When Eugene Ballet’s dancers were able to step back into the studio a few weeks ago, they didn’t return to the studios at 1590 Willamette Street. Instead, the doors to the new Midtown Arts Center at 174 East 16th Avenue were officially opened, and dancers took classes in their new space for the first time.
The main feature of the new Midtown Arts Center is centered around one general theme and solution: space.
“We had begun to run out of space almost immediately in the old building,” Eugene Ballet Artistic Director Toni Pimble said. “Of course we were thrilled to be back in Eugene as we had been sharing space with Ballet Idaho in Boise, but it was clear from the get go that it was not our forever home. It was a stepping stone.”
The new Midtown Arts Center, designed by Dustrud Architecture and built by Essex General Construction, features seven studio spaces, two of which are the size of the stages at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.These studios all have higher ceilings—at least 11 feet and up to 20 feet—easily ensuring that dancers can leap, lift, and jump without worrying about hitting the ceiling or a beam.
“There was certainly an adjustment period getting used to having so much more space,” Principal Dancer Reed Souther said. “Now that we’ve had a chance to settle in, I couldn’t be happier or more grateful for this incredible new facility.”
While the rest of Eugene Ballet’s 2020/21 season has been canceled or rescheduled, dancers are working on new projects to get back into the rhythm of rehearsals and taking class in the new studios.
“We’re creating a series of retrospective videos that feature stage and rehearsal footage from popular pieces such as a pas de deux from Carmen,” Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Martin said. “We’re also working on a few new works to be featured in a program specifically created for streaming. We’ll release more information about that shortly.”
Though dancers are still required to wear masks throughout rehearsals or class, and remain apart from people outside of their household, they are very excited to be back in a studio setting.
“The new building is an improvement in every aspect. Our old building had a lot of limitations, it was essentially adapted for use as a dance facility,” Souther said. “Our new building, however, was specifically designed for our purposes, and it’s evident everywhere you look.”