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In the green: building with an environmental conscience.


As many give more focus to the environment, the dance world has taken the phrase "building for a better future" quite literally. Green dance complexes are springing up with a dual commitment towards dance and environmental awareness.

Point Park University hopes their new dance center will help to improve the city's image. "Pittsburgh is striving to break free from that smoky steel city of its past," says David Nash, design consultant and adjunct professor for the dance program. When planning for the new building, the university and its board of trustees wanted a green approach. And the result? "We created the perfect storm of a green building," Nash says. The structure is heading towards silver-level certification from The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction. With the help of a generous gift from the Heinz Family Foundation, the building boasts natural ventilation, an abundance of natural light, low VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesives and paints, caps for electric cars to plug into, bicycle racks out front, a strong recycling strategy, sprung floors that are urea-formaldehyde free, and a white roof that will reduce the heat island effect seen in black rooftops in urban settings.

Susan Stowe, department head, says the new complex has been like "a giant shot of B12" for the students. "They love it," Stowe says. "They're working harder and they're happy. They're growing artistically and technically."

Other LEED-registered dance facilities are the Atlanta Ballet Marietta Boulevard Relocation and the East Athens Dance Center, both in Georgia, and the Greenbelt condos in Brooklyn.

Jennifer Monson, known for her multiyear Bird Brain project that tracked the migration of birds, developed a project called iLand. Like Bird Brain, it taps the urban landscape through improvisation. "All of New York has become my studio," Monson says. Recently her urban environment has shifted: She accepted a job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as part of an "environmental cluster" hire, along with four other professors whose work relates to environmental issues. She's already developing a site-specific piece focusing on an aquifer on the campus. She'll research water and agriculture, ways they can become more sustainable, and begin planning for a building on campus run by a solar power aquifer.


Michigan's Grand Rapids Ballet opened their new facility, which includes the green Peter Martin Wege Theatre, last fall. Formerly a bus garage, the new building is green from top to bottom. "People are excited to see dance here. The building feels like it's teeming with life. Even the roof is alive." The blooming roof not only provides a beautiful green exterior, it retains the water, which then evaporates so there is no runoff. An inaugural gala included performances by ballet stars Patricia Barker and Damian Woetzel.

Associate artistic director Laura Schwenk-Berman says that all of the products inside the building were chosen with an eye toward LEED certification. "It's great for our dancers and students to be enlightened about sustainable community," she says. "Everyone's excited about it. They know the air is clean and they love it. From the bike racks outside to walking into the theater, it has a natural feel to it." Artistic director Gordon Peirce Schmidt says, "As one of the leaders in the arts community in Grand Rapids, we wanted to be a leader in being environmentally conscious."

Atilla Mosolygo, a member of Grand Rapids Ballet, says he likes that the green building was designed with the dancers in mind. "It makes a difference to know you're going into a place that's environmentally safe and built for you to do your work."
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Title Annotation:dance matters
Author:Macel, Emily
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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