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Last Thursday, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved plans for a new $19 million dance building for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance to be built on North Campus. The building will have state-of-the-art facilities, including a 100-seat performance space, larger studios, smart classrooms, faculty offices and more. It will further expand upon the Earl V. Moore Building, which is home to the music department of the Music, Theatre & Dance School.
Presently, the dance building is connected to the Central Campus Recreational Building, while the other departments of the Music, Theatre & Dance School are located on North. The current dance building, which opened in 1977, fit the needs of the department at the time but was outgrown, according to Jessica Fogel, professor and chair of dance. Fogel said the plan for a new dance building has been brewing for some time.
“This current project rests on the shoulders of many dance faculty teams over many long years,” Fogel said. “We’ve been envisioning a new dance building for decades actually.”
University Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R) explained it was finally approved because funding had been secured through philanthropy, investment proceeds and other sources. She expressed her excitement to support the dance program in this way.
“This is an opportunity to really move the last piece of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance to North Campus, and do it in a way that it deserves,” Newman said.
Fogel said she was looking forward to the new building’s upgraded spaces, such as a studio with media allowing for projects tying dance with technology. With these improvements, as well as having more space in general, Fogel said the dance program will be able to meet the needs of more students.
“There will be a much better integration of technology; this integration has become standard in teaching dance,” Fogel said. “We will be better able to accommodate our very popular dance courses. We’ll also be able to accommodate more community groups and conferences because the new building will have more ample facilities.”
Further, Fogel noted the relocation to North Campus will allow for more collaboration between dance, the other Music, Theatre & Dance branches and the Schools of Engineering, Architecture and Art & Design.
“The new building promises to be an exciting collaborative hub,” Fogel said. “We’ll have proximity to our peers in the SMTD and to facilities in the Duderstadt as well as to the School of Art & Design, Architecture, Engineering. We’ve done amazing projects with these units over the years, but it will be much easier and more organic to collaborate with them on North Campus.”
Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Victoria Briones echoed this sentiment. She said the current dance building location is less than ideal and expressed her eagerness to move to North Campus in order to easily work with the other programs.
“I’m excited to be close to the rest of SMTD because we’re the only school in SMTD is on Central Campus,” Briones said. “Even though (we) work with other departments a lot, we collaborate a lot with music students especially, there’s always been that kind of separation. So we’re excited to be on North Campus with them.”
The plans for the building are only just beginning, but already Briones and other dance students were able to give suggestions for the design at a forum with the architectural team. Briones said she expressed her desire for the building design to embrace accessibility and inclusion, making all who enter feel welcome.
“One thing that came up in the forum that’s really important to me and I hope comes to fruition with this building is we’re trying to make it more accessible,” Briones said. “We’re going to make it more handicap-accessible, and we’re also pushing for gender-inclusive bathrooms. We’re trying to make it a more welcoming space.”
Newman noted the dance program has often been left behind in terms of improving facilities and resources within the Music, Theatre & Dance School. Now that all three divisions of the school will be on North Campus, Newman said, the arts program will be even stronger — something she believes is deeply important.
“I’m a huge advocate for the arts,” Newman said. “Personally, my husband and I have supported SMTD and believe in order to be a great University, you have to be great in the arts, and we basically have a conservatory-style school at a big university, which is very, very unusual. I think the arts bring something to campus that every student benefits from.”