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Must move, so build.

Despite the bad economy, the war with Iraq, and massive cuts in public funding for the arts, Kansas City Ballet is building a new home.

It will not be cheap: Out of an overall $22 million budget, the actual cost of construction is $12.7 million for a facility containing eight studios, one of them divided by a portable wall. The largest, measuring 60' x 80' with a 30-foot-high ceiling, is intended to double as a small studio theater for choreographic workshops as well as a rentable space for community groups. "It will also be a home for collaborations with other artists," says company Artistic Director William Whitener. KCB's new studios and school are on the same site as the future Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center, a $30.4 million complex that includes theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and retail space. The cost of the construction of KCB's facilities is separate from the arts center budget; the company is responsible for its own fund-raising, as well as future operating expenses.

The balance of the budget includes $7 million for an operating endowment; the rest is for architects' fees, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, landscaping, studio theater acoustics, lighting equipment, floors, mirrors, and pianos. So why, at a time when selling tickets and raising money to underwrite productions is increasingly difficult, is the company even contemplating such a project? The reason, according to Executive Director Jeffrey Bentley, is quite simple: "... We have to. The building we're in is being torn down."

This isn't the first time the forty-six-year-old company has had to move. In 1999, KCB was booted out of the Westport Allen Center, the "temporary" facilities it had occupied for the previous eighteen years, which in an earlier incarnation was the elementary school rumored to have been attended by Native American ballerina Rosella Hightower.

The company's current studios and offices were also temporary, since they are on part of the site of the new arts center complex, which is designed by Moshe Safdie and Associates of Boston, working with BNIM Architects of Kansas City. Safdie, an international star known for his shapely designs for the Toronto Ballet Opera House as well as museums, libraries, community centers, and other public buildings all over the world, is a form-follows-function architect who is also the creator of the nearby Wichita Science Center and Children's Museum. It has been said of Habitat, an elegant Montreal housing complex the Israeli architect designed in 1967, that the buildings "require immediacy of movement through space." Who better, then, to design KCB's building, slated, like the performing arts center, to open in 2007.

"The exterior," says Bentley, "will be something to behold since it will reflect the sweeping design of the performing arts center with a central spine that supports the architect's signature use of glass and copper." Apart from the studios and administrative and artistic staff offices, the more subdued interior will contain a physical therapy suite, wardrobe and costume storage, company locker rooms, changing areas for the school students, and separate areas for adults wishing to take classes midday and then return to work. The plan, says Bentley, is to increase school enrollment from its present 300 to 800 within three years.

Needless to say, this building is intended to be permanent. If KCB is to move into its Center for Dance Creativity in January 2005, those actively involved have eighteen months to complete construction drawings, retain construction managers, undergo a fourteen-month construction period and, no small thing, raise the money to pay for it.

"God knows how," says Bentley, "in this economy. But we must, so we will!"
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Title Annotation:Kansas City Ballet will share site with Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center
Author:West, Martha Ullman
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1U4KS
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Previous Article:Calendar.
Next Article:But save the old.

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