Few U.S. cities boast resident ballet, opera, symphony and theater troupes; Houston’s 17-block Theater District, home to internationally acclaimed arts organizations, has the highest concentration of performance venues outside New York.
Houston Ballet’s new Center for Dance burnishes the city’s shining cultural standing still further. Now the nation's largest professional dance facility, the Center for Dance provides a visual affirmation of Houston’s longstanding commitment to philanthropy and the performing arts.
The Gateway to Houston’s Theater District
Extending a downtown district where the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony and Alley Theatre reside, the new Gensler-designed Center for Dance is a six-story, 115,000 square-foot facility that houses nine dance studios, a dance laboratory, and artistic, administrative and support space for Houston Ballet and its Academy.
“This building is a tangible symbol of Houston’s passionate commitment to the arts, and it will cement the city’s reputation as an international center for the performing and visual arts,” said Jesse H. Jones II, co-chairman of the capital campaign and a longtime trustee of Houston Ballet Foundation.
An International Showcase for Dance
With its striking black granite façade featuring views to the life of dance within, Houston Ballet’s new Center for Dance serves as a living billboard for dance, showcasing rehearsals through the large windows of the double-height volume rehearsal studios.
“The Center for Dance gives Houston Ballet a home that is truly an international dance center,” said Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. “The building will be an icon for the art of dance nationally and internationally. And the Center for Dance will further secure Houston’s reputation as a cosmopolitan, sophisticated, international city, with a thriving arts community.”
An Obsession for Excellence
Working with general contractor W.S. Bellows, Gensler and Houston Ballet completed the project ahead of schedule and for $46.6 million — $6.4 million under the original construction budget. “We are very excited that Houston’s donor community has helped us to raise $42.3 million in new contributed dollars, which along with the ballet’s existing assets, made the project happen,” said Houston Ballet Managing Director C.C. Conner.
An extraordinary attention to detail is a hallmark of the Center for Dance’s architecture. By carefully orchestrating the fixed budget, Gensler designers crafted a graceful, seemingly effortless connection between exterior and interior spaces that place ballet at center-stage.
The Center for Dance’s new state-of-the-art amenities include a dance laboratory that provides a much needed downtown performance venue that is available to other performers and not-for-profit performing arts organizations.
“Houston Ballet has established a reputation for artistic innovation, and I’m delighted that Gensler and Houston Ballet were able to bring this vision to life,” said Jim Furr, FAIA, Gensler’s South Central regional managing principal. “The opportunity to advance the arts, strengthen Houston’s reputation, and bolster the city’s economy with a major construction project during a recession has been tremendous. It’s an honor to be part of this project and to contribute to advancing the arts in Houston.”
Advancing the Academy’s Ambitions
“In many ways, the Center for Dance is a symbol of the resiliency and vitality of Houston, its economy and its people. Moving into our new home is a great leap forward for the company, allowing us to expand our education and dance training programs,” Campaign Co-chairman Jones said.
The new Center for Dance will enable Houston Ballet’s education programs to reach an estimated 30,000 students by 2015. Currently, the River Oaks-based academy provides instruction for 375 dancers and an education and outreach program that brings dance alive annually for approximately 19,000 Houston-area students and Parkinson’s patients.