Junior Claire Cody knows what to expect when she enters the Auxiliary Gymnasium on a rainy day. Working under a decaying roof, buckets must be placed throughout the gym before anyone can dance. In the winter, the problem is falling snow.
As Art Department students and faculty say goodbye to the Ford Center for the Fine Arts and settle into the Whitcomb Art Center, it’s possible this could be the Dance Program’s final winter in the Aux.
“The Aux Gym has literally been crumbling around us,” Cody said, who works as Dance Program Secretary. “We’ve been trying for years to get moved out of there.”
Now that studio space has opened up on both the first and second floors of CFA, several programs have expressed interest in utilizing the empty rooms for their own academic needs. Some of these include Music, Theatre, Creative Writing and Dance.
“Art leaving was an opportune time to examine the needs of all of the performing and language arts,” said Liz Carlin Metz, Chair in Theatre Arts. “All of the arts programs were invited to articulate their needs.”
According to Carlin Metz, the design of CFA did not account for the appropriate pedagogical theatre space when it was built in the mid 1960s. As a result, the department has Harbach Theatre for performances, but no additional rehearsal space that matches Harbach’s size. The same goes for Studio Theater, the department’s second performance space.
“We have made do with rehearsing on Harbach stage while the set is being built, but there’s always a period where the set is not built enough to actually effectively rehearse in it,” Carlin Metz explained. “It is problematic to teach and to rehearse.”
Carlin Metz anticipates Theatre and Dance will split the upstairs studios, as both disciplines are looking to work in a space that requires similar features. This comes down to having wide open space, acoustically treated walls and a sprung wood floor, as the current concrete base is not safe for performing. Considering Dance and Theatre both hope to use the upstairs studio space, Carlin Metz emphasized the importance of installing sound barriers so the programs can use the space simultaneously.
For Jennifer Smith, Associate Professor and Chair of Dance, a future in CFA presents new academic potential for the program, including more visibility on campus.
“There’s the wonderful opportunity to really create a home of artistic collaboration. I’m intrigued with the possibilities of more interdisciplinary work happening, more creative collaborations happening, that to me is the most exciting thing about it,” Smith said.
While Smith hopes the Dance Program can find a permanent home in CFA, Cody has mixed feelings about the change in space.
“We don’t want to just get stuck in there and then not have those things we really need and want for the dance program,” Cody said. “We’re really excited to get out of the Aux, but we also don’t want to get thrown into the art studios without preparation for us.”
Considering a sprung wood floor must be installed before Dance can use the studios, Smith anticipates that the program will have to wait until Spring Term to make the move. Although a suitable floor is also important for Theatre’s needs, students will still be able to use the space for class and rehearsal when Harbach is not available this term.
Ultimately, Smith and Cody hope the move will give dance at Knox an opportunity to grow. Whether this means introducing more faculty or even a potential major, both agree that stepping away from the Aux is an important step.
“I think it’s a really crucial moment that’ll determine where the future will take us,” Cody said.