.8 million Dance Center in August 2019. With the new addition complete, the project now moves into its second phase: a renovation of the Hildegarde Lewis Dance Building, which was constructed in 1950. The renovation will bring new windows and air-conditioning to the main studio as well as new first-floor restrooms. The lower level will be transformed into offices, faculty locker rooms, a sewing and costume area, and student dressing room, as well as a convertible space that can be used as a junior studio during Camp and a student fitness and training room during the Academy year. A new elevator will make the complex fully ADA compliant. The fully renovated Dance Center will be ready for use this summer in time for the 94th season of Interlochen Arts Camp.

The completion of the Dance Center will bring Interlochen one step away from realizing an ambitious campus master plan developed over 30 years ago to prepare the institution for its second century as a leader in arts education. The plan called for state-of-the-art facilities for each of Interlochen's arts disciplines-music, theatre, visual arts, interdisciplinary arts, creative writing, film & new media, and dance-as well as an additional residence hall. The scheduled fall opening of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow House, a convertible residence hall with guest artist suites, will mark the plan's successful completion.

"This campus-wide transformation-three decades and over $83 million in private philanthropy in the making-would not have been possible without the donors who have generously and repeatedly invested in making Interlochen the destination for young artists," said Interlochen Vice President of Philanthropy John Bogley.

With campus gatherings restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a formal dedication of the Dance Center is being scheduled for late summer. "We eagerly anticipate the time when we can all gather on campus to celebrate this monumental achievement with the Interlochen community," Bogley said.

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