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California's new stage. (News).

The dance world may not know where Davis, California, is yet. But many locals hope performing arts companies will soon add it to their national tour itineraries. The University of California at Davis, the northernmost and geographically largest of the ten UC campuses, opened in 1909 as an agricultural school, and the "aggie" label hovers over the campus like a musty odor that's hard to shake. The scent may finally blow away this month, however, with the opening of the new Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

Designed by BOORA Architects of Portland, Oregon, and named for winemakers Robert and Margrit Mondavi, who donated $10 million dollars for the arts complex, the 104,000-square-foot facility includes an 1,800-seat main hall and a 250-seat black box theater built at a cost of more than $60 million. Generously laid out, the center has ample dressing rooms--some even have kitchens and showers--a green room that opens onto a patio, and a generous lobby with outdoor balconies.

The massive facility looks like it might have arisen from the surrounding landscape. Both the external and internal walls are covered with sandstone that's the same golden color as the parched earth of the nearby Sacramento Valley. Imported from India, some of the stone bears fossil imprints left in another continent at another time.

Bucolic as much of Davis is, the Mondavi Center is also located near the thundering Union Pacific rail lines and the major freeway running between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. To minimize the impact of earth-borne vibrations, designers made the main theater a self-contained box suspended within an outer structure with air spaces in between. The technology is rather rare, and how it will work out remains to be seen.

In addition to the new center, this fall marks the launch of a professional-level dance ensemble that will be allied with UC Davis and directed by Della Davidson, a choreographer from San Francisco who recently moved to Sacramento to join UC Davis's theater dance department faculty. Davidson believes the center will undoubtedly be good for the new troupe and the university's dance division, which currently has twelve undergraduate and four graduate students in dance. "We want to put the emphasis on the creation of interdisciplinary work and on dancers who want to become choreographers," she says.

For the public, the Mondavi Center provides a new focal point for the performing arts. Until now companies visiting the university had to perform wherever space was available--sometimes in Sacramento. Now with such spectacular facilities, the university's performing-arts series has increased from 70 to more than 100 offerings. All of a sudden the distance between Davis and the SF Bay Area looks a lot shorter than it used to.
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Title Annotation:Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Author:Felciano, Rita
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Words:455
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