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OREGON BALLET CELEBRATES POSH NEW DIGS.

At a September ribbon-cutting ceremony for Oregon Ballet Theatre's new building, Portland Mayor Vera Katz (who referred to the Martha Graham studios where she had once taken class as a student in New York City as "a dump") praised the space, the business community said it would upgrade the city's Central Eastside neighborhood and OBT artistic director James Canfield was a happy man.

As he should be. The former Wells Fargo Bank building takes up an entire city block and is situated near the Keller Auditorium and Newmark Theatre, where the company holds its season performances. Stage one of the remodeling--designed by Holst Architecture, a hot young firm that knows how to work on a shoestring budget--gives the company and school 21,000 square feet of studios, offices, therapy rooms, dressing rooms, costume and production shops and a box office for $1.3 million.

Stage two will expand the first floor into the existing parking lot, creating a large studio that can be used for performances as well as rehearsals and will involve the renovation of the second story. The new studio, however, will have a thirty-foot ceiling extending up past the existing second floor. With stage two, estimated cost of the building is $5 million total. OBT has embarked on a $20 million, five-year fund-raising campaign and has raised $5 million in the first year, of which Portland philanthropist James F. Miller contributed $1 million. The campaign is headed by former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt and his wife, Diane Snowden. What OBT has now is two studios for the eighteen-member company and the school's three hundred students, both with natural light and state-of-the-art sprung floors. Studio name plaques are made of the flooring materials, letting the public know exactly what constitutes a state-of-the-art sprung floor.

That was Canfield's idea; the leader of the twelve-year-old company has his fingerprints all over the building (including the choice of one of the bank's vaults as his office), which, he said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, is "far better than any I had as a dancer with the Joffrey in New York."

It is certainly the best such facility in Portland, though not yet at the level of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Phelps Center in Seattle, which Canfield looked at carefully when planning this one. It does have its openness and accessibility, with huge street-level windows and mirrors so that parents and the ticket-buying public can actually see what is happening in the studios.

What Canfield has in mind is far more than a rehearsal and school facility and on-site advertisement for his company (large, handsomely lettered signs act as billboards for OBT); he wants to establish a center for all kinds of dance. To help move that idea forward, he has appointed contemporary dance artist and teacher Linda K. Johnson manager of education and outreach.

Standing outside Studio I, where the company men were rehearsing the cushion dance for the season opener, Romeo and Juliet, Johnson expressed her intention of continuing and expanding on outreach programs and "acting as a natural bridge between ballet and contemporary artists."
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Title Annotation:Oregon Ballet Theatre
Author:West, Martha Ullman
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:513
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