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N.C. Dance Theatre prepares for new home

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Doug Singleton

Doug Singleton

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A year from now, pedestrians and motorists will get a street’s-eye view of dancers rehearsing in new studios the North Carolina Dance Theatre is building on North Tryon Street.

The troupe, which has been leasing 20,000 square feet of warehouse space in the NODA district, is building its own 34,000-square-foot facility, which will house administrative offices, costume shops and storage, and six studios, double the number at its current quarters.

Three of those new studios will be visible to passers-by on North Tryon Street.

Now, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, and a $2.5 million grant from the Campaign for Cultural Facilities of the Arts & Science Council, the Dance Theatre has begun construction of the new facility.

The initial phase of a campaign chaired by former Bank of America chief Hugh McColl raised another $4.5 million for the new facility, and the Dance Theatre also established a $1.8 million endowment to support the organization during the transition and operate the new facility.

As construction begins, the Dance Theatre also is wrapping up its current season, planning to kick off its new season this summer, and gearing up for its annual gala next January to kick off the opening of the new Knight Theater.

Founded in 1970 in Winston-Salem, the Dance Theatre in 1990 moved to Charlotte and in 1993 opened the N.C. Dance Theatre School of Dance, which enrolls over 600 students a year.

The nonprofit operates with an annual budget totaling $4.2 million and a staff that includes 24 dancers, 12 administrators, three employees in the school, nine teachers and three production staff.

Because of the recession, the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 likely will decline to $3.8 million, says Douglas Singleton, executive director.

The nonprofit, which receives 22.5 percent of annual revenue from the Arts & Science Council, counts on individual donations for another 16 percent and corporate support for another 7 percent.

Ticket sales and subscriptions generate 14.5 percent of revenue.

And despite the recession, Singleton says, attendance for the current season likely will be down only 500 to 700 from over 24,000 last year.

“We did a lot of work last summer and fall with our sales department,” he says. “In this economic climate, those of us who have opportunities for earned revenue really need to focus on that and make sure we do everything we can.”

The Dance Theatre’s school generates 14 percent of its revenue, while touring fees generate 10 percent and fundraising events and endowment generate 14 percent.

The Dance Theatre stages seven series over five performance periods during the year.

The season begins each summer, when the Dance Theatre serves as resident company for the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York.

This year, the Dance Theatre will expand its residency at Chautauqua to six weeks from four last year.

The company also stages evening repertory performances and family matinees at the 2,000-seat Belk Theater in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center each September and May; innovative works at the 430-seat Booth Playhouse each November; the Nutcracker in the Belk Theater each December; and repertory performances in the Booth Playhouse each February.

The Dance Theatre has scheduled its annual gala, to be chaired by Any Blumenthal, for Jan. 8, 2010, in the new Knight Theater the evening it opens.

The troupe also has been invited to perform in June 2010 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the center’s new Ballet Across America series highlighting regional ballet companies.

“The only great thing about a recession is we know it’s going to end,” Singleton says, “so we are going to be prepared for that new beginning.”

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