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Monday, February 19, 2018

Ballet Arizona breaks ground on new building

Ballet Arizona Phoenix new building

Dancers in hardhats are an uncommon site outside warehouses on Washington Street in downtown Phoenix, but Ballet Arizona dancers were on site yesterday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the company's new building. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Ballet Arizona held an official groundbreaking ceremony for its new home, located at 2835 E. Washington St. in Phoenix, Tuesday morning. The company’s new facility, which artistic director Ib Andersen expects to be ready by about June of 2013, will house rehearsal space for company dancers, seven studios and class space for the School of Ballet Arizona, and a 229-seat black box performance space for workshops and community events. It will be home to offices for artistic, administrative and staff teams as well as the company’s costume shop and production warehouse.

Ballet Arizona Phoenix groundbreaking

James Brignall (far left), president of Brignall construction, with Ballet Arizona dancers. From left: Sarah Chisholm, Ib Andersen Ballet Arizona artistic director, Beau Campbell, Slawomir Wozniak and Michelle Vagi. Photo by Daniel Friedman

Andersen opened his remarks by saying, “Finally, finally, finally.” The company’s journey to a new home actually began when Ballet Arizona received funding from a City of Phoenix 2006 bond initiative, Dwight D. Walth of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture recalled at yesterday’s event. The bond provided $3.2 million of the $10 million needed to transform the old Walsh Bros. furniture warehouse along the Phoenix light rail system into a state-of-the art dance facility.

The company launched a capital campaign called The Next Step during Januray 2011 to complete funding for its new home. The effort is being led by Jacquie Dorrance and Carol Schilling.

“It seems like it’s actually happening,” Andersen said. “This will completely change the company and what we are.”

Dorrance agreed, adding that the groundbreaking event doesn’t mark the transition of an old company to a new building. Instead, she said, it’s an opportunity for Ballet Arizona to become a new company.

The school will be able to attract three times more students, according to Andersen, thus helping to attract more audiences and sponsors.

“This is like a new beginning,” said Andersen. “It’s been quite a ride, and we are more than ready to take the next step. This building will mean more support, more exposure, more of everything. That we can actually stand here is a bit of a miracle to me.”

Ballet Arizona Phoenix new building

Dancers Sarah Chisholm (left) and Beau Campbell look at photos taken of themselves in hardhats by Raychel Weiner (right). Photo by Daniel Friedman

“The new building will really allow us to build out our education and community programs,” said Alison Johnston, who joined the company two weeks ago as executive director. “We’re busting out of our seams right now.” She is excited about opportunities the new building provides to “reach out to the community and provide free education” as well as other services to the dance community.

Still, Dorrance hopes some of the old building’s charms, like hallways filled with dancers and music drifting from the studios, will carry over to the new facility.

Andersen is both a visual and performing artist whose works of sculpture and painting were lauded in reviews for Ballet Arizona’s production of his original, full-length ballet titled “Mosaik.”  His “inspiration and vision will be translated into this building,” Johnston revealed.

Other speakers at Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony included Kenneth Van Winkle, Jr. (chairman of the Ballet Arizona board of directors), James Brignall (president of Brignall Contruction) and Thomas Durkin (principal with durkin + durkin architects). Light rail trains zipped by as they spoke, and banging sounds occasionally came from inside the building.

Community members, art advocates, dancers, Ballet Arizona supporters and others looked on as a giant banner was unfurled from atop the new building — and those involved with the project gathered, some wearing white hardhats, to pose for photos and talk shop.

Click here to learn more about Ballet Arizona performances, education and outreach programs and future plans.

Ballet Arizona exterior new building Phoenix

Exterior view what the new Ballet Arizona building will look like. Image courtesy of durkin+durkin architects.

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Lynn Trimble

Lynn Trimble writes for RAISING ARIZONA KIDS and blogs daily about arts and culture at


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