BalletX breaks ground today in South Philly for a new studio, with more community outreach to come
About 40 ballets will likely be created at the new Center for World Premiere Choreography in the next decade.
Having a home of one's own is an achievement in the dance world — a sign that a company has achieved stability. BalletX, now in its 12th season, marks that milestone Tuesday with a groundbreaking scheduled for 3:30 p.m for its first permanent studio, at 1923 Washington Ave.
The company expects the new studio to open this winter. It will be called the Center for World Premiere Choreography.
"It's been a longtime dream of mine to build a home for BalletX," said artistic and executive director Christine Cox, a former Pennsylvania Ballet dancer.
Cox said she'd been actively pursuing a studio space for about two years — "not in this location, but putting this step forward." The company raised $1.2 million of its $2 million budget for the project, from many of its regular benefactors. Key donors include David Haas, Janet and Jim Averill, Alan B. Palmer, Neal Krouse and Liz Knudsen, Linda and David Glickstein, Richard and Anna Marie Grossman, and Jane Pepper.
The 5,000-square-foot former auto shop and furniture store will house one large 43-by-70-square-foot studio that can be divided into two. The larger of the spaces will be similar in size to the stage at the Wilma Theater, where BalletX is the resident dance company. The company will use it for morning company class and rehearsal.
The center will also give visiting choreographers space to create new commissions. "I see it as a laboratory that's pushing contemporary ballet into the future," Cox said. In theatrical terms, she said, "this is a set we're building that will birth 40 new premieres in the next decade."
But as much as she's interested in a home for the dancers and choreographers, she's also focused on the community.
She imagines open rehearsals, community workshops, and expanding BalletX's outreach program, Dance eXchange, which teaches ballet to public schoolchildren. The center will also house preprofessional intensive courses. It will not be a ballet school, though, she said.
"This is a place that's really about creating a space that's inviting to the neighborhood, locally, nationally, internationally.
"I am a Philadelphian. I grew up in West Philadelphia," said Cox, who now lives just blocks from the new studio space. "It's a great chance for me to dive back in … [and] make dance more accessible to everybody."