Studio Owners

Your Studio Space: USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance Opens the Ultimate Dream Dance Facility

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

Located at the gateway to the University of Southern California's arts neighborhood, the USC Kaufman building facade and exterior have been designed in traditional Collegiate Gothic style. USC Kaufman partners with arts organizations and dance companies, such as The Music Center and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, to present dance performances and workshops.

“I like to think of this building as state-of-the-art," says Jodie Gates, the inaugural director and vice dean of the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. “There is a feeling of spaciousness and expansiveness that dancers need—to create, to think, to move, to reimagine."

At nearly 55,000 square feet, the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, scheduled for completion this month, is a formidable space, one that might be better described as “future-of-the-art." Designed by a team of architects led by William Murray, a principal at Los Angeles' Pfeiffer Partners Architects, the three-story structure, the school's new home, houses six studios with soaring cathedral ceilings. Los Angeles philanthropist Glorya Kaufman donated the funds for the project and got Gates' input—as well as the advice of choreographers like William Forsythe, who is on faculty at the school, and Ohad Naharin—on the layout, function and design of the building.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

It all serves what Gates calls "the New Movement," the philosophy of a dance program that rethinks the principles of higher dance education. "The students in this program will be given a box of tools to take with them whether they become performers, choreographers, filmmakers or CEOs," says Gates. "The beauty in all of this is that we have the ability to design a curriculum speaking to the needs of today's dance artists. We're developing the hybrid dance artist."

BFA undergraduates may study heady subjects such as “Colloquium: History of Performance and Cultural Context" and “Dance Leadership: Dance Management and Entrepreneurship." (This year's inaugural freshman class has 33 dancers, but future classes will be more intimate—around 16 to 20 for each undergraduate year.) The program's emphasis on multimedia and interdisciplinary collaboration lets students choose concentrations like choreography for stage and cinematic arts or dance and music. It also requires dancers to study hip hop. “For our dancers, learning the leadership skills to become highly trained hybrid artists and scholars in the field now means working fluidly across mediums and between dance styles," says Gates.

Architectural renderings of building and studios.

Floors Create a Cushion of Quiet

A hybrid approach extends to the construction of the school's Harlequin dance floors. Four studios have marley surfaces to accommodate ballet and contemporary classes, and another two are equipped with wood surfaces for other dance styles. All of the floors are sprung with a basket-weave substrate for cushioning and sound insulation. “We wanted to make sure you can have tap in one room, hip hop in another, ballet in a third, contemporary or jazz in a fourth, and not disturb one another," says Jeff de Caen, associate dean for operations at USC Kaufman and Thornton School of Music.

The secret to the soundproofing lies in the construction of the floors, which are floated, rather than attached to the foundation. They sit on neoprene pads and insulation that transmit the lateral load. “They can move in reaction to dancers or audio without shaking or disturbing the rest of the structure," says de Caen.

Moving Beyond Mirrors

The largest studio, called the Performance Studio, measures 3,591 square feet and can serve as a multipurpose rehearsal space, a black-box theater or a full proscenium stage with 140 retractable seats, withdrawable wings and a motorized cyclorama. It has state-of-the-art projection, video, audio and lighting technology. It is also mirrorless, to allow artists to process movement internally rather than externally. Students will also perform on stages in other buildings and do site-specific work. The school's first floor also has four mirrored studios, ranging from 2,300 to 2,500 square feet. Arched windows flood the studios with light.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

A 21st-Century Environment

Very few details have been overlooked in the design. The first-floor hallways have curved corners, to avoid 90-degree angularity and offer a more pleasing aesthetic. The hallways provide ledges at barre height so dancers can stretch between classes or rehearsals. The water fountains supply filtered-water refilling stations. All the studios have sophisticated audio-visual centers that connect to the building's main network, so that, for example, a live-streamed cinema-cast from the Bolshoi Ballet can be viewed simultaneously in all the studios. The wall-mounted flat screens in the studios can be individually or centrally controlled, and all the studios are equipped with a sound system. The internet connections feature the fastest and broadest bandwidth available.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

The center's mezzanine level includes men's and women's dressing rooms. There is also a theater control room with video-editing capabilities above the performance studio. And for visitors, a viewing balcony above two of the first-floor studios allows for eagle-eye perspective. Also on the mezzanine level: a small fitness and training zone with somatic equipment, although students can use the well-equipped fitness center at the new USC Village across the street, which will house up to 3,000 square feet of shops and retail space.

On the second floor, students can work in the “small" studio (more than 2,000 square feet); four academic classrooms with capacities for 30 to 60 students each; a conference room and kitchenette; and a collaborative space that dance majors can use 24 hours a day, along with their fellow student musicians, video artists and students from across the university. Additionally, the second floor houses the faculty offices, dressing rooms and meeting rooms. All of these amenities further Gates' belief that “dance creation and innovation need time, support and space."

Groundbreaking in April 2014, with (from left) dean Robert Cutietta, Glorya Kaufman, USC president C.L. Max Nikias and Jodie Gates. Photo by Gus Ruelas, courtesy of USC Kaufman

“Theoretically and philosophically, the center is a nexus point for Los Angeles and dance on the West Coast," says de Caen. “Now you've got this brick-and-mortar flag in the sand that says 'This is how committed we are.'"

Show Comments ()
Courtesy of NUVO Dance Convention

For all intents and purposes, Stacey Tookey is a Disney princess. Her voice is like honey as she waltzes around the classroom exclaiming words of encouragement, she sees the best in all of her dancers from the front row to the back and she's absolutely beautiful. I mean, come one! Who get's to have a kid, hip surgery, years of wear and tear and still maintain eternally lovely lines that rotate into perfection?

What's more? She creates a nurturing environment in her classroom where dancers feel comfortable as they navigate challenging combinations and complex emotions. No matter what you're going through, dancing with Tookey is good for the soul.

Here are four takeaways from her class this past week. I hope they inspire you as much as they did me!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photos by Amy Kelkenberg

Whether a dancer has too much or too little, turnout can be one of the most frustrating aspects of technique. Students often feel they must achieve 180-degree rotation to become successful in the field. In reality, the average person only has 45 degrees of external rotation in each leg, meaning their first position should be no greater than 90 degrees.

Because range of motion in the hip is ultimately determined by the joint's structure, it is impossible for dancers to increase their structural turnout. Often, though, students do not use what they have to the greatest potential. By maximizing their mobility they will find greater ease within movement, improve lines and, most important, prevent injuries caused by forcing the joints.

Deborah Vogel, co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City, says the best way to unlock external rotation is to balance out muscle strength and flexibility. “Dancers are working the turnout all the time. They're always engaged and focused so much on using it. The minute they learn how to release those muscles they bring everything into balance," she says. “That middle is where dancers last the longest."

Here, Vogel suggests exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that activate turnout:

Sitting Stretch: For Stretching Turnout Muscles at the Back of the Pelvis

Sit on the edge of a chair with knees at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Cross the right ankle onto the left knee. Lace your hands together and nestle them under the right knee, lightly pressing energy into your hands and toward the floor (though the knee should not actually move). Sit up straight—some may already feel tension here.

With a flat back, bring the belly button toward your legs. Continue gently pressing the right knee into your clasped hands.

Experiment with turning the upper body toward the knee or the foot to stretch different muscles.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Jim Lafferty

Have you ever attended an audition and wished that you knew what the director was looking for? We've rounded up some of our favorite quotes from our Director's Notes column over the past few years to give you a deeper glimpse into the minds of 10 artistic directors.

Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet

"I want to develop and nurture artists," says Wheater, seeking "people who are not afraid to be expressive, and understand all the layers that go into making a work above and beyond the steps."

Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Via Kenedy Kalls Instagram

Dancers have a language all their own. From French technical terms to scatting out choreography dynamics, it's a wonder any nondancers understand a word we say! Perhaps some of the most confusing dancer terms are the various foods we use to describe our feet. To help dance outsiders out, DT broke down the foods that are commonplace in dancer lingo. Share them with your loved ones, so they can better understand the weird and wonderful breed of dancer that you are.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

Injuries can be devastating to a dance career, but you can reduce their occurrence or avoid them—if you know what to look for. To learn why certain injuries happen and what can be done to prevent them, we consulted a group of experts: Jacqui Greene Hass, director of Pilates and Dance Medicine at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Therapy Services; Marijeanne Liederbach, director of research and education at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries; Jennifer Deckert, assistant professor at University of Wyoming (holds an MFA in ballet pedagogy and has presented at the International Association for Medicine and Science); and Michael Kelly Bruce, associate professor at The Ohio State University (certified in Pilates and specializes in conditioning).

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Image via Michaels' Instagram

We all know and love Mia Michaels. She's a fearless choreographer and teacher, who's inspired a generation of dancers with her unique style, grace and brilliance. What's not to love? And now we can't help but gush over a personal confession she recently shared on Instagram.

Bottom line: No matter your age, size or shape, don't wait to love your body or yourself.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

I recently started back in modern dance after a long hiatus—I stopped dancing at age 11 and went back two years ago at age 24. I've found that when I'm on the floor, I can't open to a very wide second. Also, if I'm sitting in butterfly on the floor with my feet together, my knees are some distance from the ground. What can I do to loosen my hips?

Keep reading... Show less





Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!