Create a Better Student Theater Performance Space
Outside of the drama department, which is not accessible to non-department-supported productions, there is no viable space for students to perform. There should be a real stage with lighting and flexible seating (or leveled, fixed seating) that goes beyond a chemistry auditorium or the warehouse that is the Student Activities Building.
Space for Dance rehearsal has been moved into this as well.
As it stands, Grounds lacks adequate rehearsal venues for the various dance department and dance CIO performers. With approximately 20 student groups and hundreds of dancers in the dance department, there are only two regular spaces for rehearsals (Memorial Gymnasium and one in the drama building without sprung floors, mirrors, or adequate space).
In regard to the physical health of dancers, one of current spaces lacks the appropriate floors to prevent injuries to dancers. Research shows that non-sprung floors can cause premature, wear on cartilage, damage to muscles and joints, and contribute to injury. Given the pressing need for more spaces, I believe adding a dance floor to a pre-existing building would be a reasonable and cost-effective way to remedy this problem for the betterment of student life on Grounds.
Students affiliated with the Dance Program at UVA do not have the space that they need to rehearse for Drama Department sponsored shows, to prepare material for their dance classes, and to rehearse the pieces they are bringing to represent UVA at the American College Dance Festival in Richmond this semester. When dancers do find space to rehearse, it is often inadequate (dirty floors, cement floor than can—and does—harm our wrists, knees, ankles..). The University needs to support its dance program by providing dance students with this most basic requirement. We are not asking for a new building—just mirrors and sprung floors in a space that already exists. This is not a new issue, but a problem that has been continuously ignored. Dancers in the program have rehearsed in the drama lobby, in their bedrooms, and on racket ball courts. Dancers had been pushing for the Under the Roof space that is scheduled to be demolished—obviously, that request was not heard. What about the Dells? The rooms are spacious and could be easily adapted for dance.
As mentioned in Jenny’s comment, this is something that the Student Arts committee is working on.
They’re currently talking with the people in charge of the Newcomb Renovation project to see if better performance space can be added.
Thanks for all the comments so far!
Just a few more quick updates. Obviously, a new building for performance space takes a long time. There is a new performance space being constructed now, and we are actively lobbying for CIO use to be allowed with both the University Architect and the Office of the Vice Provost.
Raymond Tang commented
Is there any official update to this in more recent times?
I'm going to bring this up today in our Student Arts meeting. I think that it is really important to have nice dance floors!
Megan Tiller commented
I also would like to know if something has happened with this. If not, can we get this jumpstarted?
Has anything happened with this? I would reeealy like to know. I just found out that the Cav Daily just got the entire basement of newcomb...
As an alumna of UVA and the parent of a current student, I clearly see a need for improved facilities and improved availability for the dance program. The physical risks of improper flooring and the lack of reasonably clean floors pose both immediate and potentially long term health problems for the students and faculty. The incredible amount of money that has been donated to the University's building fund needs to be apportioned so that facilities are created and renovated to better meet the needs of those expanding programs that bring greater diversity to the life of the students and the reputation of the University.
I'm a third-year transfer student this year, coming from Middlebury College in Vermont, and when I arrived I was dismayed at the spaces we are forced to dance in here at UVA. My first Modern class was in the AFC, essentially a gym floor beneath the basketball courts - it is always dirty and is damaging to the feet and joints to jump on. I began to ask myself, where is their studio space? The answer: there isn't one.
At Middlebury College, there was one dance studio reserved always for the dance department, ADDITIONALLY there was a polished wood, sprung dance theatre used for shows, rehearsals, and classes. There are even private High Schools that have facilities, like St. Catherine's School where the UVA Rep Company performed this past weekend, and was blown away by their dance theatre. So, if high schools and tiny liberal arts colleges with less students and less endowment can have double the dance space and double the faculty, why can't we here at UVA?
During my time at University of Virginia, I've discovered that there is an enormous interest in dance at this school --- the Dance department has more interest than it can handle. The classes are too full for much of the teacher-to-student instruction necessary in this work, the faculty members are overworked and overwhelmed by the amount of interest they get, and the cherry on the cake is that they have no legitimate space of their own in which to accomodate the zounds of students that pour into each and every dance class offered here.
For anyone who has taken ballet, modern, or jazz on a hard gym floor, hear our pleas! We need a sprung floor, one that isn't brutalized by other groups wearing street shoes and moving furniture all over it, and so I would urge you to consider giving UVA dancers the one thing we need the most, like Virginia Woolf said - a Room of our own.
As dancers, space is the most basic necessity we could ask for. Sadly this necessity is constantly overlooked by the University. As an ACADEMIC program here, it is ridiculous that we are even facing this problem. Why is it so easy for students to reserve space for meetings, concerts and anything else but an academic program can't find a place to rehearse and complete assignments for our dance classes!
What little space we do have is inadequate and hinders our ability to rehearse, take class and improve as artists. I have experienced first hand the effects of these dirty, unsprung floors and it is not a good experience. I have had to ice my ankles every night after class and rehearsal from jumping on these floors. Like Austin, I too will be going to Student Health to get a referral for physical therapy in the near future. In reference to the dirt, it's just GROSS. No body wants to roll around in dust, sand and dirt. This growing program is just looking for a little bit of support and a place to SAFELY rehearse.
Austin Colligan commented
Dance is way too important to too many people to be treated as so unimportant. Just like tennis players need a court, swimmers need a pool, we NEED good floors and space to dance. The non-sprung floors that currently all dance groups and the Dance Department use really do lead to injuries. In fact, today I am going to Student Health about an Achilles injury from jumping on the floors here. Compared to other institutions of UVA's calibre, the facilities and development of the dance program here are deplorable. I love dance so much that I will keep dancing on these bad floors, but the reason I came to UVA instead of going to a dance school was to avoid dance related injuries, not to get more.
Tamar Roomian commented
It's not fair that this academic program has to compete with clubs and fitness classes for space. The gym multipurpose rooms have barres and mirrors which are suitable, but the rooms are never kept clean! I have to deal with dirt, dust, and skin particles all over my bare feet and body and it's absolutely disgusting. The floor is not "sprung" and is not meant for movement. We have not even been able to do proper jumping exercises out of fear because it can (and has) lead to serious achilles problems on this floor. All of the dancers in this program are incredibly passionate about dance and we've been willing to sacrifice in order to do what we love, but the program is expanding and therefore we need to accommodate these needs.
Jessica Smith commented
It’s a shame that people don't understand how incredibly empowering dance can be. I know for a fact that when I look back at my time at UVA, my favorite classes have been those in the Dance Department. They challenge me both physically and mentally, they change the way I look and interact with the world, they expand creativity, and they question my limitations on the world. I can't say that many other classes have changed my life, and certainly the few that have, have not opened up my perception and passion for life as much as dance has. I can sincerely say that my involvement with this program has changed my life. And it is a shame that the University of Virginia, a University that is one of the top public schools in the nation, a University that prides itself on opening doors and creating opportunities is so thus LIMITING a field that could do so much. We're being injured, we're dealing with inappropriate conditions, and we're not given the credit we deserve. Having adequate space to rehearse in would benefit the department as well as other dance groups on grounds. The dance department had the chance to visit James Madison University this past fall and participate in a dance share. The dancers at JMU have a combination black box theatre/dance space, another huge rehearsal room, and the equivalent of a green room for dancers. They're also planning on adding additional dance space. If a college in the area has such space to offer their dancers, how is it that Mr. Jefferson's University can't stand up to the challenge? That the department is being asked to rehearse on concrete floors and on racquet ball courts is absolutely disgraceful for an academic department. The only space that has been adequately floored for dancers is too small, dark, and without mirrors or barres for dance use, and is also shared by the drama department who does not take care of the floors, brings in dirt, and makes the room inaccessible for dancers. The time for change is overdue. We’re asking for space in which to learn, grow, and become better dancers and people. In December of 1820, Thomas Jefferson said about the University of Virginia, “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." The University of Virginia is committing and tolerating a huge error by not allowing the Dance Department the space they need. Dance connects the brain to the body in ways that are unrivaled by any other field, even in the arts, and allow a huge expansion of learning and education. Don’t allow the University to limit the freedom of the human mind.
I agree. We are an academic program first and foremost. Because we rehearse on hardwood floors (suspended hardwood is best), I've suffered from shin splints and sore knees and joints. Also, classes that dance minors take meet in the AFC. We are spending time on a floor where people walk with tennis shoes, boots and who knows what else. That means there is dirt, sand and all kinds of gross things on that floor. There needs to be a space specifically for dance - a place we can rehearse safely and comfortably!
Erin Mayfield commented
It's completely unacceptable that this ACADEMIC program is being placed second to ANY other activity at the school. We are, first and foremost, an academic institution. The UVA Dance Program has so much to offer the university and can only do so with proper facilities in which to rehearse.
Rebecca Conners commented
This is a HUGE problem that is NOT new. The most disappointing aspect of this issue is that in the past three years, dance minors have offered suggestion after suggestion of different spaces we could use. Do we ask chemistry majors to complete labs without a laboratory? Are tennis classes being held in parking lots? We were given one space in the drama building meant exclusively for dance, and of course, we don't have access to it during the day, drama students ruin the dance floor with their shoes, it's covered in sand and dirt, and there are no mirrors! We are not asking for a new building, we aren't even asking for a new space, we are simply asking for the University to respect the group of over fifty students who have inadequate space to rehearse.
Tera Crenshaw commented
This is definitely a problem that gets overlooked way to often. Especially since the Dance Program is an expanding program, it is crucial that we get more rehearsal space adequately adapted to our dance needs. Rolling around in dirt, sand, and who knows what else on the floor of a small mirror-less room is not my favorite thing to do, despite my love for dance!
Thushara Gunda commented
I second Camille - we badly need space that meets our needs!
Casey Stein commented
Thank you, Student Arts Committee, for working on this and for voicing our concerns!! One suggestion as well for the new performance space or building- have wood floors! The dance groups also have very few spaces to perform! The Forum is too small for most audiences, McLeod works but it's always reserved for a capella groups, etc. and Newcomb Ballroom's flooring is old and uneven and definitely needs some TLC. Practicing in the gyms on grounds is fine, but it's often difficult to reserve space. There's just no where else to go. Dance groups are often strictly limited because of flooring- from dancing on inappropriate flooring, we go through dance shoes super fast and those are NOT inexpensive!
Seth Kaye commented
Agreed. Queer & Allied Activism had an extremely hard time securing a location for the Laramie Project: 10 Years Later. I submitted a Source request as soon as the academic spaces were available in August and I did not hear back until less than two weeks before the show. I had worked out a room swap with some professors, but it turns out, Gilmer is unable to be booked by student groups - though it is on the dropdown list of available rooms. This policy was not posted anywhere online. We eventually had to take McLeod which is a nice space but extremely hard to find, and we were not allowed to use any of its equipment (projector and sound) because we were already beyond their deadline, and even if we had been given a space on time, again the equipment is only allowed to be used for academic performances. I think not just the physical spaces need to be improved, but the access to reservation information needs to be improved. Overall the Source is ridiculously bureaucratic, split up among the different colleges, Newcomb, and academic buildings which makes it extremely difficult to work out the details when getting a large space. It's very dizzying to navigate, and the pressure is high when nearing the actual event, especially when you have incomplete information about the very restrictive policies on using spaces and equipment. I don't think it says much for our Community of Trust if we can't be respected and trusted enough to turn a projector on and off...
This is such an important idea and something that Student Council really feels is worth looking into. Right now, student performers are at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to share their work, and as a result, it puts the rest of the student body at a disadvantage because they don't have great access to the many student performances that are going on around UVA. Access to Arts events is a major priority of the Student Arts Committee this year, and as part of its mission, we are currently working on better serving student artists in displaying or performing their work because that is the first step towards better access.
Currently, we have advocated for better performance space to the directors of Newcomb Hall, which is currently in the planning stages of a major renovation. I promise you that the need for better performance space has been heard the people who are in charge of directing this renovation. We would love to hear suggestions about alternate locations to house such a space because as you all know, space is fairly tight around UVA. Student Council and the Student Arts Committee will absolutely be in touch with administrators and the Office of the Architect to advocate for such a space.
You all have great arguments and suggestions for creating student performance space and I hope that we are able to get a good dialogue going and hopefully some action on this issue. Keep in mind that projects like these take time and that finding space will require some compromises about what can be included since funding is always an issue. That said, I think we've got great energy on the issue and some people who are willing to hear your voices on this.
If you have questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to come to a Student Council Meeting during the community concerns portion. StudCo meets on Tuesdays at 6 pm in the South Meeting Room of Newcomb.
Thanks for speaking up!
Student Arts Committee Chair
I completely agree as well. Furthermore, the SAB is just a pathetic excuse for a building. It's just an empty hole that limits the activities of just about every group that hosts an event there. It may have been well-designed for what it was originally built for, but not for what we use it for. Perhaps a generic "performing arts" building that could accommodate all of the groups on-grounds that currently use these "make-shift" stages. To be honest, I'm ashamed to show non-UVAers the SAB and the Chemistry Auditorium as our "performing spaces."
Jason Kobielus commented
I agree with the above reasons. Here's my two cents: a better theatre space will strengthen student theatre--and ultimately, the Department of Drama--at the University of Virginia. In turn, prospective students strongly interested in pursuing collegiate theatre will be more inclined to pick U.Va. over liberal arts schools with competitive dramatic opportunities. U.Va.'s already a great place for theatre on all levels--let's bring in a new student theatre space and make it even better.