UMD’s Dance Program is really getting into the swing of things this fall with the completion of a much needed and wanted new dance studio. After nearly two and a half years of raising awareness and funds, the program finally reached its goal of remodeling an extra space in the basement of the Theater Department into an ideal dance studio for both students and faculty.
“Ever since my freshman year, we dancers have been putting ‘New dance studio!’ on our course evaluations,” said senior BFA musical theater major Chelsea Reller. “Now it has finally happened, and I’m so excited about it!”
The initial remodeling of the space began in July and is about 90 percent completed. The final additions to the studio, which are a full sound system and curtains to cover the mirrors, are expected to be implemented by mid-October, which will bring the dance studio to 100 percent completion. However, those two additions aren’t required to dance, so students are already utilizing the studio.
“I’m already seeing students moving differently in the new studio because they can,” said Rebecca Katz Harwood, associate professor of dance and musical theater. “It will have such a positive impact on our dancers’ growth and development.”
The essential need for the new studio was more space. The dancers now have about 30 more feet in length and 2-5 more feet in height to work with. This bigger space will encourage students to move more and for longer periods of time, increasing their stamina, as well as muscle memory. The studio is also much closer to the size of the stage, which will make for more accurately simulated rehearsals.
“The new studio has already made an impact on my dancing by stretching me to dance with my full body and mind,” Reller said. “One is not able to fully extend in the new studio without letting go and bringing in their entire heart.”
A few more features of the new dance studio include a springboard floor, upgraded sound system, and full wall mirrors. There will also be bars and curtains across the mirrors, making it a professional performance space.
The funding was allocated through the administration and Facilities Management and both the Theater Department and the dean of the School of Fine Arts (SFA). SFA dean Bill Payne really pushed the need for a bigger studio based on course evaluations and personally written letters from both faculty and students.
“Working to raise the funds to make this happen is a labor of love for me,” Payne said. “Having the finest facilities to match our excellent faculty and staff is key to delivering what our students want and need.”
The dance professors will now have a much better training and instruction program to offer their students with the new and improved space. Not to mention the effect the new studio will have on prospective UMD students, potentially inspiring them to come and dance here.
The fruits of labor in the new dance studio will be presented to the public in spring semester at the UMD dance concert entitled “Off the Record.” This student and faculty performance will feature all live music—from a cappella tap to body percussion.
“The studio will perfect and produce a more high quality performance for the spring show because we will consistently be able to work harder,” said sophomore Dylan Rugh, a BFA musical theater major. “I would encourage all students to pick up a dance class and join us down in that studio because I think everyone should experience it.”
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