The newly opened Dance Center at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
On Feb. 23, Arts Academy dancers made Interlochen history as the first students to pirouette, plié, and soar through the air in the newly opened Dance Center at Interlochen Center for the Arts. The 25,905 square-foot lakeside facility ushers in a new era for the future of 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 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 Interlochen President Trey Devey. “The new facility will strengthen Interlochen’s position as a destination for young dancers around the world.”
The 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 those used by top dance companies. Each studio can be divided into smaller spaces, allowing instructors to conduct several smaller classes concurrently.
All studios have a clear dance space of at least 40 by 60 feet—the equivalent of the dance-safe area on the stage of Corson Auditorium. The three upper-level studios boast 16-foot ceiling heights, while the lower-level studio is 11 feet tall.
“These spaces will open up a wealth of possibilities for our students,” said Interlochen Director of Dance Joseph Morrissey, who worked closely with Flansburgh on the facility’s design. “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. 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 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.
“It’s wonderful to think about the memories that future students are going to make in those studios, looking out onto the lake just like the thousands of alumni who trained in the Hildegarde Lewis Dance Building,” said Interlochen trustee and leadership donor Nancy Hoagland. “What has been most gratifying for me is seeing the excitement among the students as the building goes up.”
The first students to experience the new facility could hardly contain their exhilaration. “Finally being here in this space is so exciting,” said junior dance major Taylor Jones. “We’re going to be the first group of dancers to break in this new dance building, which is absolutely incredible.”
“The first thing I thought was just ‘wow!’” said sophomore dance major Finnian Bassett-Kennedy. “It was breathtaking to see. I’m just so excited that this is where I get to be.”
“I feel like the building is going to give us that boost to create something awesome this year,” said sophomore Asher Ekhardt.
With the first phase of the project complete, the Dance Center 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 as 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.
There is still an opportunity to support this project. A challenge grant provides a dollar-for-dollar match which will help raise the final $200,000 for this $7.8 million facility.
30-year campus master plan to come full circle
The completion of the Dance Center signals a momentous occasion not only for dance students, but for Interlochen as a whole.
The facility will bring Interlochen one step 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.
Explore the new Dance Center by taking our 360-degree virtual tour.